Individual Time Trials for the young
My shift today started at 11:00 am and ran until 4:00 pm as a course marshal. Today’s post was situated at the north end of the Robert E. Lee memorial bridge where half the riders would pass me twice. Today was the ITT (Individual Time Trial) for the Under 23 aged men (U23 in UCI parlance) and the junior women (18 or younger).
The women went off first beginning at 11:30 with individual riders leaving the start every 3 minutes until all were on the course where they would make 1 lap for a total ride of 9.3 miles. The men rode 2 laps for a total of 18.6 miles beginning at 1:30. The U23 men would follow the same procedure with the last rider leaving at 2:50 and finishing up 40 minutes or so later.
Navigating closed roads
I left the house around 9:45 for the 30 minute drive as I wasn’t completely sure where I was going and wanted to have time to park and ride if needed. As yesterday, I packed supplies, snacks and water, into a backpack along with my hybrid bike in case I had to go more than a half mile.
After getting onto the Downtown expressway, I was sure I was headed in the right direction until I found the exit wanted to use, closed. Of course. I got off at the next exit and tried to back track to where I needed to end up and, of course, all those roads were closed.
Google maps on my phone was no help because it had no way of knowing what was open or closed in this new map matrix. I would have to rely on my uncanny sense of direction. (Which has frequently led me miles off course.)
I finally got back to the neighborhood I was looking for and I immediately found a parking space on the street. Waiting until everyone had left for work proved to be a shrewd idea. I parked, unloaded, climbed on my bike and set off in the general direction of Route 1 which crosses the bridge.
The intersection to which I’d been assigned was directly in front of the VA War Memorial. This proved useful as they have restrooms!
After about a 15 minute easy ride, I rolled up to the sidewalk and leaned my bike against an old oak tree, plopped down my backpack, set up my folding chair and I was ready to go! There was also a Richmond City police officer parked there as well.
My vantage point allowed me to see the racers coming from my right, down the long hill from the center of town, and about halfway across the Lee Bridge before they turned out of sight. They would continue for another 400 meters or so, exit the bridge, loop underneath it, re-enter it coming the other direction and ride back up the same hill they had just descended.
As you might imagine, the speeds coming down the hill were a lot faster than those going back up. I estimate the riders were in the mid-30s coming down and holding around 20 going back up. When you combined the difficult road conditions and then added a cross wind on the bridge, the riders had a fight on their hands. Time trial bikes frequently have a “disc” wheel instead of a spoked one. This makes for less wind resistance and makes it easier to go fast. Crosswinds, however, push hard against the bike and make it difficult to hold ones line. Many of the riders struggled to ride a straight line across the bridge on the return trip. Time trial bikes are notoriously squirrelly and can be difficult to handle anyway; today's condition made it doubly hard.
Across the 6 lanes of road from me, two other course marshals were keeping a large throng of young students from leaving the sidewalk and jumping into the road. They did it by challenging the kids to a cheering contest as each rider approached. By the end of the first group, the kids were timing a wave to match the speed of the riders passing. It was pretty cool! You could tell the riders were enjoying it; I saw more than one get a grin as they went past. Even the motorcycle cops escorting each rider were waving and exhorting them!
Junior Women – Chloe Dygert of the US won by almost a minute over another American, Emma White. Third place was Anna-Leeza White from Australia.
U23 Men – Mads Schmidt of Denmark posted a time that was 12 seconds ahead of the 2nd place finisher, Max Schachmann from Germany. Countryman Lennard Kamna finished another 9 seconds back to make the podium in third.
The weather was overcast the entire day and changed to a light rain with about 40 minutes left in the race. The lack of sun made it more pleasant for the riders; course marshals, too.
I overheard a couple of fans walking past say, “Individual time trial is boring. It’s just one guy riding a bike.” (This is NASCAR country; people here like to see wrecks, I guess.)
Admittedly, the area I was stationed didn’t really have much to offer. When you’re watching them ride on city streets, you get a much better sense of how fast they’re going than you do on a long straight stretch of road.
Still, there is always some suffering going on. A number of the coaches in the chase cars were exhorting their riders in foreign tongues. I had no idea what was being said but it didn’t sound too encouraging. One coach eventually just started making a “brap, brap, brap” sound. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to get a pace going or
pretending to be shooting at their rider, or what.
STay tuned for more tomorrow!