Volunteering is FUN(damental to the cost-effective and efficient running of a UCI World Championships). Photo: cyclingworldchamps.com

World Championships volunteers are ready for literally anything

So you want to volunteer at the Glasgow World Championships? What's your plan for humanity's first contact with extraterrestrial life?

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The World Championships, to be held in Glasgow next year, are a huge deal for the sport of cycling. For the first time, every discipline of the sport – from road cycling to artistic cycling to BMX – will be in attendance, rather than scattered around the globe in standalone competitions by discipline. And with all that cycling, there’ll be lots of help needed. Volunteers by the hundreds, showing people where to go (and where not to), shooing away seagulls, patiently explaining where the hot dog stand is.

Now, you might be forgiven for thinking that the UCI and Glasgow 2023’s organising committee would be happy with any and all volunteers – after all, we are talking about hundreds of workers that don’t need to be paid a penny and are just happy to wear a UCI branded-softshell and be part of something. 

But no. There was a rigorous online application process, and then, there is a hard-copy questionnaire which may be the strangest, most wonderful thing I’ve read all week.

Exhibit A: An actual official questionnaire that – I can’t stress this enough – actually exists.

Given I’m on the UCI’s naughty list, perhaps volunteering is my best shot of seeing some cycling in Glasgow next year. 

Let’s get stuck in, shall we?

1. The morning session has run over and there is now a long queue for the afternoon session. How would you keep spectators in the queue entertained and happy? 

I would tell them that the morning session has run over and that they will be in this long queue for the afternoon session for a while. Then, I would say that to the next person in the queue. After taking a further step down the line, I think I would say the same to the next person in the queue. I would probably then tell the next person in line that the morning session has run over and that they will be in this long queue for the afternoon session for a while.

At no point would I smile or deviate from earnestly conveying this important, self-explanatory information. My role is to communicate this and this only. I trust that you understand my process and the diligence with which I would approach this task.

[Perfect answer, nailed it]

2. Demonstrating your knowledge of cycling please share your favourite cycling experience/moment that you have been part of 

My favourite cycling moment that I have been part of was when I was at the Tour Down Under in 2000, after a stage had finished, and I approached Team Farm Frites for an autograph at the exact moment that Robbie McEwen whipped off his bib knicks under a little marquee next to a Toyota Tarago.

Does this “demonstrate my knowledge of cycling”? Not really, but it does demonstrate that I definitely saw Robbie McEwen’s penis that one time, so there’s a CyclingTip for ya.

Near enough.

3. You are riding a bike and you get a flat tyre. What do you do? 

If it is a bike with tubeless tyres, I will pledge to use tubes only from now on. If it is a bike with tubes, I will pledge to switch to tubeless. In no circumstance will I be content with either choice. This is the cyclist’s lot in life.

4. In one sentence what is the one thing you want to get from volunteering at UCI championships? 

To be a part of the biggest cycling event in history and be on the other side of the barriers for once in my stupid life. 

5. A member of the public approaches you and asks where they can get food and drink. Unfortunately you are unsure of the answer. What do you say? 

My toxic trait is being unable to admit that I don’t know the answer to a question, so I would tell this member of the public that there is no food or drink at this world championships. Charmed, entranced by my honesty – but still possessing a mean hunger – the member of the public would follow me into the woods where we would learn to live on a foraged diet of pine needles, juniper berries and baby squirrels. The earth’s rhythm becomes our rhythm as my UCI-issue volunteer polo shirt becomes tatty and torn, our hair matted and filthy.

Then I would eat the member of the public.

6. A being from another planet is visiting our world and of course he/she wants to know all about cycling. How would you describe what a bike looks like? 

I don’t presume that alien gender exists as a binary. I would also need to know more about what language and shared experiences they have with humanity, because there’s zero point talking about something having ‘two wheels’ and ‘a double-diamond frame’ if they don’t know what wheels are, what a frame is, what a diamond is, and how those assorted shapes can be propelled by a hairless monkey called a ‘human’. Also, what is a monkey and what is hair.

I think what it all boils down to, really, is that we probably have bigger issues to worry about  – linguistically, sociologically, militarily – when a being from another planet has landed in Glasgow undetected, walked up to a volunteer at a cycling event and struck up a conversation. 

7. You are a pilot on a flight from Glasgow to Lapland. However, freak weather causes the plane to crash. The plane has landed 20 miles from the nearest town. Everyone survives with only a few having minor injuries. The rescue team cannot make [sic] until the morning. What is your plan to ensure you, your crew and the passengers are safe thru [sic] the nite [sic].

Another normal question, and thank you. If I’m being a stickler, I would point out that there is no direct flight from Glasgow to Lapland – Finland’s northernmost region, with its capital city, Rovaniemi, popularly known as the home of Santa Claus. So this is either a festive charter flight (unlikely), or you’re telling me that I am a pilot for national carriers British Airways and/or FinnAir, behind the controls for a gruelling multi-stop jaunt from Glasgow to London to Helsinki to Rovaniemi ($771 AUD for a round trip economy ticket, 8 hours 15 minutes travel time including connections). 

Some questions must go unanswered, but with that groundwork laid, I guess our hypothetical plane runs into trouble somewhere slightly west of Näätähaara. We feel it first as that dropped stomach feeling of turbulence. The other side of the cabin door, I can hear a few suppressed screams. The plane rattles from side to side like it’s being shaken by a clumsy toddler, and the controls slam back and forth in my hands. I remember what my instructors told me in lessons – ’move with the plane’, ‘surf the air’. I close my eyes for a moment, take a grounding breath or two, think of home, but this is my home, this cockpit, really, isn’t it? Since Jeanine left, it’s either here or a grey house in grey Glasgow, alone with my grey thoughts. At least here there’s purpose, even if that purpose right now is avoiding slamming a plane full of Scots in Santa hats into the tundra. 

With an animalistic, metallic shriek, the right wing tears off and the plane is spinning, spinning… and for a moment out the window I catch a glimpse of endless snow-capped pine forest getting closer. There’s a clearing and with an almighty yank on the joystick I will my stricken craft toward the opening in the canopy. The plane punches into the icy peat. My head slams forward into the dash. Before everything goes black, I reach a trembling finger to the big red button marked ‘This plane has crashed send help pls’. 

I wake to the sound of groans and a snowstorm whipping up outside. My co-pilot is poring over maps. The nearest town is Honkakoski, she says, but that’s tiny, so help will need to come from Ranua, 20 miles in the opposite direction. They’ve got a zoo (4.4 stars on Google; the brown bear hibernates during winter so schedule your visit accordingly to avoid disappointment) and a dairy and a few hotels, so there’s bound to be some emergency services. There’s whiplash and there’s some broken arms among the passengers and crew, but if we can make it through the night we might just be fine. When the sun comes up, we can forage for pine needles, juniper berries and baby squirrels. 

Suddenly the crash site is lit from above by a piercing white light, and an otherworldly roar, increasing in volume and intensity. Hovering overhead is a monolithic black machine with a blue light descending from it and a many-limbed figure floating within. I hear the being land with a squelch in the snowy bog just outside the cockpit window and with a scream trapped in my throat, panic rising in my body, I look across. An amorphous shape on the other side is staring in – it’s funny to say ‘staring’ because there’s no eyes to speak of, but I feel that kind of watchful presence – and then its mouth opens, revealing shark-like rows of teeth and another mouth inside it, more teeth, another chamber, and then a kind of cloaca. I scream and my co-pilot screams and the thing screams too but in the scream there are words, somehow, as if it’s trying to communicate something. 

My last memory before my eardrums burst and it all ends is an alien screeching “tell me all about cycling. What is bicycle?”, over and over again, its mouth getting closer, acid-yellow saliva flecks eating through the glass, reaching for connection and understanding and the demise of humanity.

8. Select your top 3 skills (from a list provided!)?

No list was forwarded to CyclingTips by our source, but I’m pretty good at foraging, landing broken planes in a bog, and admitting when I don’t know the answer to a question.  

9. Why do you want to volunteer at UCI world championships? 

See answer to question two.

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