Tour de France news: race radio ga-ga

14 teams sign race radio ban petition

The 10th stage of the Tour de France will start under a cloud after 14 rebel teams and race organisers reached a stalemate Monday in the row over the banning of radio communication.

So far 14 of the 20 teams on the Tour have signed a petition protesting against the decision by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to ban radio communication between riders and team managers for two stages this week.

Representatives from the 14 teams, the race jury chief and Tour organisers met here on Monday, during the race's rest day, but failed to reach an agreement and it remains to be seen what action the teams take on Tuesday.

"Fourteen teams have written to Pat McQuaid (UCI president) and to Christian Prudhomme (the Tour's director) demanding this measure is cancelled," race director Jean-Francois Pescheux confirmed after the meeting.

Pescheux also added that teams who break the rules risk being thrown out of the race and fined between 100 and 10,000 Swiss francs (70 to 70,000 euros).

During each stage's racing, team managers normally communicate with their riders, who wear ear-pieces, by radio to advise on tactics, approaching hazards and other important information.

But Tour organisers, following initial discussions between the UCI and the teams' own representatives' groups, are insisting on a return, albeit just for two stages, to the old days to make the race more exciting and to test the riders' initiative.

There will be radio silence for both Tuesday's 194.5km stage from Limoges to Issoudon and Friday's 200km-long ride from Vittel to Colmar.

Only six teams, two foreign (Garmin, Skil) and four French (Agritubel, Bouygues Telecom, Francaise des Jeux and Cofidis) have not signed the petition and the 14 teams claim there are safety issues.

But the team managers who have signed are said to be furious they were not consulted by the UCI about the banning of radios before the decision was taken on June 19.

"The Tour has gotten so big and busy with so many cars on the route that it is completely unjustifiable and unacceptable that in the biggest event of the year, there is an experiment to see what will happen without radios," Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said over the weekend.

"We can't accept that. I don't understand why there should be two days without radio."

Late on Monday, Jonathan Vaughters, the president of the body representing pro cycling team, offered a compromise if the radio silence ban was adhered to for Tuesday's stage and then abandoned for Friday.

And Bruyneel offered another suggestion that only two cyclists per team ride with the ear-piece and give instructions.

© 2009 AFP & BikeRadar

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