MONCTON – This year’s Tour de France, the annual 23-day men’s bicycle race known for its high difficulty level and prestige, ended last weekend with Colombian rider Egan Bernal claiming the trophy. Amidst the riders, Moncton entrepreneur Adrien Lévesque helped ensure rules were followed alongside four other members of the race’s jury team.
Lévesque is the first Canadian commissaire to be appointed by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body that oversees international cycling competitions, to officiate the entire Tour de France, Cycling Canada confirmed.
An avid traveller and cycling competition fan, the owner of Moncton-based company Creative Laminating Displays Exhibits says doing so was “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“Just being part of it in the larger picture is what struck me the most,” he said.
“It’s not something that I expect to do every year. If I get to do another grand tour in my lifetime, I’d be happy. But we do a whole slew of races that people never hear about – maybe on TV, maybe not, but different levels and whatnot,” he said. “You don’t start off at the tour. You do a lot of smaller races to get there.”
Lévesque has been officiating cycling competitions for around 25 years, including 11 years at the international level. He still commits six to eight weeks a year to officiating national and international races.
He is one of only five Canadian international commissaires for road cycling competitions. At the sport’s highest level, the UCI WorldTour, which includes the Tour de France, Lévesque is currently one of only two Canadians in the pool of approximately 35 officials.
The Tour de France is Lévesque’s first time officiating a grand tour. Before coming to Belgium at the beginning of July to kick off the race, he had to study all the stages and try to foreshadow any issues that could come up.
The tour is refereed by a team of 16 officials – 11 assigned by the French Cycling Federation and five, selected by the UCI, make up the jury panel. That’s where Lévesque sat as a member.
Any sanctions or penalties imposed on riders and their teams come from the jury, ensuring regulations are followed, which includes riders’ post-race obligations. The jury also validates the race results. Aside from that, much of their time is spent in vehicles, amidst the riders and caravan to make sure things go smoothly.
“Once the race really begins, much of what we do is directing traffic, allowing support and media vehicles to get to the front of the race without hindering or benefitting the riders,” Lévesque said.
There were moments in the race where nothing happens for hours, but there are other times when a big decision needs to be taken within minutes, he said. For example, at stage 19 of the tour this year, there was a hail storm and landslide on the course.
“We had about four minutes to decide what we were going to do – the whole tour depended on it. So that was one of the places where we intervened to make sure that one, the riders are safe, and two, that whatever sporting considerations we gave to the results reflected what the race was,” he said.
“We never want to affect the outcome of the race, but we want to make it fair for everyone. So it’s a question of balancing what’s fair and what’s good for the race…Cycling’s never black and white. There’s a lot of interpretations and there are no two scenarios that are alike….you have to take into account everything from the terrain, the weather and how the race is unfolding at any given moment.”
In his role, Lévesque deals more with team managers and resources to make sure the race happens without a hitch.
“The riders themselves – we had very little interaction with them. We see their managers that each team has that we deal with on a daily basis, so it’s very professional at that level,” he said. “We’ll walk to the team parking every morning, we’ll shake hands with them and make sure everything is going good and that they don’t have any concerns either from the previous days or for the coming stages and whatnot.”
Lévesque’s involvement in cycling started when he was a kid. He doesn’t devote as much time to riding anymore, but he wants to stay connected to the sport.
“I rode and raced when I was younger, but this is kind of for me a way to stay involved with the competitive sport. I like to see a good race, I really don’t care who wins. So it’s kind of my way to stay involved in the sport and to give back as well,” he said.
When he travels for competitions, he continues to do some work from his computer for his company. The four-person firm makes displays, exhibits, decors and graphics for trade shows, exhibitions and offices, among other things. During his travels, he also gets ideas about design styles.
“Traveling for me is a big part of what I wanna do, so it works out in that way,” he said.
“Staying away from the family for a month is the challenging part,” he said. “But they support me 110 per cent. They know it’s something I’d wanted to do for so many years.”