Riders demand compromise on radio ban, threaten protest

MARINA DI CARRARA, Italy (VN) _ A coalition of riders and teams says the UCI has 20 days to begin talks with on the radio ban. If they refuse, riders will begin wearing race radios on March 26. That was the message at a joint press conference with representatives of the sport's events, riders and teams Tuesday night.

Gianni Bugno
Gianni Bugno at the news conference Tuesday. Photo: Brad Kaminski © VeloNews

MARINA DI CARRARA, Italy (VN) _ A coalition of riders, managers and teams says the UCI has 20 days to begin talks with on the radio ban. If they refuse, riders will begin wearing race radios on March 26. That was the message at a joint press conference Tuesday night.

“We are here all together because we want to say to the UCI that we want to talk with them together – all three of us,” said Gianni Bugno of the professional cyclists association, CPA. “We don’t agree with the ban and want a meeting with the UCI before March 26. Starting from that date, we will make actions in the races that will start at that time.”

That action, according to Bugno, will be riders wearing radios regardless of a UCI ban beginning with the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke in Belgium and Critérium International in France. Bugno, whose organization represents professional riders, spoke beside AIGCP president Jonathan Vaughters and ADISPRO president Luca Guercilena, who spoke on behalf of the teams and managers, respectively.

Vaughters said that the teams wholly support the decision by the riders to take action and that the radio issue comes down to two concerns: sporting and transparency. “This is a team sport. This is not marathon running,” said Vaughters. “What team sport can you name where athletes do not communicate with the coach or with each other?”

The Garmin-Cervélo boss said that he was informed of the decision to ban race radios in all non-World Tour events not from the UCI, but in the press. Vaughters also said that UCI president Pat McQuaid told him recently that the federation did not plan to revisit the ban for three or four years. Vaughters said the secrecy of the UCI management committee can continue no longer.

“As it stands right now, the UCI management committee consists of 15 members. None of them are representatives of professional teams or riders. They are members that are not known to me,” he said. “These are the people that unilaterally chose to put this rule in place … That unilateral process is simply unacceptable.”

Bugno claimed to have received more than 400 letters from race organizers asking for his organization’s help in the radio issue since the Mallorca Challenge in February. He said that the riders do not hope for a fight with the UCI, but they will take action later this month. Ultimately, his group wants to provide races the choice of whether to allow the use of earpieces in their pelotons.

“It’s more asking why they have introduced the earphones ban,” he said. “We don’t understand because they are useful for security and communication between the managers and the racers. We don’t understand why they want to go in this direction. We are not against the UCI. We want that the races have the opportunity to choose whether they want earphones or not.”

The season opener on Mallorca saw a rider protest that caused UCI commissaires to abandon the race, effectively locking out the teams. Tyler Farrar won the bunch sprint at the Trofeo Palma Mallorca on February 6 for Vaughters’ squad, but the result was nullified. Riders dropped plans for similar action at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad February 26 in order to avoid race promoters losing their insurance — and their race.

Guercilena demanded that each party be given an equal footing in negotiations. “We would like a real table of discussion where there is a real representative from each group,” he said. “I think the right compromise is to discuss with the stakeholders a solution to make more interesting the time of the race that became more boring, probably for strategic reasons.”

Vaughters went a step further, recommending that television producers make use of radio communications by giving fans a line into the strategy of teams on the road. “We’re not threatening. We’re not protesting. We’re not striking. We’re just wearing earpieces in races. The UCI is the one threatening,” said Vaughters. “Let’s create something additional for fans to hear and look at so that they understand the racing more.”

Riders will have radios this week at Tirreno-Adriatico, a WorldTour event.