Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tour of Richmond 2015 – Ride Report

Official Logo
Flattus interruptus

I’ve probably been on two dozen big rides since I started road cycling a few years ago. Not once, on any of those, did I sustain a flat tire. I’ve come upon a bunch of people suffering them, even stopped to help a few, but never had one myself. That all changed in this year’s Tour of Richmond.

Later start means cooler riding conditions

With the UCI World Cycling Championships
Gone but not forgotten!
taking place in late September, the Tour of Richmond was pushed back two weeks later than its traditional start on the first Saturday in October. I was thankful for that! The last couple of years have provided rather warm afternoons (mid-90s, one year) and no one enjoyed riding into a hot headwind.

In addition to cooler temps, I was also backing off my normal distance. I’ve ridden the century route the last 3 years and was planning to do the same when I signed up in May. Unfortunately, work and life got in my way creating a great deal of travel sans bike and this put my mileage way down compared to the last three years. I typically have 1,500 miles in by the time this ride rolls around. This year, I hadn’t even cracked 1,000.

In addition, I was traveling the week before the ride and not arriving home until after midnight on Friday. With a 7:30 am start for the century, and having to drive 40 minutes to get there and check in, I didn’t see my making 100 miles on 3 hours of sleep. Instead, I changed my entry to the 60 mile course, a metric century and with a 9:30 start time I figured I’d be fine.

Training? We don’t need no stinking training!

With so few miles this year, I figured I’d better get out the prior weekend for some rides just to be sure I could manage. On Saturday, I drove down to the new Capital
Finally a reality!
Trail in downtown Richmond. It officially opened a week earlier and provides us with a paved, multi-use path from Richmond to Jamestown (the original capital of the Commonwealth) a distance of 52 miles. It is a beautiful ride, with gently rolling hills, lovely trees, some water views, and a spectacular view of the Richmond skyline on your way back into town. My plan was to ride for45-50 miles and see how I felt.

The ride was uneventful and provided me with the chance to look at the trail, check out the various parts of it, and get some miles on my legs. It was also a lovely day and I felt so great I managed almost 50 miles and felt great when I finished. I figured the Tour would be fairly easy for me.

On Monday, MB (who has “retired” and is doing volunteer work these days) and I rode down to Trail for a about a 90 minute ride. I used it to loosen my legs up from Saturday’s ride and it was another lovely day. It also put me in a proper frame of mind for having to get on a plane that afternoon and fly halfway across the country for the week.

After the ride, we loaded the bikes up and headed home. I hung them both in our storage shed after giving them a quick wipe down and headed off to work.

Off to the Ride

My flight home on Friday night was not only on time, it was early by about 20 minutes. (This is so rare, you can’t even imagine.) I considered this a good omen for the next day.

I got up early Saturday, ate breakfast and dressed with a plan to get to the start area (Richmond International Raceway) by 8:45 for the 9:30 start.
Bubba's paradise

When I went out to grab my bike, I noticed that the rear tire was flat. This isn’t unusual but it usually takes a few weeks to happen. I grabbed my floor pump and re-inflated it before carrying it out to the car. I also threw the pump into the car as a matter of habit; I do that at these big rides just in case someone needs it.

Loaded up, I headed to RIR and arrived about 45 minutes prior to the start where I walked to the registration desk and picked up my number and timing chip. Before unloading the bike, I pinned the number on my jersey and got dressed for the cooler weather. The predicted high was 60 for the day and it was starting around 40 so I donned arm and leg warmers.

I walked around to the back of the Subaru to get my bike off the rack and realized the back tire was flat again. I squeezed it with my right hand and immediately found the problem as a staple that was sticking out of the tire pierced my thumb, right under the nail. (Pain – high. Blood – flowing nicely.)

Bike skills are us
Not actually me

I swore at the pain and the bleeding, and sucked my thumb for a minute to get it to stop. (Also to stop whimpering.) Once it did, I carefully removed the wheel and prepared to fix the flat. I have a saddle bag that holds 2 fresh inner tubes, tire levers, a multi-tool and a CO2 pump along with a frame pump in case the CO2 runs out. (Floor pump coming in handy; glad I packed it!)

After identifying where the staple was, I pulled off one side of the tire and removed the flat tube. I relocated the staple and began to remove it when it broke off on the outside. I reached inside the tire and felt where it was poking in and would cause another flat. I needed to remove it but didn’t have a pair of pliers to do it. Time for creative thinking or, at least, what passes for it with me.

I first tried grabbing it with my thumbnail and pulling it out. That resulted in shredding my thumbnail and restarting the bleeding. Next, I tried pushing it back out through the tire wall using the fattest thing on the multi-tool but it kept slipping off. Finally, I took the tire completely off the rim, turned it inside out, and pulled it out with my teeth.

(Keep in mind, this is happening in a parking lot with hundreds of other cyclists watching me as they walk past. How I did all this without swearing a blue streak is beyond me. I’ve been working to become more accepting and Zen about things but I desperately wanted to throw the wheel for distance.)

Finally having removed the offending puncture creator, I ran my hand around the rest of the tire to ensure there weren’t any others hiding in there. Finding none, I reinstalled it on the rim and grabbed a fresh tube and shoved it inside the tire. I grabbed the pump out of the car and began to inflate.

About 20 seconds later, there was a very loud bang. I had managed to let a tiny little piece of the tube stick out from under the tire and when it pinched under pressure, it blew. At this point, I just started giggling. I was down to my last tube and hadn’t even started the ride!

I quickly pulled the tube, reinstalled the last one, and very carefully inflated it to the correct pressure checking all the while that I hadn’t set up another pinch. Finally, I had two tires that could be ridden.

Clean up and Go!

I got the wheel back on the bike, reassembled my saddle bag, jumped on the bike and headed to the registration area where I could wash my hands (and face it turns out; I had tire marks all over my nose and cheek) before heading to the starting line.
I hit the head while I was in there, just to make sure nothing else did me in, and rode over to the start line, arriving just in time to doff my helmet for the National Anthem.

I took a couple of deep breaths to calm down and regain my Zen while putting my helmet back on. Group starts tend to be a little scary even without adrenaline coursing through your veins. I needed to be calm in order to not wind up in a pileup with some other Fred.

The signal to start came and people began rolling out. I managed to stay out of trouble and get into a nice rhythm almost immediately. Within a mile, I was rolling along at a fast (for me) pace and enjoying the day.

Popular Mechanics

One thing I noticed almost immediately was that my bike wasn’t shifting properly, skipping gears going up and down. I figured that I hadn’t seated the wheel in exactly the same spot prior to the flat and that was causing mis-shifts in a couple of gears. I was able to work around it but it was a bit of irritant. I kept going.

At the first SAG stop, there was a huge crowd at the volunteer mechanic’s tent. I grabbed two snacks, refilled bottles and headed out without stopping to get the wheel re-seated. It wasn’t bothering me much and I was having a career day on the ride, averaging well over 18 mph for the first hour. I just wanted to keep going and build up as much time in the bank as I could.

(Time in the bank is a game I play in my mind on a ride. If I want to average 16 mph on a ride, I’ll try to exceed that for as long as I can. Then, if a headwind hits or a large hill gets in the way, I can still keep my average. Yeah, I know it’s weird. It’s what you do to keep your head in the right place.)

At the second SAG stop, I pulled in to the Performance Tent and explained what was happening. The wrench loosened my wheel and felt it drop into place. Then he put it up on the rack and tweaked the shifter until it shifted perfectly. As he was taking it down, he said, “Hey, your back wheel is kinda soft.”

My heart sank. I told him it was 110 psi when I left the start. He filled it back up and suggested it might be a slow leak and perhaps I could make it to the end without having to change it. He asked how far I had to go. I said, “29 miles, dude. Too far.”

I was out of tubes and would have to depend on the kindness of strangers if this one flatted completely. And I just knew it was going to happen. Only one thing to do, keep pedaling!

Standing on a corner…..

I rode out of the stop as quickly as possible. I was still having a great day and even when the course turned into a stiff wind for the last 20 miles, I felt great and was holding my speed well above where I’d been hoping to keep it.

And then I noticed that the back end felt mushy. I looked down and could see that the tire was going flat after only 10 miles. Of course. I dismounted, grabbed my frame pump and reinflated the tire. Got back on the bike and continued on, cresting the hill and starting down a mild descent. When I hit a small bump in the pavement, I felt the rim hit and knew it was over for that tube. Dammit.

I pulled over, yanked out the wheel, pulled the tire and removed the tube in less
A little help?
than a minute. (You get better with repetition, I’m told.) I stood up and held the tube over my head, looking at the oncoming riders. As they passed, I hollered, “Anybody got a tube they can spare?”

About 50 riders passed me when I saw a motorcycle cop coming towards me. He stopped and I was praying he would have some tubes but no, he didn’t. He offered to let the SAG station, less than 2 miles away now, know that I needed help. I thanked him and went back to my pleading with the velo parade.

Another 10 minutes passed and finally, someone stopped and handed me a tube from his pocket. I thanked him profusely and told him he would now have good karma for all rides for the next year. He laughed and rode off.

I reinstalled the tube, carefully inflated it and packed my kit back up. I wiped my hands off on a small rag that I remembered to pack and got ready to head off when I realized I’d been standing there for nearly 30 minutes and my entire body was now incredibly stiff from standing around. Sigh, there goes the personal best for this ride.

I swung my leg over the saddle looking remarkably similar to the Tin Woodsman from the Wizard of Oz. You know, after he’s been standing in the rain and needs to be oiled? Yeah, that was me for at least the next 2 miles to the SAG stop.

When I rolled in, the mechanic saw my dirty hands and asked if I was the guy who had a flat; he’d gone to look for me and we’d missed each other somehow. He then offered me a spare tube for my saddle bag (just in case) for the last 18 miles of the ride. Having one would mean that I’d get no further flats and that, of course, turned out to be true.

I had a slice of pizza and a snack, refilled bottles, and headed off to the finish. I was no longer feeling unstoppable on the bike; I just wanted to finish and go drink a beer.


I rolled back onto the grounds of RIR a little more than 4 hours after I started which, considering everything, was pretty amazing. I managed to average 14.3 mph despite stopping for 25 minutes by the side of the road. My Garmin told me later that I’d managed an average moving speed of 17.8 mph which is a new personal best for me on a ride over 30 miles in length. Evidently, 2 rides the weekend before followed by a week of travel and drinking Manhattans is a great training program. 

I think they call it tapering.

I’ve sometimes wondered if carrying two spare tubes whenever I head out on my bike is a bit too belt and suspenders. Now, I realize that it’s the absolute minimum to have, at least for me. And I’m going to carry 2 spares in the car, too, when I drive to a ride.

Otherwise, you wind up looking like the Tim Woodsman and singing like the Scarecrow – If I Only Had a Brain!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

UCI Road World Championships 2015 - Richmond VA Day 8 - Final Report

Day 8

Slovakia comes through!

Today was the last day of the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond VA and the only race was the Elite Men’s Road Race, a short jaunt of 162 miles. (After riding just 2 laps of the course Friday night, I can’t imagine 16 laps of the same thing. Of course, I’m not a world class rider. I’m a hack, and an old one at that.) The weather forecast predicted a 50% chance of showers throughout the day with limited sunshine and a temperature around 75 degrees.

The good news was the rain never really made much of an appearance. There were some scattered showers here and there most of the day but they didn’t really seem to hit the course until around the final lap and, even then, it was a brief splash. 
As a result, crowds were very impressive; I heard many people who had attended other Worlds around the globe and they were saying these crowds were outstanding! I haven’t seen the numbers for the weekend but I’d estimate that well over 50,000 spectators attended today, alone.

The last Marshal

I was assigned to the corner of Harvie and Main Streets which had a crossing to be controlled and was asked to be there from 8:00 to 4:00. I arrived about 8:15 or so and set up shop. Another volunteer, Ken, appeared about 9:00 to join me but was only working until noon. We talked about how to manage things, what we’d experienced over the past week, and who we liked in this race. Ken and I got along well and we were both looking forward to today’s race. We also agreed that the city had done a yeoman’s job on the championships.

The Race

At 9:00, the riders left the start house at the University of Richmond campus and made their way down to the course. By the time the riders made it to our post, a breakaway of 8 riders had formed that included Ben King of the US. Ben was born in the Richmond area, still makes his home in VA and his parents live in Charlottesville, about an hour away. This breakaway managed to open up a 4 minute gap in the first lap and held it for the better part of the first half of the race. Every time they would come past, the crowds would go crazy. In watching the live feed, it appeared that the crowds around the course did the same thing. The riders interviewed after the race were saying that the crowds were deafening, even chill bump inducing.

The breakaway stayed out for a long time but with about 5 laps, 80 km or so, left the peloton reeled them in. Several other groups punched their way out for a brief breakaway but all were dragged back to the pack. By the 5 km mark, the entire peloton was back together and it appeared a bunch sprint for the rainbow jersey was imminent. At that point, they headed up the 23rd street cobbled climb and things started happening.

Peter Sagan, Green jersey winner (top sprinter) at the Tour de France this year, charged up the hill and gained a tiny gap at the top. Turning the corner, he accelerated quickly and went into an ultra-tuck as he screamed down the hill with about 20 meters on his closest pursuer. At the bottom of the hill, he used the entire road to make the left turn and then the same on the right hander back onto Main street with about 1 kilometer to go.

Sagan had opened up a 50 meter gap as he charged up the rise to the bottom of Governor’s Hill. Making the right turn, he looked over his shoulder and began his final push, charging up the hill. At the top, he turned left again and charged up the last 650 meters of false flat that made up the finish of all the races this past week, burying his pursuers who just didn’t have anything for him after 162 miles of racing. He was the last World Champion to cross it this week, almost nonchalantly crossing the line with a smile and a wave.


Peter Sagan (Slovakia) in 6:14:37 – that’s quite a speed for 162 miles! (He was in stealth mode up until that last climb. It was quite a stunner!)

Michael Mathews (Australia) in 6:14:40

Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania) in same time as Mathews. He also was a part of the early break and did a lot of work today.

Alex Howes was the top finisher on the American Squad finishing in 12th place.


The crowds were very excited today, and lots of people who knew absolutely nothing about cycle racing were out and about. My volunteer shirt caused most of them to ask me questions about the race and I had a great time today acting as a docent on the sport. I only made up about half of the stuff I told them.

For the first time, I was in a position that made me a target for the rider’s discarded drink bottles and I actually scored 2 of them. I never saw who tossed them so I don’t know who to thank. Interestingly enough, they’re smaller than ones I typically carry so I can’t imagine using them but I may keep them as souvenirs.

I’ve always wondered what riders do if they need to pee on a long race. Today, I saw one of them going while riding. He was cruising along the left barricade, riding with his left hand on the bars while holding his shorts open with his right hand and hosing down the fence over his left leg. I’m guessing the spectators on that side of the course were wondering what was going on as he went past. Fortunately, it was a sparse crowd at the time. Of course, now I’m wondering how difficult it is to do……

Richmond as Host

I admit, I had low expectations when this was first announced. The city government has a history of being less than spectacular in execution of big things. (Witness the “new baseball stadium” that is still under discussion; for about 10 years now.) This effort, however, was a combination of a separate organization (Richmond 2015) taking care of the details (especially the money) and the government officials acting as partners. The results were really outstanding! Were some people inconvenienced? Sure. You can’t hold something this big and not do that. But the group was small and, if they planned properly, the inconvenience was pretty small. 
The people that were bitching about it, were reactive instead of proactive and expecting things to be messed up.

I’m pretty sure that the crowds over the weekend weren’t enough to make up for the dearth of crowds in the early part of the week. No matter how they tried, the organizers just couldn’t explain the attendance in a way that business people seemed to understand. As a result, a number of restaurants and businesses had overly high expectations and were sorely disappointed. Folks that came in from out of town, who had been to other Worlds, said these crowds were huge. That’s good enough for me!

Was it worth it? A spectator asked me that question today. The jury is still out but my opinion is that it was, unequivocally. Big money came into the city, lots of tax
The River City, standing tall!
revenue gained this week, and the city looked really good on TV. I think that will mean a lot of future visitors to our town. It will also mean that we’ve proven we can pull this size of an event together and make it successful! That means future events, future growth, and future fun in the Old Dominion.

Congratulations to Richmond 2015 and all of the organizing committees! It was an honor to serve as a volunteer and be a part o this!

Congratulations to all of the new World Champions! You earned it with your efforts and your suffering!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

UCI Road World Championships - Day 6 and 7

Day 6 

2 races by Top Riders, 1 ride, mostly by has-beens…..

Today was a very long day for the workers in Richmond as the first race went off at 9:00 am as the Junior Women took off for their Road Course Championship and the last “ride” ended at 9:00 pm for all of the cycling aficionados willing to pony up a chunk of cash to ride the course. (Me included!)

The Junior Women’s race was a fairly short 4 lap, or 64 km affair with about 100 or so riders. I was acting as a Course Marshal on Main street at 5th, in the middle of a descent where it levels off. As a result, my partner and I had to alert the police working the intersection below us that riders were coming and to stop traffic.

The races are beginning to gain more spectators as people were coming out of their buildings/offices/jobs for a few minutes at a time to watch the riders fly past. There was much cowbell ringing, clapping and woohooing by the spectators. I saw riders grin several times when they went past and heard something that tickled them.

In the end, Chloe Dygert (USA) and Emma White (USA) finished 1-2 the same as they did in the individual time trial. Third place was scored by Agnieszka Skainiak (Poland) who was immediately awarded a pronounceable nickname (Anne) at the ceremony.

The second race was the U23 Men’s Road Race and the riders charged around for 10 laps or 100.8 miles on the same course. (The same course is used for all of the Road races with the exception of the elite men who will start at the University of Richmond and ride into town before doing 16 laps of the course.)

There was a larger field for this group with about 150 riders taking part. It was quite a rush when that group came charging down the hill where I was standing. The chase cars were working hard to hang with them and a couple nearly got airborne at my post.

In the end, Kevin Ledanois (FRA) just eked out a win over Simone Consonnini (Italy – like you couldn’t tell) when he held him off in the final sprint by a bike length. They were so close, they each were credited with the same time of 3:45:54.

The second half of the race was run in the rain causing some difficult conditions, especially in the cobbled climbs. One rider was unable to navigate the 23rd street climb in an early lap but the cajoling of spectators really got him to bear down the rest of the way. Crashes, however, occurred on the wet painted lines of the course which took out riders on two separate occasions.

Conquer the Cobbles – choose your method

When the announcement was made that anyone would have the chance to ride the championship course by paying a fee (which raised funds for the Sports Backers, a local sports support group) I was on the website in seconds.

Look, I’m an old guy and I ride purely for fun and exercise. Every once in a while, I enjoy a ride where I’m able to perform as if I were an athlete (I was when I was a kid). I’ve never gotten to anything even remotely like a World Championship (National Junior Frisbee Champion is the best I can give you) and since this is the second time they’ve been held in the US I figured I’d be dead before the next one happens. So, I better strike while the iron is hot!

Last night, about 1,400 of us like minded folks arrived at Sports Backers Stadium ready to take on the course in a ride called, Conquer the Cobbles. My buddy, Greg, and I met in the starting corral with the other 15-17 mph riders. We would leave from there, ride down Hermitage road about a mile and join the course on Monument Avenue for as many laps as we could manage before they closed the course at the same spot at 8:30.

I figured we could make 2 laps but I was willing to go a third if time allowed. (If the gate hadn’t been closed by the time I got there, I’m guessing I’d have waited until they closed it.)

While waiting for the start, I met several people from out of town who had come for the ride. One guy was from SLC, another from St. Louis, and a third from Alpharetta GA, just outside of Atlanta. Evidently, this is a big deal.

At 7:00 sharp, they played the National Anthem; most riders remembered to doff their helmets. And then, they rolled out the 20+ mph group. Five minutes later, the 18-20 mph group left. Finally, about 7:10 our group was released to follow our own police escort down the road to the course.

And so we ride!

The weather was iffy and had been spitting rain as we waited to leave. As soon as we got on the road, it began to rain in earnest; steady but not a downpour. The ride to the course was uneventful thanks to the police escort. Every cross street was blocked off and it was very cool to have people sitting in traffic get out of their cars and applaud us as we went past.

I’m more used to people waving at me without using all of their fingers.
After about a mile, we came through the barriers onto the course at Monument Avenue and began pedaling. In front of me, all I could see were blinking red lights (lights were required fore and aft for all riders) and in my rear view mirror all I saw were white lights, either blinking or constant. The rain had caused sunset to be a little premature on this night so things were darker than normal.

After a short ride, we were making a U-turn at an intersection and powering up the other side of Monument. As we rode, families had turned out and were standing at the barriers, screaming, applauding, ringing cowbells, and just having a really good time. Even in the rain! It was one of the coolest bike experiences I’ve ever had.

Cobbles Ahoy!

The course wound through the city, down along the river, into Shockoe Bottom, parallel to the new Cap2Cap trail before turning back and heading up to the hills. We rolled up an incline near Shiplock park and then I saw Poe’s Pub, a famous Richmond watering hole. The course turned to the right just before Poe’s and switched back up Libby Hill, the first of the cobbles. It wasn’t all that difficult a hill to ride but the wet cobbles were incredibly slick. Two riders in front of me suddenly stopped about halfway up and when I tried to go around, my back tire lost traction and I had to stop to avoid a fall. I walked the rest of the way to the top, a little upset with myself for not pre-riding this in preparation.

I remounted and started down the hill after the climb, turning back and forth. I made a right turn and there it was; 23rd street loomed in my vision. From where I was, it looked like a brown wall with a large group of blinking red lights going up it. The early riders were scaling it, either on the bike or pushing it. I had a feeling I knew what my method was going to be.

Never the less, I charged up the hill and shifted down to my lower gears in preparation of the hill. (It’s an 18% grade.) I got about 20 yards up it before someone had stopped in front of me and I dismounted and began pushing. If riding wet cobbles is hard, walking them in cleated shoes while pushing your bike is worse. I almost fell several times but managed to keep my feet under me all the way to the top. (Conquered? More like survived.)

I remounted again and headed down the next hill which was a tricky descent back to the Bottom. Once there, it was a straight shot up Main Street and then a left on Governor’s street. This is also a rather steep climb of about 350 meters. I managed to stay on my bike and charge up it to make the right on Broad Street and head to the finish line.

At that point, I tried to shift back up to the big ring on my bike and discovered it wouldn’t do so. I was forced to ride in the small ring the rest of the way which reduced my speed (like that was a factor, dude) but it did leave me able to climb. (Sidebar – I tried to fix it this morning and ended up having to take it to the shop. One of the shifters needs to be replaced, just 4 months past warranty. Yep.)

Second Lap

As we headed up Broad, through the finish line on the course, we were treated to multiple waves of celebration by the spectators again. It was just so amazing that people would stand in the rain and do this for us! It really made it worthwhile.

Another few minutes and we’d completed our first lap. I looked at my watch and knew there was no way we were going to complete a second in time for a third. When I pointed this out to Greg, he mentioned that it wouldn’t break his heart if we only rode two. Me either.

The second lap went about like the first one for me. I was unable to complete either of the cobbled climbs (although Greg did both of them the second time around!) but the ride was still wonderful. Plenty of people still out, still cheering. And when I came upon people who were standing there and not cheering, I’d let out a whoop and they’d answer back. It was great fun.

One funny thing I heard as I was grinding up Governor’s hill the second time. I was laboring up the right side next to the barriers. A guy was exhorting all of us to keep going and when he heard me wheezing past he yelled out, “Keep going! Pain is just weakness leaving the body!” Clearly, a former high school football coach, there.

The Return

We turned off the course where we’d entered and headed back through town. People that were out cheered us as we rode past. I couldn’t believe all of these people appearing to give a shit for cyclists. It was really amazing.

To the victors, go the spoils!
We turned back into the Stadium parking lot. I got into line and grabbed a drink, a banana, and my medal for the ride. I was soaked to the skin and, while I wasn’t cold, I knew I needed to get a shower and into some dry clothing. I rode Fast Eddy back to where I’d parked my car and loaded him onto the bike rack, climbed inside, and headed for home with a big grin on my face.

Hey Richmond! You were great! Thanks!

Day 7

Two more Races!

Today I was a marshal at a great corner of the course, Main and Belvidere. Here the riders came down a gentle hill, made a sharp left turn and accelerated up to Broad Street. I could also see them come from Broad and turn right onto Grace Street before they go to my post. It was a prime viewing spot for spectators as many would walk back and forth between the two corners and get two for one spectator value.

Despite intermittent rain, nothing of any consequence happened at my corner. I truly expected to see someone go down there as the speeds they were carrying down the hill coupled with the wet white lines looked like a recipe for crashing.


In the Junior Men’s race in the morning, Felix Gall (Austria) just nicked Clement Betouigt-Suire (France – ya think?) at the line for the win. Rasmus Pedersen (Denmark) finished third, another second back.

In the afternoon, the Elite Women’s Road Race took place with Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain) won by a wheel over Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands – duh) and Megan Guarnier (USA)


I’ve now spoken with people from the following countries who came to Richmond to watch the races: France, Germany, Belgium, Ecuador, Colombia, South Africa, Morocco, Canada (eh?) Spain, England, Ireland, and Italy. How cool is that?

I’ve also met and spoken with people from all over the US who have come to Richmond to do the same thing. This is also very cool!

If we can finish off the races tomorrow with no problems, I’ll be truly able to say, “This week, Richmond was a world class city!”

I’ve never expected to say that. Ever.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

UCI World Road Championships - 2015 Richmond VA

Day 5

No races but a Legend appears

Today was a training day, meaning that no races were scheduled but the Road Course was set up (from 10:00 to Noon) for the riders to get some time on their bikes and check out the course. It also gave fans a chance to see all of the riders in very laid back atmosphere; smiles, autographs, conversations and positive mojo was all over the place.

Reports that I read seemed to indicate that crowds were plentiful with thousands of people lining up around the course. Not surprising. It was an absolutely beautiful day with bright sun and temperatures around 75. There was a light breeze, too.

I had signed up to volunteer as a Fan Fest Ambassador. I learned upon showing up at the appointed time that my role was to invite fans into the Fan Fest from outside or walk around and answer questions. Evidently, a number of people hadn’t been able to find the Fan Fest despite a lot of signage outside around the building.

I spent time walking around the floor before it opened to get an understanding of where all the vendors were located, along with food, bathroom locations, and water stations. By the time I’d walked the complete floor, the doors had opened  and people were streaming in.

The initial rush was pretty strong and I was engaged with answering questions and directing people for about the first hour. By then it was noon so I trotted outside to see what was going on out there. The practice session had ended on the course and people were beginning to move away from the fencing. A good many were heading to the entrance to the building so headed by inside; there were plenty of other volunteers directing people to the entrances so I figured that was covered.

Another hour or so went by. A woman from New Jersey began asking me some questions and then made mention of “it was great that Merckx was making an appearance.” I did a double take and asked her to repeat what she’d just said. When she did, I was beside myself! Eddy Merckx* is my one cycling hero and he was here!

I thanked her for the information and started walking around trying to figure out where he might be.

UCI 2016 – Doha, Qatar

In the middle of Fan Fest is a gorgeous booth, the biggest one in the show, devoted to next year’s World’s. This booth is a celebration of the city Doha, Qatar. For the first time, the UCI will take its World Championships to the Middle East.

The organizers have done a wonderful job with this booth, showing all the wonders of the area, the luxury of the country (Incredible wealth) and the beauty of its

people. Each corner of the booth has some kind of display inviting people to make the journey next year. In the middle are small meeting tables and a couple of sofas and easy chairs.

Qatar Delegation with GOAT
When I walked up this afternoon, there were extremely well-dressed servants handing out hor’s d’oeuvres to the many people crowding the booth. I grabbed a date (it was delicious!) from one of the trays and eased my way into the crowd, working my way towards the furniture in the middle.

Sitting in the middle of one sofa, in very animated conversation who I took to be officials from Doha, was Eddy Merckx. There was laughter and smiles, hand shaking, all being carried out in French.

After about 15 minutes, all of the people on the furniture stood up and there was a great deal of jostling as people took photos. Phones were being handed back and forth for people to take pictures of the group; I took a few myself. At one point, Merckx handed his phone to me and asked me to take a picture of the group. I took a few quick ones and handed it back to him.

Meeting the Legend

A few minutes passed and I waited until they broke up. Finally, Eddy came walking out of the crowd and I stepped in front of him and asked if the pictures turned out
The Cannibal and
giddy Fan!
okay. He smiled and said thanks for taking them. I asked if he’d let me take a selfie and he said, “Sure!”

AS I pulled my phone up to take the shot, I mentioned that I couldn’t believe I was standing next to the greatest cyclist of all time. He touched my arm and said, “Is that what you think?” I told him that I knew it to be true. As I was snapping the picture, he said, “I’ve got a bridge in Belgium to sell you.” And I laughed at his joke and that’s what made this shot look so stupid.

Just the same, I got to meet him, chat for a moment and shake his hand. He was very gracious.

Fan Fest

This is a great show for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. There are some great cycling gear booths (Trek, Specialized, and a bunch of smaller builders and accessory makers) and booths for tourism, health care, food, wine, beer, cookies, decorations, and of course, UCI and Richmond 2015 cycling and casual outfits.

After each race ends, the podium ceremony takes place in the Fan Fest on a really big, glitzy stage. It’s a great celebration space. If you’re in Richmond any of the next 3 days, I recommend a visit to the races and Fan Fest. You won’t be sorry!

*Eddy Merckx was a professional cyclist from Belgium who won his first race in 1961 (at the age of 16) and his last in 1978 – a total of 525 races (out of 1800 entered) including eleven Grand Tours, four Grand Tour doubles (he won 2 in the same year, four times!) and in 1974 won the Giro, the Tour de France and the World Road Championships; cycling’s first triple crown. He was nicknamed The Cannibal by a fellow rider who told his spouse that, “Merckx only leaves the bones for all of us; he’s a cannibal.”
His record speaks for itself and he has no peers – not then and not now. He was the Greatest of All Time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

UCI Road World Championships 2015 - Day 4

Let's go ride!

Today’s competition involved only the elite men riding Individual Time Trials and they didn’t start until 1:00 pm.

As a result, I got up and took a ride myself on a glorious Virginia day with sunshine and around 60 degrees at 8:00 am. Yep, it was awesome! I took off on one of my regular routes of 23 miles and even had a negative split on the return trip into the wind! I felt so good when I got back, I wasn’t even complaining about the wind. I just bored a hole through it and kept pedaling.

Off to the Races!

My assignment today was an intersection in eastern Henrico County on the Richmond-Henrico Turnpike. (Turnpike is a quaint old word. Many years ago, these were the first toll roads in America. Today, it’s just another street.)

This particular neighborhood is one of many small, older homes, and the inhabitants are primarily African-Americans. It sits less than a mile from Richmond International Raceway, on the northeast side of the city.

I arrived just before my requested appearance time of 11:30 (which seemed awfully early for an afternoon start) and I pulled up behind a Henrico Police cruiser that was parked there. The officer got out as I did and we introduced our selves. He was Officer Andy Brook, a 12 year veteran of the force. Super nice guy, too! We had a wonderful time chatting over the next 4 hours.

As I was setting up, a man came out of the house next to my car and started to
Sid and his lovely wife Shirley
Cheering the cyclists
unfold a lawn chair and place it near the road. He asked me when the race would be starting and I told him it would be at least a two hours before the first rider showed up. We introduced ourselves, his name was Sid – retired from UPS and now the president of the neighborhood watch. Another great guy! He offered something to drink, a bathroom, whatever we needed. I felt like I was at a church picnic or something.

And y'all better behave!
Soon after, a large group of kids and moms showed up across the street, plopped themselves down, and started asking questions about the race. I was able to answer them and talk about when they’d be coming through and how we should
cheer and clap for all of them because it’s a very hard race. The kids started practicing their cheers, including a dance line number, and everyone was ready.

I’d like to point out that every one of the moms spent time parenting. Every time one of the kids would start to act up, they’d get the kids back in line by using their MOM VOICE. The MOM VOICE, which is all powerful, is a lot like MOM SPIT which is all powerful for removing dirt from things. (If you don’t know what this is, you’ve been spoiled all your life.) In other words, it gets stuff done.

Frankly, they sounded like my mom when I was a kid. It was very refreshing to me; I’m used to parents letting kids do whatever they hell they want instead of correcting behaviors. Thanks Moms!

Riders Up! Finally…..

Once the riders began at Kings Dominion amusement park, about 20 miles from our position, it would take them some time to get to us. I pulled up the live feed on my phone and walked around showing everyone what was happening at the start. Most struggled with the notion of a race that doesn’t have everyone starting together. I finally got somewhere talking about speed skating in the Olympics where people start 2 at a time, but their times are compared at the end. Even if you lose your heat, your time may be fast enough to win a medal. That seemed to get the point across.

Around 1:40, the first rider appeared, coming up the hill at a brisk pace. He was wearing number 70 and would be followed every 90 seconds by someone else. At least that’s how they started. Right away, we had 2 riders show up out of order and I then had to explain mechanical failures and flats. Everyone was fascinated by the idea of a bike change happening like a NASCAR pit stop. The kids kept hoping someone would flat coming up the hill so they could see it.
Taylor Phinney powers up the hill!

Riders continued for the better part of 2 hours with the last one passing by about 3:45. The spectators in our little area hung around for the entire time! Every time a motorcycle would appear around the bend, indicating the next rider was coming, moms would say, “Here comes another one!” and the kids would all jump to their feet or stop what they were doing and start clapping and cheering! It was awesome! (At one point before the first rider came through, a cyclist who wasn’t racing, came up the hill and he got a cheer, too. His grin was awesome!) Sid and his wife Shirley would wave their American Flags at each rider, too.

All this time, cars kept appearing at our cross street and the officer would wave them across when it was safe to do so. No one got upset, no one lost their temper, and the riders were all kept safe and exhorted to do well.

I think our spot was the best on the course. We got everyone involved and it was great fun.

I’m not sure if any of these kids will grown up to be bike racers but you could tell they were intrigued by the whole thing. They were asking me about the bikes, why they looked so different, how they worked, what the disc wheels did, etc. They all said the saddles looked uncomfortable. When I pointed out it was all about making you go faster and that’s why they used them, they began to get the idea of sacrifice in order to get speed. You could tell that they were understanding that sacrifice was something you do in order to get something; in this case, a world championship.


Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus put up a smoldering time of 1:02:29 over the difficult 33.2 mile course to claim the rainbow jersey. This was the biggest win of the 31 year old’s pro career and he was lauded for such a strong performance. 2nd went to Adriano Malori and Italy who put up a time that was only 9 seconds slower. He held the top spot for about an hour before Kiryienka came through. Frenchman Jerome Coppel finished 3rd, another 17 seconds back. American Taylor Phinney, fresh off a gold medal in the team time trial with BMC, could do no better than 12th.


Time trials are not very spectator friendly if you don’t know what’s going on. I feel very good about educating a small group of people today on the nuances of it.

Richmonders want to enjoy the bike races. Truly. And they also want to show the world a good time. But most are not very worldly and it shows to some degree. 

Geography is not a strong suit here. (I was asked for the location of several countries after the riders went past. I started asking them to Google it. The kids were all over it, too.)

Tomorrow is a no-race day as the competitors get some practice on the road course. I’ll be working the Fan Fest for a few hours.

Friday starts the road course with Sunday being the big race as the Elite Men ride 16 laps or 162 miles!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

UCI Road World Championships - Richmond VA - Day 3

Individual Time Trials – Junior Men, Women’s Elite

My assignment told me that I was to report to Belvidere Street and the 2nd street ramp, on the bridge. That sounded like an interesting location.

My shift started early today, 8:30 am, and I left the house at about 7:40 because I didn’t know what the traffic would be like. Just my luck, a bunch of construction at my entrance to I-64 put me well behind. I also knew that the first rider wouldn’t hit the course until 9:30 am so my natural desire to be early was appeased.
I parked the car about 2 blocks from where I parked it yesterday, off-loaded my bike, grabbed my back pack and chair, and pedaled off.

I  reached Belvidere street in short order and stopped to ask a Richmond Police officer if he knew where I was supposed to go. He told me that the 2nd street ramp was on the northbound side of the bridge, about 400 meters from the edge. I grinned and pushed off again, crossing over the deserted road and heading out across the span.

Today was much cooler than yesterday, about 55 degrees this morning, and it was overcast with a prediction of the sun breaking out after lunch. When I stopped at my station and dismounted, the wind hit me at about 15 mph. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It. Was. Cold. I worked hard setting my stuff up in order to keep warm and get out of the wind by ducking down behind the jersey wall. I did take a picture though.
My City - Richmond VA

This is just one of the reasons why I really love Richmond. It’s a beautiful city. This is the view southwest looking at part of the downtown area.


Once I set up, I could watch the folks still running and riding across the bridge, which was closed to morot traffic but not yet closed to cyclists and runners. There were also a number of teams out stretching their legs and getting one last ride on the TT course.

About 9:15, a van pulled up and stopped. Robert, the Road Marshal director, introduced himself and thanked me for volunteering. He offered me a hot breakfast sandwich, which I took, and then asked if I minded moving back off the bridge. They had made the decision to place a work truck across the ramp and some cones to direct the riders and he needed me to fill a gap on shore.

Keep your station clear!
I was glad to go, simply based on the wind. I also knew that this position would be just sitting and watching and I’d be bored in no time with that. So, I packed my stuff back up and rode back to the edge of the bridge where I reset my station. I was stone’s throw from the 1st time check as you can see in the background. (Note that I’m riding my old beater hybrid which is more conducive to carrying a bunch of stuff.)

There’s always one guy……

The first riders left the starting house at 9:30 and reached me about 8 minutes later. 

They were flying down the hill, with the wind, and just killing it across the bridge. On the return crossing, slightly uphill and into that wind, they were getting killed. The wind was quartering from the riders’ right and when it gusted and hit their disc wheels, it was tough for them to hold a good line. Some were all over the place.

About 10 minutes after the first rider came past, a man about my age came jogging down the sidewalk toward me. He had earbuds in and was making a pretty good pace and when I went to put up my hand to stop him, he was already past. I hadn’t gotten my whistle around my neck yet so I couldn’t make any noise to stop him. There were no police on my side of the street but one of them started yelling and blowing his whistle at the man. He never wavered his stride having not heard anything.

The officer crossed the street but by then the man was several hundred yards out on the bridge. The officer continued to walk after him as well as 3 of his co-workers. They never actually caught him. The man reached the other side of the bridge, about a mile, and turned around to run back and the officers met him at the halfway point.

He was very apologetic, he just didn’t realize that the bridge was completely closed. He ran the rest of the way and then took the 2nd street ramp down off the bridge, heading off to other parts of the city.

When the officers returned to my area, two of them stayed with me to assist in stopping folks. This proved fortunate as there were about a dozen others who decided they were crossing the bridge, despite the signs saying it was closed.

One guy started cursing the officers and I was so impressed with how they handled him. In very measured tones, they let him know that although it was a lovely day and he was going to be slightly put out by having to take a detour, they weren’t going to make it worse by arresting him; but he wasn’t going to cross the bridge. He finally got the message and headed down the hill to another route.

The Winners

In the Men’s Junior TT, Leo Appelt of Germany edged out favorite Adrien Costa of the US by 17 seconds for the rainbow jersey. Third place went to American Brandon McNulty.

In a very close Women’s Elite TT, Linda Mellanie Villumsen of New Zealand scored her first World Championship in 8 tries edging out Anna Van Der Breggen of the Netherlands with Lisa Brennauer of Germany finishing third. American favorite Kristin Armstrong finished 5th and teammate Evelyn Stevens finished 6th.


Small crowds seemed to be the order of the day with plenty of places to stand and get a great view of many parts of the course, including the 14 turns that are a great place to watch!

The fans who did come out today were very loud and supportive of the riders which is always great. Lots of cowbells, whistles, and clapping and beating on things to make noise. I hope they’re all hanging out Friday night when I’m riding in the 
Conquer the Cobbles ride!

I finally got a chance to go to the start\finish line and see some of the festivities after my shift ended. It’s very festive, high tech, and shows off wonderfully on TV. I’m very impressed with how well the organizers have done this.

Tomorrow it’s the Elite Men’s Individual TT and it’s going to be a completely different course.