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.
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
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.
|The River City, standing tall!|
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!