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Cycling News and Opinions
Unfair and Unbalanced
March, 2011

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories

March 21, A little later in the day: Being the obsessive-type that I am, I checked back and found Amazon has "The Story of the Giro d'Italia" up. They don't have it ready to ship, but they are taking sign-ups to be notified when the book is available. Just click on the Amazon link on the right.

As I write this, it's still early days and Amazon is in the process of capturing the book data and building the product page. The book's cover art hasn't shown up yet, that usually takes a couple of days as does the description and author info.

So, I hope you'll consider giving the little Amazon link a click so they can let you know when our labor of love is available.

March 21: A couple of weeks ago I got a note from a friend that there is another (another? see March 17 post below) history of the Giro d'Italia coming out. After I read the note you could have knocked me over with a feather. I really thought I was writing the only English-language history of the Giro. Turns out I was delightfully wrong. Herbie Sykes, who wrote one of the best cycling books ever, The Eagle of the Canavese, about Franco Balmamion's early 1960s double Giro wins, is the author of Maglia Rosa: Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d'Italia. It's published by Rouleur, so even sight unseen, I know it will be beautiful.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading Mr. Sykes' new book, but after reading the Balmamion book, I have no reservations about recommending Maglia Rosa. I know it will be well-written and a joy to read. It's terrific that at last Italian cycling lore is becoming available to English-speaking bike fans.

I really hope this is the start of something big.

Oh, and our own The Story of the Giro d'Italia is now for sale at the Barnes and Noble website. Just click here. Because Barnes and Noble gets new book data for it's website from Books in Print rather than from our distributor, B&N is always a few days ahead of Amazon. As soon as Amazon shows our Giro book as available, I'll post a note and a link. Yeah, I will.The Story of the Giro d'Italia

March 17: Apologies for the silence. I have been consumed with the task of finishing The Story of the Giro d'Italia, A Year by Year History of The Tour of Italy, Volume 1: 1909-1970. It is done. We are just waiting for the printer's proof, which should come tomorrow or Monday. If it looks good, we'll publish that same day. I expect Amazon to have it available about a week later. Carol is working on getting the Kindle ebook version posted, which will go for the humble, yet dignified price of $5.95. The Kindle version should be available by the end of next week.

I had planned to leave the race radio controversy alone after posting several opinion pieces.

But.. I just got this press release from the AIGCP ( Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professione, the association of pro teams) via the Liquigas pro team:

"OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM AIGCP

One of our desires is to help improve the governance of cycling. We cannot be effective in this when we are not allowed to participate in these meetings. Being invited and then removed, in a matter of days, from these meetings, depending on the whim of UCI management is unacceptable. To be clear, the teams remain unified in their stance on the radio issue. Cycling is a team sport and as such,  communication is key for the athletes and the coaches. We continue to hope - and push - for an amicable resolution to this issue.

However, if the use of radios in all professional cycling events is not permitted by May 1st, all of the teams have signed an accord that simply states that we will not participate in the Tour of Beijing, which is the only event in professional cycling that the UCI not only governs, but also promotes. This way we avoid actions that could be damaging for any race organizer that does not have any say or vote in the governance or regulation of the sport or any race that is part of cycling's rich history.

Our objective in this action is to ensure that the people that actively work in field of professional cycling also have a vote in its regulation. Fair, logical, and agreed upon regulations are our goal. We hope the UCI will become our partner in achieving this objective."

First of all, I believe this is hardly the sort of threat to bring the UCI to its knees. The inaugural Tour of Beijing is scheduled for October 5-9, well after the Copenhagen World Championships (September 19 - 25) when most riders hang up their bikes. I suspect the AIGCP picked the Beijing Tour not only because it is being promoted by the UCI, but also because it represents a low-cost action as far as the riders and teams are concerned.

My basic argument against the radios is that it makes for lousy racing. Professional racing is becoming boring and predictable. Breaks are usually caught at the precise moment before the sprint to maximize the sprinters' chances. Racing is losing its audience because the product is deteriorating. Let's be honest and clear. Bicycle racing is entertainment, nothing more. If bike racing isn't as good as wrestling or big trucks jumping over old Studebakers, then people will change the channel. By bringing back the old "fog of war" when riders often operated in an air of confusion and indecision, the tension and unpredictability of the sport is returned. I can understand why the riders and managers don't want it.

But, the riders and managers have generally not worked for the long-term health of the sport. How many strikes did the racers hold before dope testing was finally accepted. I could go on, but their history of fighting what is good for the sport is there. The riders and managers are working for their own short term interests, like a baseball manager who wears out the arms of his good pitchers hoping for a pennant this year, figuring the next year is a long way off.

As I understand it, the rider/team arguments in favor of the race radios are three:

1. The riders and teams say they haven't been involved sufficiently in the discussions. UCI says they have, AIGCP says they haven't. I can only assume that this argument would be posited any time the AIGCP is on the losing side.

2. The radios are needed for safety. I have yet to see any objective evidence that radios enhance safety. Remember, the riders fought helmets and dope testing. I can prove both enhanced rider safety. The riders have zero credibility on this issue. Zero. And the managers who say they care so much... As super-manager Cyrille Guimard noted, the managers so worried about their riders' safety still drive right next to them at 50 km/hr.

3. Radios represent progress and we can't go back. Who said? Why does anyone think this is a reason? And if the radios damage the quality of the racing, why call it progress? Sports have rules. That's what makes them interesting. Major-league baseball is still a game where a leather-covered wool ball is hit with a hickory stick. The rules are made and everyone plays the game according to them. Drugs represent progress of a sort. They allow riders to go far faster than they otherwise would, and for a while in the 1930s it was thought drugs were good for the riders and racing. An ill-defined mania for "progress" is not what makes sports interesting. It's drama, tension and spectacle.

I am no fan of the UCI, but this time they are right. Ban the radios. Bring back bicycle racing.