Volunteers: Julia Gilbert is one of many women working tirelessly behind the scenes in cycling

Volunteers: Julia Gilbert is one of many women working tirelessly behind the scenes in cycling

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The build up to International Women’s Day has highlighted just how many women there are working in cycling who are making a massive contribution to our sport.

While the Great Britain Cycling Team have enjoyed huge success on the track, there are hundreds of women working tirelessly behind the scenes.

Julia Gilbert is a fine example: having recently become the first woman in the UK to pass the new road Elite National Commissaire course, she has now joined an exclusive group of high-ranking officials in the cycling world.

She started her career in officiating by helping at the Welwyn Track League and her first roles included being a finish judge.

“The more I did the more I enjoyed it, which was helped by the friendly team I worked with,” says Julia. “The chief commissaire at one of the local open meetings asked if I was interested in becoming a commissaire and pointed me towards the Assistant Commissaire course.

“Since then I’ve worked on track, road and circuit races around the country and gained experience in many different and varied roles.”

These include chief commissaire for the British National Track Championships, commissairing at the Olympic and Paralympic track events at London 2012, blackboard at the Paralympic road events at London 2012, plus various roles at the Tour Series, the Tour of Britain and Premier Calendar events, as well as local races. She was also blackboard official at the Tour de Korea in 2013.

“Being a commissaire at the London 2012 Olympics was a dream come true. The atmosphere in the velodrome was incredible and something I’ll never forget being a part of.

"Just like the athletes, the commissaires had to apply for selection - it was a huge honour and a very nice surprise when I found out I had been appointed and was on the team.”

Cycling, particularly at a domestic level, is hugely reliant on the hard work and commitment of a large network of volunteers. Julia is particularly keen to see more and more people with an interest in the sport get involved and she has some excellent advice for anybody who is interested.

“If you enjoy a challenge, like working as part of a team and can be calm under pressure then you can learn all the other things as you go along,” Julia added.

“You have to be determined and work hard but it’s worth mentioning to some of the more experienced commissaires that you are interested in doing more when you feel confident.

“Finding one or more ‘mentors’ to help you is essential, and you will learn so much more from your experiences using their advice and hearing a different point of view.

“This doesn’t have to be officially set up for you, just find somebody with experience who is doing the kind of thing you want to get involved with and start from there.”

Find out how to get started in race officiating.