As commissaire extraordinaire Anne Cobban steps back from her work on racecourses across Canada, here at Ontario Cycling, we wanted to share a bit about the huge impact that Anne has made on the sport over the years, thanks to her unrelenting dedication and integrity—and her determination to ensure that races run smoothly, whether on a track, MTB course or road.
“None of the OCups would have been possible without someone like Anne always there to make sure everything in the race was organized and running smoothly! It makes for great competing,” says Lucy Hempstead, gold medal time trialist from this summer’s Canada Games and 2022 OCup road series winner.
“Anne is an incredibly talented commissaire who has a wealth and breadth of knowledge and who is willing to step up and do the work and make the changes that the sport needs,” says OC President & CEO Pam Julian. “The investment that she’s given of her time and her generosity really shows what a high integrity individual she is—it’s impossible not to keep coming back to that word integrity as I try to describe what she’s done for cycling in Canada.”
And being a commissaire, to be honest isn’t an easy job. Many of us can recall seeing a referee or umpire getting verbally abused at a Little League game or hockey tournament, and sadly, bike races are not that different. “Being a referee or an official in any sport is an incredibly challenging job,” says Julian. “You are the ones who are enforcing the rules, and you have to know the rule books—locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally—by heart. In Anne’s case, she had to be able to balance the difference between officiating a UCI event and a local event. It’s not an easy job, but she did it with such integrity.”
“Being a commissaire can be a tricky job. Anne has always expertly balanced her role by being fair and thoughtful in her approach to officiating cycling events while also fostering a safe environment. She ensures newcomers have room to learn and progress in the sport. Anne understands the nuisance of each cycling discipline, which rules are critical for safety and fair play, while allowing wiggle room when appropriate. I wish all the best to Anne in the future“, says Andrew Watson, MTB Athlete and Member of the Mountainbike Committee.
“She’s incredibly professional, very calm no matter what the situation is,” says Julian. “There’s no outward show of frustration or emotion, which I think is really, really important for a commissaire. You have to be able to hold your own and not allow situations to escalate, which is a difficult task for anyone.” This is particularly true for a woman in sport, who is more likely to be judged (unfairly) for any outward showing of emotion.
“Anne always exuded calm confidence and helped everyone on an officiating team up their game, whether she was the PCP or simply a member of the team. Anne was always one of my favourites to officiate with”, says Benjamin Hill, Track Provincial Lead Commissaire.
Benjamin Hill continues his positive feedback for his work with Anne. “Anne was a fantastic mentor to me and other new officials, one of the best I’ve encountered in any field. I know that I’ve become more fair-minded as well as a more knowledgeable official because of her tutelage and example.”
In addition to simply being a great commissaire, Anne has also paved the way for more women to follow in her path. Currently, in Canada, only 28 percent of officials within sports are women, a statistic that is slowly growing—but the process isn’t easy.
“Recently, I was able to see Anne working at Canada Games, sticking out of the sunroof of one of the in-race vehicles,” adds Julian. “Seeing a woman doing that is so powerful: We don’t have enough women in those roles. We need more commissaires in general, but it would be wonderful if we could get more women out to do those kinds of roles, which then inspires the next generation.”
Anne has always been a welcome addition to any officiating crew and a key resource when providing guidance on the development side of the sport through her roles on various committees and projects.
I think all commissaires appreciate her level of professionalism, knowledge and judgment whether as an assistant official or as PCP.
We've all learned a lot from each other over the years and her contributions towards developing other commissaires has gone a long way towards creating our present base of officials that our events rely on today.
Naturally, we all wish her all the best in her future endeavours.
Provincial Road Lead Commissaire
“To me, it’s representative of our cycling community as a whole when women are in these positions,” she adds. “It’s another area where we want to diversify and increase the equity in this force. Commissaires tend to also be cyclists who race or who have kids who race: These are people who love the sport, and it’s really important that we have that gender equity or diversity representation within the commissaire community.”
“I met Anne early on in my tenure here as the incoming lead for OC,” says Julian. “She has been invaluable in helping understand how to create more fairness in the sport, how to make changes that would have a profound effect on the Ontario cycling community. She’s also worked to help us in establishing a course specifically for commissaires, to help bring new people into the sport.”
“Anne earned immense respect within the cycling community for her judicious and even-handed officiating and her presence around the race course will be missed by officials, athletes, and fans alike”, adds Hill.
If you have an interest in becoming a commissaire, Ontario Cycling is currently recruiting new commissaires. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to the OC’s Technical Manager Jackie Chan.
“It’s important that as we say goodbye to Anne, we reflect on the fact that commissaries are incredibly valuable to our sport,” Julian concludes. “We cannot run our sport without them. Please make sure to say thank you to our commissaires when you’re at an event. Show your appreciation because these are people who love the sport just as much as you do, and they’re volunteering their time to come out and make it a great event.”