A Stirling Management School Senior Lecturer is hoping a strong performance in Manchester this month will see him qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games – as a cycle race referee.
By day Dr Tom Forbes can be found working in the Stirling Management School, while every other weekend he manages cyclists in his role as a British Cycling race referee or ‘Commissaire’.
A former road race cyclist himself, Tom has spent the past eight years working his way up the refereeing ranks and this year will officiate at a number of high profile National and International events across the UK, including the final leg of the 2010-11 Track World Cup Classics series at the Manchester Velodrome from 19-20 February.
“I was in my last year of road racing and it just so happened there was a transition taking place with a lot of the old guys stepping back and new officials needed,” explained Tom.
“They were looking for new cycle referees, who are called Commissaires. I went along to the Commissaire training where you obviously had to learn the rule book, but it was more about the interpretation and what to do in specific race situations that interested me. Then I sat the exam and was soon in at the deep end working at local races!
“The guy who took the course, Gerry McDaid was an International Commissaire who I’d known as a rider. I was obviously doing something right as he started encouraging me to work in all sorts of challenging roles at the bigger races.”
Since 2007, Tom has been focusing on building up his Commissaire CV in a bid to gain selection for the major events, including the 2012 London Olympics.
He will gain further experience working as a timekeeper - Commissaire Adjunct to use the proper title - in Manchester this month where a number of the top UK and International cyclists including Sir Chris Hoy, are expected to compete as they look to pick up the required ranking points for their own Olympic Games team selection.
Tom, from Lenzie, added: “Cycling has taken off as a sport and so getting into senior officiating roles is now very competitive. You have to prove yourself, but I’m at the stage now where I feel ready to do the international courses. I’ll submit my cycling CV to British Cycling in the Summer and if good enough, they will forward it to the International Cycling Union (UCI) who hold their pre-selection course in the Autumn.
“Their training is held every four years, in sync with the Olympic cycle, and they encourage home nation officials to come forward. I see working at Manchester as a seal of approval and so, provided I don’t muck it up, I would hope to be either a newly qualified UCI Commissaire or a time keeper at the Olympic Games next year, not forgetting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.”
In such a high class sport, you may feel the referee would have an easy time, but not so according to Tom. “People get up to all sorts,” he joked. Having been a rider myself, you tend to get a feel for a race and what and where it might happen. It can be anything from taking pace behind a vehicle in a road race to holding onto a car or veering across someone’s path in a sprint finish.
“The bigger races are actually more tricky as you can be dealing with several groups of riders and their team vehicles behind them. There are all sorts of rules around feeding – when you are allowed to take a drink from team cars – and on dealing with punctures and crashes. The track is more about safety as it’s a confined space, but things happen very quickly so you have to be on the ball.
“You can punish infringements through cash fines, time penalties and even disqualification, but I always prefer to opt for education and a quiet word with offenders if I can. Still, it’s not a role you go into to be Mr Popular.
“I often joke with colleagues that I’d really like to write a paper one day based on my experiences. There are similarities between managing a big race to managing a large organisation with resource issues, working in teams and dealing with conflict, so watch this space.”