01 February, 2013

Diary of a Gazzetta Commissaire - The Beginning

This is the first of (what we hope are) a series of posts by Gazzetta's own British Cycling Commissaire, Richard. Hope you enjoy it and are inspired to volunteer on the British cycling scene.

I had tried racing before…I didn’t like it. Made me vomit and I was last. That’s not my way.  The nature of my job stops me from training hard enough to race and thus be as competitive as I would like to be. Being the super competitive person I am and used to being alpha male and all puffed up chest,  what else was there? I was desperate to be involved in cycling the sport I love so much and have enjoyed since leaving rugby.  One day I was renewing my British Cycling licence and I saw a piece about volunteering. I had no idea that Commissaires were volunteers. And, more importantly, ANYONE could do it. All my preconceptions were  just blown out of the water. You actually mean I can do this?  NO  WAY! I don’t have to be a former racer? Unbelievable. I signed up there and then.

I went to my training course and passed the tests. Showed I had a good knowledge of racing. I was now allowed to be an Assistant Commissaire.  I could be a second Commissaire on races alongside a qualified Commissaire. This was brilliant. I was doing mostly cat 3,4 races, evening racing league stuff. I soon got through my Minimum six races and assigned to position of Regional Road Commissaire.   My mentor was Julie Rodman and what a star. A UCI Commissaire all to myself. I was like a sponge absorbing knowledge and information. Almost every race I did in 2012 I learnt a little bit more off Julie. 

The day I received my Commissaire clothing was the National Circuit Race Championships at the Otley Town Centre Races. Are you kidding me? I’m a Line judge in my first official role as Commissaire…at the NATIONALS. What a brilliant night. For years I’d been going to Otley to watch these awesome races. Now, I’m on the opposite side of the track in a grey tshirt with ‘British Cycling’ all over it. But wait it gets better. I actually told elite riders off in my first race. “one foot of the ground for the start please….You too Russ” snigger. That felt odd.

Otley Town Centre Races

Ten days later my next race was the National Road Racing Championships at Ampleforth, North Yorkshire.   No No, I wasn’t a Commissaire here. I was offered the chance to drive a car at the Championships. It was thought that by driving a Commissaire I would gain experience in how to work during a major race. Vehicle movement and position, time keeping and dealing with Pro team Directeur Sportifs (that’s something for a later blog).   I wasn’t sure what to expect when I turned up for the race. I knew I would be driving a National Commissaire and that was it. I attended the pre-race briefing.  Paid attention to police and NEG advice, made note of route hazards and made my way to my car. I was stood chatting with Julie and another driver when my Commissaire turned up only for him to inform me that we would have Phil Ligget as a passenger. Suddenly I was a bag of nerves.  Turns out, he was really nice. Also a qualified UCI Commissaire and loved his food. 

Time was ticking on and the radios fired into life. Radios = two of them. A Commissaire radio and radio tour. Cars were asked to roll to the start of the women’s race.  I was lined up a few meters up the road from the world’s elite women cyclists. Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley, Nicole Cooke, Sarah Storey, Sharon Laws, Nikki Harris all in my rear view mirror. I spent the next three hours staring at the perfectly formed rears of  Lizzi, Nikki, Sharon and Emma

Start line of the Men's road race – Phil Ligget in the back

After a short stop for food, drinks and a natural break, the radios once again burst into life. I was lined up at the start of the Men’s race. Holy Cow! And what a brilliant surprise, my daughter was there, beaming as she’d just met and cuddled Adam Blythe.

Lydia meets Adam Blythe
The next four hours were unbelievable. Very fast driving around tight county lanes following Dowsett, Stannard(the eventual winner) Russell Hampton and Briggsy. I remember vividly the run out of Coxwold at nearly 70kph thinking I never hit this speed down here and one hairy descent into Gilling at 90kph side by side the Sky team Car with Rod Illingworth yelling at the Commissaire.  And what about the last climb when we all thought  Dowsett was going to attack and BOOM! Stannard went for it. What an absolute joy to see a cart horse of a man ride for the win and I was right behind him. 

All I can say is, It’s going to take some doing for me to have a better day in cycling than that. Driving behind some of the world’s greatest cyclist for 7 hours in a seat that money can’t buy was a dream come true.

At the start of the 2013 season, I am looking forward to learning a whole lot more and starting my drive toward National Commissaire. I thoroughly enjoy being a Commissaire and would wholly recommend it to anyone wanting to be involved in cycling.

1 comment:

  1. What a great blog. As a novice to all racing I would love to hear snippets such as * keep one foot on the ground at start *. Life behind the scenes of road racing..what a great idea. Thanks Richard.


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