As of early February, race radios are now banned in all USA Cycling sanctioned races which include all races on the National Racing Calendar (NRC). Opinions on the impact ran the gamut, from races will be more controlled and negative to pure chaos, and questions about safety were also brought in the mix.
“I’m really excited about the radio ban personally speaking and professionally speaking. Baj and myself, we’ve been racing longer than these guys have been alive.” smiled sprinter Alex Candelario of the Kelly Benefit Strategies team. We talked radio ban and leadership while relaxing at the team’s training camp.
“We raced before radios and we learned how to race and so I think we’re going to have a tremendous advantage in races because we have the leadership on our team and we have the communication and we have the bonding on our team and we don’t need the radio to win races. The way we race and our experience and knowledge I think are really going to play to our advantage.”
The 34-year old does not think that the racing will be more controlled or more negative. “Basically you have a whole generation of racers that have grown up with a radio in their ear and they’ve listened to people telling them how to race. When a guy like David Veilleux attacks, it’s not like everyone is going to be defensive against that, he’s going to attack and someone is going to let them go and next time you know it’s going to be 10 minutes.”
“At the beginning of the season, you have a lot of races that play into negative type of racing because of the teams and the course aren’t very selective.” he replied when asked if the impact will be felt immediately. But the final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Sunset Loop is a day where he feels that the race might blow up with the radio ban.
His concern is the impact to the race organization and the officials. “It’s going to be a challenge because the races in the US don’t have the development and support that Europe has, they don’t have officials that know how to keep time, they don’t know how to give time gaps, they don’t know how to give splits. It’s going to be difficult because I think there’s going to be a lot of non-information races, a break gets out there, you might 30 seconds one time and then it might be 10 minutes the next time.”
What about the safety issues? “The studies have shown that there are not more accidents with radios and I think that was a last minute plea to keep radios in the game because radios favor organized high-budget teams and those people are in control of a lot of decisions. If they get rid of radios, it’s going to be a blow to their team. For a team like us, we don’t have a big budget but we have a lot of really aggressive riders, a lot of really great time-trialists, a lot of really great guys that aren’t really high profile, it’s going to be huge plus for us I can’t wait.”
One role that becomes even more important now is that of road captain. While the KBS team does not have a team captain per say, Candelario did call the shots on the road at multiple races last year.
“We’ve never designated a team captain and I don’t really see a purpose for that.” said KBS Performance Director Jonas Carney. “But last year we were in a lot of situation where we could win or lose a race and the guys that showed leadership skills, they really stood out. I think that Candelario, when I wasn’t around or a decision had to be made on the road, made great decisions last year, decisions that helped us win Fitchburg, Uruguay and Beauce. I think Cando has taken the role of a leader on the team and the guys respect and look up to him. He’s matured as a rider, he’s very calm within the storm so that’s good.”
Someone had to do it was how Candelario explained it. “It’s not something that I really wanted to do, I don’t like telling people what to do just because I didn’t like being told what to do but you get to a point where you just have enough experience, that guys that are new don’t have that experience, and you need to teach them that. It becomes a matter of functionality and survival and you just got to what you got to do. There were definitely a lot of races last year where I had to step up to the plate and be more a director on the bike, I sacrificed my own desires to win a stage or two so we could win the overall, that’s fine with me. It’s a great team, I love the guys and I want them to be successful just as much as I want to win races.”
“I don’t make decisions autonomously, I talk to Baj, I talk to Dan, Reid, I talk to all the guys ‘what do you guys think, what do you want to do?’ and then we’ll make a decision together collectively. Obviously there are certain races it’s what we have to do and I might just say it because the other guys don’t want to say but we all know what needs to be done.”
Alex Candelario is currently racing at the Tour of Langkawi with his team and will return to the US for the NRC opener, the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Then, he’ll be off to race in Brittany, France where he is hoping for bad weather.