Tour de France Going Retro With Radio Silence

Communication is the building block of any successful relationship. This is true at work, at home, in one’s love life, and in sports. Because this is a sports blog and not, say, a relationship guide, let’s focus in on that last one. Communication between teammates is crucial on the court/field/whatever, and communication from coaches on the sidelines is just as vital.

Radio Bicycle

Nowhere is this more evident than in racing sports - including cycling, where cyclists in the peloton (one of the greatest words in the world, BTW) must be very aware of their surroundings at all time. Teams use radio communication to relay teammate and competitor positions, statistics, and other important information. But for some reason, Tour de France organizers think it’s a great idea to try banning radio communication for two stages this coming week. Ready, set, chaos!

The NEW YORK TIMES reported on the details today:

Christophe Marchadier, a spokesman, said the Tour received permission from the International Cycling Union to prohibit radios for the two stages. He also said that the French cycling federation tested the no-radio rule during its national championships a week before the Tour, and that all had gone well.

“It’s old-time cycling, where the riders will think more about the race and talk more to each other,” Marchadier said. “They won’t just be machines listening to people tell them what to do. It’s like in American football, if the player doesn’t receive information on the radio from the head coach.”

It’s probably asking too much for a French cycling official to know the nuances of the NFL, but, uh, American football players DO “receive information on the radio from the head coach”, or at least the offensive and defensive coordinators. Playing around with the fundamental structure of team communications during the Tour de France is somewhat like the NFL testing out major rule changes during the middle of the Super Bowl.

Purists argue that there was a time, 15+ years ago, when cycling teams didn’t use radios, and things were fine. Perhaps this is true, but like in other sports, equipment and training have evolved to the point where safety needs to be a higher concern than it was in years past. This just reeks of a bad idea, and cycling officials are going to look pretty darn stupid if something happens during radio silence.