Sonya, Commissaire to the World

5 September 2023

ERC club member, Sonya Crawford, tells us about being at the heart of the Glasgow UCI World Cycling Championships

Photo: © Sonya Crawford

Tell us a bit about your cycling and links to Edinburgh R.C.?

I’ve been riding with, if not a member of, ERC since about 1982 when I moved into Edinburgh. In that time I’ve done a range of things, including being the club’s first Welfare Officer when British Cycling introduced the role, stepping down from that in 2020.

A lot of my cycling has been ‘long-distance’, particularly Audax. For instance, I’ve ridden the 1,200km of the Paris Brest Paris ( twice, in 2007 and 2011.

Following cancer treatment, I now have some health issues that impact my ability to push myself hard, especially on hills. I was advised by a hospital doctor to give up cycling! That was not an option for me so I now use a very nice, titanium, pedal-assist road bike so I can still do ‘long rides with friends’. The only clue to the assist is a slight hum from the bike when going uphill.

What is a commissaire?

A commissaire is effectively a referee or judge; another French word used in cycling. Rest assured I’m not a senior French police officer.

I got drawn into this about 20 years ago when my kids were racing on the track at Meadowbank (& some new readers may already have to Google track racing at Meadowbank).

Like any refereeing role, as you gain experience and attend various courses (cycling ‘referees’ need a much wider range of technical knowledge & skills than a football ref), you have the opportunity to gain experience in more senior roles. For the last 10 years or so, having passed my national exams, I have been a national commissaire.

Being a commissaire sometimes gets you ‘the best seat in the house’ for watching racing but often I don’t actually know who has won the race, I only know the race number of the winner! A lot of the events I have officiated at over the years have been youth-oriented, it’s been fantastic seeing the likes of Sean Flynn and Tom Pidcock progress.

How did you get involved in the Worlds?

I responded to an e-mail earlier this year that invited me to apply for a commissaire position at the World’s track racing in Glasgow. A total of 15 National and 9 International commissaires were appointed to the track from all over the world – and of those, there were 3 Scots, all women.

My role was ‘assistant secretary’, which is all around collating, checking and publishing results.

How did it go?

For the 9 days of the championships, I was collected at 7 am each morning, and left the velodrome at 9.55 pm, so quite long days with limited breaks.

As the velodrome is kept at 30 degrees, I was drinking about 5 litres of water a day, getting my step count up with well-timed trips to the loo.

Overall, from my perspective, it ran smoothly. Last year I was working at the World Cup in Glasgow at ‘turn one’. For some reason there were a lot of crashes on that bend - which had me jumping for safety. Thankfully, fewer crashes this year.

The only slight issue was on day 1, when getting our heads round a UCI rule change which we had only been told about the day before racing started, meant there was some confusion over the minor placings in the points race of the Men’s Omnium. This did get sorted out but it was a stress we could have done without.

What did you enjoy most?

I thought inter-leaving the Para-cycling races into the schedule was great, far better than running it as a separate event.

I got more excited than a commissaire should when Jenny Holl and Sophie Unwin won the tandem sprint. Their 3rd Gold of the Championships and one they weren’t expected to win. Jenny was a rider that I’ve known competing as a youth, so it was fantastic to see her win.

I was also really impressed by Riccardo Ten Argiles ( from Spain, who was just an incredible athlete.

What next after the Worlds?

I am looking forward to the Youth Inter-Regional Track at Glasgow later in September. It is possible that the velodrome will be a bit quieter for that!

What about the swag?