EF Education First bans cellphones from the dinner table at the Tour

To promote bonding, the directors of Michael Woods' WorldTour team wants its riders to get off their phones when they are at the dinner table

July 8th, 2019 by | Posted in News | Tags: , , , , ,

Smartphones have deeply infiltrated many parts of our lives distracting us from our friends, family, work, school and our surroundings. Pro cyclists are certainly not immune from the draw of their cellphone as they spend much of the season away from friends and family. Taking a page from parents with children who can’t put down their phones, the WorldTour outfit EF Education First Pro Cycling has decided to ban cell phones from the dinner table at the Tour de France. The idea is to get riders more engaged with each other when they are eating together and promote bonding amoung riders and staff at the race.

“It was the team directors’ idea, but the riders bought into it,” Team general manager Jonathan Vaughter explained to Business Insider. “They were, like, ‘Yeah, you know, we shouldn’t be on our phones at the table. We should be talking.’ So they agreed to make it a rule. It was communal rule making – true democracy.”

Cellphone use can remove us from the moment, distracting us from our surroundings and hurting productivity. The cellphone ban is new for the Tour and riders such as Canadian Michael Woods who is racing his first Tour has bought into the measure.

“It’s not a true ban – more of an unwritten rule,” Woods said. “Like, if you show someone pictures, that’s fine, but don’t be scrolling mindlessly, as in any social scenario. It’s like when you go to a restaurant and you see two people and they’re just staring at their phones. Ugh.”

Woods and his team are at the Tour with ambitions of stage wins and a high general classification placing with Rigoberto Uran. Without constant phone use and mindless scrolling on social media, the team hopes to promote greater camaraderie between the riders.

“We’re already on our phones after the race, in the hotel room, so it’s nice to unwind and not be connected in that meal time particularly. It’s so good for team bonding. It’s good to not be on the phone and not be separated like that. Some of our neo-pros, they pull out the phones mid-meal and they get cussed out. It’s, like, ‘What are you doing?'”

Teams at the Tour employ a huge team with support staff, mechanics, drivers, riders, directors and more. With so many people involved in the race, the team thinks it’s important for everyone to talk and get to know each other better.

“It’s just awareness from our side that the days at the races are getting more and more complex,” said director Charly Wegelius. “You have little groups of people going off and doing things – often you don’t see each other for the whole day. And the number of people, especially at races like this, is getting bigger.”

“Like all people in the world, we’re all connected now,” Wegelius added. “Everything goes through your telephone: private life, social life, but also work-related. Everything’s just coming through there. The noise is super loud. We just felt the need to eke out a little corner of quiet.”

EF Education First have turned a page in 2019 with stronger results than in past years including a victory at the Tour of Flanders in April. The team try to avoid formal rules and regulations finding they are particularly effective. The ban was first suggested by director Andreas Klier during the spring classics and since the team has been policing each other in a positive way. Vaughters told Business Insider that back in 1999 when he raced with Lance Armstrong on the US Postal Team, the riders weren’t allowed having laptops to make sure they were thinking about the race. While a ban on electronics would be impossible in today’s day and age, the strategy is intended to help the team perform on the biggest stage.