Every sport needs its referees, and professional cycling is no different.
Well, except for the fact that these officials are ensuring order and fair play while riding a motorcycle, radioing officials and team directors and keeping track of riders scattered along the course -- all while weaving in and out of traffic among cyclists, team cars and thousands of fans lining the sides of the roads.
Chattanooga resident Tony Carroll served as one of the race officials this past weekend during the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships.
"I'm basically the eyes and ears for the referees that are in the cars," Carroll said. "There are four commissars that ride in the com cars, and we observe and keep track of the riders on the road.
"For example, when a rider starts dropping off the field, we'll drop back and get their numbers and radio them back to the com cars."
Like referees in other sports, Carroll was wearing a black-and-white striped shirt as he took a break Monday between the women's and men's road races that wove through downtown Chattanooga as well as up and down Lookout Mountain.
But he also was wearing protective motorcycle clothing and was equipped with a two-way radio to keep him in contact with other race officials and the organizers back at the start-finish line.
Carroll explained that being a motorcycle race official gives a whole new meaning to multitasking and that it takes a lot of work to be good at the job.
"It takes a lot of skills on the bike," he said. "You have to ride the motorcycle, use the radio, write things down, keep track of the race, watch your mirrors and everything else all at the same time.
"So it definitely takes some training and skill."
While Carroll was excited to be officiating a national championship event in his hometown, he explained that such an event brings greater expectations from those who are monitoring how well he does his job on the road.
"It's fun and it's stressful at the same time," he said. "In an event of this caliber you really don't want to screw up, and there's a lot of high-ranking people here keeping track of what you do.
"It's definitely different from officiating a small event like a local race or something. But it's definitely a fun job."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JFTanner.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...