A World Championship, Just Down The Road

Yesterday, the Union Cycliste Internationale announced that the 2015 World Road Cycling Championships would be held in Richmond, Virginia, a mere 80 miles from where I live.  This gives rise to all sorts of questions, including:

o What the heck are the World Road Cycling Championships?

o Why can’t the French ever get their adjectives in the right order?

o Seriously, Richmond?

It turns out this is kind of a big deal.  UCI is the sport of cycling’s governing body.  They oversee all major cycling events and issue licenses to the riders.  They are headquartered in Switzerland, which may be evidence of their strict neutrality, or their penchant for keeping the secrets and monetary fortunes of arch criminals safe, or both.    UCI has been hosting the championships since 1921 and the winners in each division (there are Junior’s, Men’s, and Women’s divisions for both road races and time trials) get to wear a rainbow jersey for the next year in all UCI events, signifying they are a world champion and are in no way (necessarily) affiliated with the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender community.

It appears that winning this event is quite an achievement.  It is considered one of the three most important races of the year, along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia (which is Italian for “Our Tour Is A Big Deal, Just Like The Tour de France”).  Together, these three races form cycling’s Triple Crown.  The crown has been won only twice, once by Irishman Stephen Roche (1987) and the other time by the legendary Eddy Merckx of Belgium (1974).  That’s it.

Choosing Richmond as the location for this event may seem odd.  That is because it is odd.  The Road Championships have been most recently held in Melbourne Australia, Mendrisio Switzerland, Varese Italy, and Stuttgart Germany.  The last time it was held in the USA was 1986 in Colorado Springs.  Somehow, Richmond doesn’t seem like the next logical step in this chain.  There are several centers of cycling buzz in America (Portland and Austin come immediately to mind) and although I am certain Richmond is working hard to make itself “bike friendly,” it normally doesn’t come up on the list of America’s best bicycling cities.  Richmond was almost guaranteed a selection after Oman, its chief competitor, withdrew its bid.  UCI’s selection for Richmond was unanimous.

So congratulations to Richmonders (if that is the right word for someone who lives in Richmond)  for overcoming major obstacles and convincing a bunch of secretive Swiss to hold their world championships in their fair city.  I now have four years to start building enough interest to drive down the road and watch the event.

Hopefully this helps explain the race and a bit about the city of Richmond.  As for the French, I have given up trying to understand them.


16 thoughts on “A World Championship, Just Down The Road

    • They’re not even completely certain what the dates will be. It will definitely be sometime in September, after the Vuelta a Espana. I guess there’s time enough to sort those pesky details out.

  1. I would be impressed if it wasn’t for, ahem… the Olympics 🙂
    Having said that, we’re going to have to go to London to see the road race (100 miles from where i live!)

    • Excellent! I hope your tickets are less expensive than my friend’s. He will be watching the 100m dash finals for a mere 700 pounds. That’s a lot of money for ten seconds of racing.

      • Good grief!! Me and my bro were sorely tempted by the velodrome tickets but decided not to pay £120 without even knowing where we’d be sitting. So we’re going to watch the track racing on his vast TV accompanied by friends, beer and cider and then go up to London to be among the yelling, cheering hoi-polloi somewhere along the road race route where it’s FREE 🙂

  2. I’m thinking a bike caravan from DC would be in order, maybe stop about 40 miles from Richmond and camp the night before, then spin the rest of the way into town.

  3. Spoiler alert: I’ve watched the Tour of Britain twice when it has been near us (right through the town two years ago) and I wouldn’t want you to get too excited. Bike racing on the road as a spectator sport except at the finish is pretty dull. You stand there for an hour (because you have to be early so you don’t miss anything) and 120 cyclists go past in a bunch taking perhaps 10 seconds and then you go home. The world champs usually have laps and if so that amount of excitement is multiplied six times. Wow. Sometimes two cyclists you have never heard of come through in front of the main bunch and sometimes they don’t. It’s better on the telly.

  4. I’m no kind of sporting rider at all but even I could work up some enthusiasm to see this if it were that close to my home. Tootlepedal is right, though, about watching races on long courses as opposed to an enclosed track. The World Track and Field was in Edmonton a few years ago and one of the events went within a block of my house. Every now and again a pack of competitors would go past taking less than a minute. It was not riveting entertainment.

      • The key, as I understand it, is to situate yourself on a corner of a mountain ascent. You can watch the peloton slowly climb up the mountain, then make a turn right in front of you and continue its slow climb. The problem is Richmond is fresh out of mountains. Also, it appears that this a circuit course (at least it is this year in Copenhagen). That will give the viewer six or seven brief glimpses vice only one. The best spot is probably near the finish so you can also see the podium event. Of course, there will be several tens of thousands of people with the same idea, so that may not be a great time either!

  5. There’s just one problem with placing yourself at a corner on an ascent: just about everyone else who’s watching the race is gonna be on those corners as well 🙂

    But I agree with people above, watching a long road race is pretty boring (unless you have the Dutch corner around to keep you entertained), criteriums / laps around a city circuit are much more interesting.

    I saw Tour of Britain’s final stage this year, a crit, and it was much more interesting to watch than the earlier ‘long’ Olympics test event road race.

    Still, I’m sure there’ll be great atmosphere around the 2015 event as it’ll attract all the cycling fanatics from all corners of Americana 😉

    P.S.: Some angry Spaniards might be on their way to your house to discuss the matter of excluding Vuelta from your triple crown list of Giro-Tour-Worlds 🙂

  6. One of the sufferfest videos I’ve done is a world championship I think and Its multiple laps. The racing is full tilt and the crowds are insane. Of course that was in Melborne and you know how those Ausies get. It should actually be pretty good.

    There are many reasons to go to a race other then the actual race. For instance, autographs, buses, sponsor tents. Should be a pretty big deal.

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