Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bicycle racing in Richmond? Seriously?????

Official Logo
2015 UCI World Road Championships, aka The Worlds, were awarded to Richmond VA about 4 years ago. This caused the entire population of the state capital to say, “Huh?” Admittedly, this was not long after the city negotiated to host the Washington Redskins football team for their summer camp by ponying up $10 million to build a new training facility and pay the ‘Skins $500K a year. (Good thing these guys weren’t at Versailles.)

In any case, all of us cyclists were very excited by the opportunity presented by holding The Worlds in the US for the first time since 1986 and in our hometown, no less! As I told MB, if I worked hard and trained for the entire four years, I’d be in good enough shape to spectate.

Once the dates were locked in, I made arrangements to take time off for the entire week because I wanted to really dig into the event and experience it at a different level. I subsequently signed up to volunteer every day!

Daily Updates?

That’s what I’m going to shoot for. I have other stuff going on this week, too, but MB is out of town watching our grandkids while their parents take a well-deserved break. That means I’m likely to be staying up a little later and will have the time.

If I fail, be sure to complete the survey offered at the end of each blogpost and express your displeasure. Can’t find the link? Sorry about that.

First official day, today September 20, 2015.

While yesterday was listed as a kickoff, it was just a training day for teams to ride the TTT course. I didn’t bother to go watch but did go to the convention center where all of the offices are housed, to register, pickup my assignments and t-shirts, and get a feel for what streets would be closed and where I could park.

I spent a few hours with Google Maps figuring out where I could most likely park for my assignments and think I have them pretty locked down. Next weekend will be the most difficult because the crowds are predicted to be nuts. I’m planning to park as close to my Course Marshal assignments as possible and then riding a bike to the location if it’s too far to walk.

Today I had a location at a cross-walk (a place for spectators to cross the course between riders) that was about 10 minutes into the race. It was located 1 block from a 90 degree right hander. It was great! I got to see every single team come flying out of the turn, work to reassemble their paceline and charge up the false flat for 2 blocks to a sharp left hander.

I got to my post about 15 minutes early, met the coordinator who was giving us our directions, set up my post with my bike, a folding chair, backpack full of snacks and water, and started answering questions from people almost immediately.

It’s amazing to me that people see you with a Volunteer shirt on and think you’re an expert on everything. I’ve also found over the years that if you answer their questions with absolute conviction, people will believe you and walk away.

 Now, I also spent an hour or so familiarizing myself with the “Volunteer Manual” and downloading the RVA2015 App for my phone so I had nearly everything covered.  It took nearly 4 hours before someone asked me a question I couldn’t answer. (How far is the nearest 7-11? I asked Siri for the answer but it was farther than he wanted to go. I gotta admit, a Slurpee would have tasted really good!)

The Racing is amazing

Until you have a chance to see the best in the world at something, you truly have no idea how good the best are. I’ve seen it in golf and tennis and it’s no different in every discipline; the best are just amazing!

Yesterday, a friend and I were out riding out where we live, 25 miles northwest of the city. We were on our way back from our loop and I was feeling really good. My legs felt strong and I felt as good as I can. We were riding up a hill that I frequently struggle to hold 13 mph, and I was holding 15, easily. I had gapped my friend by about 50 yards and was pulling away when I heard him say, “Riders back.”

I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a paceline charging up behind me very quickly. They were on me in seconds and flew past me doing at least 25. Their matching kits identified them as members of the Eritrean team, one member of which won a KOM jersey at the TdF this past summer. I could only grin and marvel at how fast they were going and the apparent ease in doing so. In almost no time, they were out of sight.

When my friend and I joined back up, I asked him why he hadn’t jumped on their wheel and get dragged along past me. He said it was the same reason that I didn’t jump on and disappear with them. We simply couldn’t.

At the TTT today, I got to see team after team go flying around a turn and then accelerate past me. I got to hear them holler things at each other, mostly direction and encouragement, the occasional curse for not holding a line. Seeing a different group every 3 minutes or so allowed me the chance to notice the differences between the fastest teams and the also-rans. The faster teams, both genders, came out of the turn with a minimum of disarray, holding their tight paceline, and the front rider would pull hard right and begin to drift back as they pounded up the false flat past my post. By the time they reached my post, everyone would be back in line and they would all swing right for the next turn. Lesser teams would do less and less of that, sometimes coming around the corner looking like five or six independent riders trying to grab a wheel on a club ride.


In the end, BMC racing repeated its reign of World Champions TTT with a 12 second victory over Etixx-Quick-Step. BMC was really focused in bringing a win to Taylor Phinney, just back from a hideous racing injury (including broken bones and ligament damage) that, up until 2 weeks ago was expected to keep him out of this event. The team had a lot of people cheering for him.

Tinkoff-Saxo finished DFL after touching wheels early on the course and sending several members to the pavement for a DNA sample. No one was seriously injured, from what I’ve read but kits and dermal layers appeared heavily damaged.

On the women’s side, Velocio-SRAM eked out a 6 second win over Boels Dolman. The interesting news here is that Velocio is this year’s version of Lululemon and both it and Boels are made up of members of that team from last year. If either team had won, they could nearly have claimed a repeat but since the winning team had actually been last year’s champion, it really was a repeat. (My friend Brad was volunteering in the corral where teams would come in after finishing their ride. He told me the teams that finished at the top just wrung themselves out; Velocio had 2 members lying on the ground vomiting and one from Boels just fell to the ground when she stopped. That’s effort!)


There was a really good crowd for a town that seems to hate cyclists; I expect total attendance today to be around 15,000. Everyone I spoke with was happy, genuinely enjoying themselves, and marveling at the athletic performances. I had hundreds of people thank me for volunteering, for helping them, for keeping them safe and giving out information.

Those people who I would describe as true fans, were enraptured with the racing. One guy came over to me, asked me to take a selfie with him as he said, “Best sports day, ever!”

It wasn’t the best one I’ve ever had but it was pretty damn good!


  1. Watching Velocio-SRAM and Boels Dolmans finish was amazing. I was torn between doing my job (making sure the cyclists were safe from spectators) and taking pictures and video of the drama. Some experiences are not meant to be recorded, except in your memory. I have never seen such physical and mental fortitude from athletes in my life. I had a friend that volunteered as a blood-doping monitor, and she was assigned to the Velocio-SRAM team. She said it was an amazing experience to accompany them from the finish line through testing to the podium.

    1. It's truly amazing to watch these elite athletes at their absolute limits! Enjoy the rest of the Worlds!

  2. I agree with you Brian. The elite athlete at the top of their sport is such a step above us working slobs. Back in the day I was a pretty good skier teaching for a living, on my skis everyday training. We would go to a world cup event and wow! We were not on the same mountain with them. US pro challenge was here two summers ago and they were amazing. How about the noise and pure power of the peloton as they whoosh by?!?

    1. I haven't heard the peloton yet, Jim. The road races begin on Friday. I'm really looking forward to it as I'm told it's a sound like you've never heard before.

      The best part is the locals here are having a ball! And I don't think most expected to do so.