With the UCI standing by the radio ban in races ranked 1.HC/2.HC or below, and various members of the the professional peloton using in-race protests, the traditional cycling media, or Twitter to express either their disdain or support for the ban, the 2011 season is shaping up to be an interesting one.
Plenty of pundits, twitterati, bloggers, journalists, and riders have expressed their opinions about race radios. More interesting to us here at Pavé is the question, Who might excel under radio-free racing? Certainly, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne offered a glimpse of what racing sans radio might have to offer fans. If radio-free racing becomes the norm, who might benefit from the potential spontaneity?
In this three-part article, Pavé will offer our picks of tacticians, breakaway artists, and late-attackers who might thrive under a radio ban.
Philippe Gilbert – Gilbert has been a rider to watch since his 2006 win at Het Volk, where he took 6 kilometers to claw his way from a select chase group including the likes of Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd and Gert Steegmans up to the lead group. With 7k to go, he managed to distance himself from the fatigued group, finishing with plenty of time to reflect on the win he was about to notch.
This has been more or less Gilbert’s game plan since. Attack, place himself in a breakaway group, and when the time is right, drop the group. 2010’s Amstel Gold saw him employ similar tactics to win him first Classic, where he attacked the likes of Ryder Hesjedal, Frank Schleck and Damiano Cunego 350 meters from the line, putting just enough distance between himself and his chasers to roll confidently over the line. Similar tactics allowed him to notch wins at the Vuelta a Espana and the prestigious end of season Giro di Lombardia. Gilbert has shown an uncanny ability to find the break thats going to stick, and pick the right time to seperate himself from those breaks for the win. If a lack of radios results breaks being chased down slower or with less accuracy, someone like Gilbert should find himself in a position to use his skills even more frequently in non-World Tour races – he’s already racked up two wins this season in races run without radios (Montepaschi Strade Bianche and a stage at Volta ao Algarve).
Andreas Klier – It might seem an odd pick to call out Klier, who hasn’t had a win since 2007’s Vuelta a España, but our season preview for Garmin-Cevélo sums it up pretty well – Klier may be cycling’s answer to Pete Rose, an on-the-bike director sportif who knows the roads of spring like he laid the cobbles himself. For Garmin-Cervélo riders to have access to him in real time for races where radios aren’t banned is huge. Mix him in to the races this season where radios aren’t allowed (E3 Prijs, perhaps?), and the impact is even greater – expect Klier and his teammates to play heavily in the outcome of the race. Its even on Klier’s mind, having said it himself in an interview with Jered Gruber in issue 2 of Peloton Magazine: “For me its good, but I don’t know if its good for the team.” We’re pretty sure everyone knows its good for his team, even if publically they have to be against the ban.
Fabian Cancellara – It’s good to be the world’s best time trialer, but Cancellara’s ability to float over pavé to a victory with nobody else in the frame owes much to his tactical ability. He’s demonstrated an ability to win from a variety of distances – just last year, he showed us his kilo-plus at E3; dropping Boonen with 17k to go in the Ronde; and, on the pavé of Paris-Roubaix, his winning move with 50k to go. This variety highlights the fact that he doesn’t just let his legs do the talking and hope they sound convincing: he knows how to pick his moments, and his diesel engine ensures that he makes the most of them. He often does.
Radio-free racing suggests that some riders might have a moment of hesitation, some brief confusion about what teammates are nearby, or some difficulty getting organized. Fabian Cancellara can exploit these moments to make decisive attacks and rack up more wins.
Stay tuned for two more installments of Radio Silence. In the meantime – who are your picks for riders who will thrive without radios?