Race radios pro cycling ban USAC
Team directors like Bjarne Riis will have to find new ways to organize their teams on the road.

The long debate over whether race radios should be allowed in the pro peloton came to an end this week as USA Cycling followed suit with the UCI in banning radios in all but its most elite level races, allowing radios in only three American races.

The USA Cycling Board of Directors called an emergency meeting Monday night to discuss and adopt the radio ban, a move long anticipated by many in the domestic pro peloton. All but three races taking place on American soil will fall under the ban, with the Tour of California, Tour of Missouri, and Philadelphia International Cycling Championship being exempt because of their 1.HC and 2.HC UCI classifications. This means all criterium and most road races, including NRC and USA Crits series events, will be radio-free for the coming 2010 season.

After banning race radios for U23 races in 2009 and extending the ban to lower-level elite races in September of last year, the UCI has been slowly phasing out the use of race radios over the past two years. Because many of America’s top events are modeled after UCI regulations, USA Cycling moved to stay consistent with UCI policies.

The ban was born out of growing concerns that allowing radios in the pro peloton was taking away from the quality of racing by putting a focus on team directors and eliminating some of the strategic skill required by riders. Responses from the peloton are mixed, with many riders anticipating a new dynamic on the road this year, forcing them to keep breakaways in check throughout the race. Many have cited safety concerns, losing the ability to warn riders of upcoming hazards and dangerous portions on the course during road races. Tour de France organizers tested the idea in last year’s event, banning radios during stage 10 of the tour, a move that was met with a massive protest by the riders as they soft pedaled nearly the entire stage, forcing organizers to scrap the planned ban on stage 13.

The vote on Monday  reversed a previous USA Cycling rule that allowed radios only in races open to professional, category 1, and category 2 racers. The decision was adopted into the rulebook and takes effect immediately.

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