I’ve been involved in bike racing for nearly 30 years now, so that means I’ve worked a lot of different jobs.
That’s the great thing about being Canadian. Because cycling is a small sport here, if you’re involved, you get really involved and you end up learning a lot of different skills. You may not truly master any of them, but at least you learn enough to know what not to do.
As a result, besides being an international bike racer in my day, I’ve been a mechanic at the Olympic Games Pan Am Games and professional six-days; I’ve been a team director; I’ve done neutral support for Mavic; I’ve been the time board guy on a motorbike; I’ve been a race organizer, a race director, a commissaire and a TV commentator; I’ve been the motorbike driver for a time board guy, as well as for photographers; I’ve been a cycling journalist, a coach, a VIP driver, a public relations person and a logistics guy. And I’ve done radio tour.
But while it’s great to do so many different things, if you stay in Canada you can’t truly master any of these tasks because you simply don’t get exposed to the next level.
A case in point: I first did radio tour at the Tour de Beauce about 10 years ago, and it was a great experience. For those who don’t know, radio tour is the broadcast system that feeds information to all the team directors following a road race. The radio tour operator sits in the chief commissaire’s car behind the peloton and keeps everyone informed on breakaways, time gaps mechanical problems and so on. It’s a lot of fun because you have your finger on the pulse of the race, but it’s a big responsibility because the teams will make tactical decisions based on the information you give them.
But of course, the Tour de Beauce is a relatively low-key Canadian race. Any mistakes I made were no big deal, and since nobody told me what to do I found my own way of doing the job. No problem there — I figured doing radio tour in Beauce would be the beginning and end of my radio tour career.
Then, a few weeks ago, I was asked to do radio tour for the Grands Prix Cyclistes in Quebec and Montreal — the only WorldTour races in the Americas. For the uninitiated, these races feature the best teams and riders in the world, and they’re run to a truly professional standard.
In other words, I would be broadcasting to the creme de la creme of the cycling world, along with a raft of VIPs, and I would be doing it largely in French, with former Tour de France contender Charly Mottet sitting to my right to tell me what I was doing wrong.
So when the big day rolled around earlier today, the prospect of being the voice of the bike race for the next five hours was daunting to say the least.
Of course, I did make mistakes, and Charly had a lot of advice — most of it on things like when to say the riders’ number and when to say his name — but all in all it went pretty well.
And, more importantly for me, it was a chance to step up to the next level and push the envelope on my skills. For Sunday’s race in Montreal, it should go even better. If you’re there, wave to me — I’ll be in the red car behind the peloton, with “President du Jury” written on it.