Astana boss: No place for 'experiment'

SAINT-GIRONS, France -- Most of the teams at the Tour de France are asking race organizers to suspend their decision to ban earpieces during two stages this year.

With the backing of the UCI, cycling's governing body, Tour organizers decided last month that rider radios and TV sets in cars will be banned during the 10th and 13th stages.

Astana manager Johan Bruyneel said 14 teams from the ICPT -- the organization that represents the professional teams -- have signed a petition that was to be sent Saturday evening. Twenty teams are taking part in the three-week race.

"We all think that the Tour de France is the biggest event of the year, where we basically play our whole season," Bruyneel said after Saturday's eighth stage. "The Tour de France is not the place to have an experiment."

UCI president Pat McQuaid said he hadn't received a petition yet and that his organization will issue a statement explaining the decision to ban the earpieces Monday.

McQuaid said the statement was "going to explain everything to the teams. To some extent, the reason it's there and what the regulations are."

Earpieces allow riders to be linked with their sports directors in team cars. Popularized by Lance Armstrong when he won his first Tour in 1999, some riders and former champions have been critical of them for making the sport too robotic and sapping the race of drama.

With earpieces, riders can be informed of race developments and told of when they need to attack or chase riders seeking a breakaway.

"We are here to do our jobs as well as we can, we play big and we can't accept that," said Bruyneel, adding that the ban was dangerous.

"There are other arguments, about the security, about the dangerous driving it requires without radios, because the Tour is so big," Bruyneel said. "There are so many cars, motorbikes, cameras. It's completely unjustified and unacceptable."

Bruyneel refused to say what the teams would do if organizers refuse to suspend the ban.

"We haven't been asked for our opinion," Bruyneel said. "It's something we can't accept. It's my position and that's the position of the majority. It's ridiculous."

Tour organizers affirmed their decision, saying in a statement that Stage 10 will be run without "means of communication between the riders and their sports directors."

"All measures will be taken in order to facilitate the work of the sport directors," organizers said, without mentioning Stage 13.

Asked about the petition, AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu said he was not opposed to the ban in principle but regretted that Tour organizers and the UCI did not seek the teams' opinions first.

"That measure could maybe be introduced later, but not this year on the Tour," Lavenu told The Associated Press. "We want it to be suspended."