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The Role of a Commissaire - Interview with Paul Watson

This month we chatted to one Paul Watson, a well known Irish commissaire who travels the world to referee international cycle races. 

 You are one of Ireland’s most experienced and accomplished Commissaires. What is the role of a Commissaire?

 For the sport of cycling the Commissaire is the referee, but you are not just a commissure on the day or days of the event – there is a lot of work as a Commissaire before, during and after any event you are appointed too. You ensure the event is run safely and correctly and at the end of the day there is a fair winner.

How did you get involved with this aspect of the sport of cycling?

Cycling has always been in my blood – I was a rider, my father was a rider, as well as an International Commissaire and his Grandfather was also a rider – so the love of the sport has been handed down. My father is known in the sport all over the world and it always makes me smile when I get asked all over the place am I related to the Jack Watson but that is changing now and he is getting asked if he is related to Paul Watson.

Which is your favourite discipline to work with?

I am an International Commissaire for Road, Track and Para cycling – before I would have always said Road but it is hard to choose now – at the track you are more exposed – in full view in the Velodrome at all times so you have to act quick and be sure of your decisions – if you ever see me on a flight or sitting in an airport I am always reading the regulations – even in hotel rooms every night – you always have to be 100% sure of the regulations. Para cycling is also a little bit special as the cyclists are pushing themselves so much it is really competitive and great to see.

What was your favourite event that you worked on?

It is hard to pick a favourite – Road World Championships are very exciting, as are Track World Cups and Championships – but when you get to some of the places I would never normally travel to for Road Stage Races in new countries these are also fantastic experiences – such as Tour of Rwanda or Tour of Iran that I have been appointed to. The atmosphere at Wiggins Hour Record and having a beer with him afterwards was very special, as was the London 6 Day when it was brought back – London Velodrome is a bit of a second home for me the last year as I was also appointed to the Track Worlds again there. But it is important not to forget your roots and where gave me the experience to go start – if we did not have an event here like the Rás which is a great event for Irish Commissaires to work on, and the technicalities involved with so many splits and groups, etc – it is a great event to be part of for Commissaires and even as a Commissaires Driver which is where I started it is a great insight.

What’s next for you?

Back to Italy for a stage race in a couple of weeks – then 11 days in Russia in May for Track, in June the ZLM Tour in Netherlands, is goes on each month but will be very special with the Olympics in Rio in August – the UCI never let you get rusty, I have international events every month.

How does it feel when you are at an international event, and there is an Irish team participating?

I really don’t have a problem with it, all riders are the same and treated equally – It does make me smile when they win like at the Para worlds but I am completely neutral. My first Track World Cup in Kazakhstan I had to disqualify Martyn Irvine – we are still good friends – he broke the rules and we had to act – I find it easy to be neutral. But the important thing for a good Commissaire is be sure of your decisions and stick to them, and never hide away after you make hard decisions – I had to disqualify an Italian rider who just won a Junior Wold Championship last year, these are hard decisions but correct and you as Commissaire President must go and tell the manager and his rider any enforcement of the regulations you have to make.

How can Irish cyclists become a Commissaire?

We try to run a course each year for Trainee Commissaires – and it is a great way of putting something back into the Sport we all love – keep an eye on the Cycling Ireland Website of the next one.


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