UCI World Championships

Only 573 days until the UCI World Cycling Championships come to Richmond, Virginia!  It’s not too early to start getting excited so it was with great fanfare that the courses were announced earlier this week.

Mark Cavendish, acting like a big shot in his rainbow jersey
Mark Cavendish, acting like a big shot in his rainbow jersey

UCI stands for Union Cycliste Internationale, which is French for “Bureaucracy Which Runs Cycling” (or something like that).  Every year, they put on a world championship event, the winner of which gets to wear a rainbow jersey for the next year.  They’ve been running these championships every year since 1921 with a break for some sort of war that was occupying everybody’s attention from 1939 to 1945.  Along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, this race forms cycling’s Triple Crown.  Since France and Italy rarely move very far, this race is the one opportunity for fans who can’t get to France and/or Italy to see an important race.  The World Championships are rarely run outside of Europe.  The U.S. has hosted it only once before, in Colorado Springs in 1986.  It’s kind of a big deal, is what I’m saying, and its heading my way.

I’ve never been to a cycling race at any level, so I have been wondering about the course and how best to enjoy the show.  I was very interested in the routes were announced this week.  Basically, I’ve got three options:

1.  The Team Time Trial, Sunday September 20th.  This course is 21.9 miles long and is run on many of the same roads I was on during the 2011 Cap2Cap Century.  It’s one long loop, so I guess the idea is to pick one spot and watch each team zoom by with lightning speed, then wait patiently for the next one.  The other possibility is to fight everyone else at the Start/Finish Line at Rockett’s Landing.

2.  The Individual Time Trial, Wednesday September 23rd.  A Wednesday?  Ugh.  This will start about 20 miles north of Richmond and finish downtown 33 miles later.  Much like the Team Time Trial, a spectator needs to pick a spot and watch individual cyclists parade past them in intervals.  The start and finish occur in different locations, so there isn’t even that small opportunity to see a cyclist more than once.  And did I say this was on a weekday?  Moving on, then…

3.  The Road Race, Sunday September 27th.  This has great potential.  The course is a 10.3 mile loop through the center of Richmond.  For some reason, the final race distance hasn’t been posted, but presumably more than one lap will be run.  AND, the course runs along Monument Avenue where it doubles back on itself, meaning spectators at that location will see the peloton TWICE each lap.  Monument Avenue is one of the tourist attractions of Richmond.  For those that aren’t familiar with 19th Century American history, Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America.  Thus on Monument Avenue we find several impressive monuments to heroes of the Confederacy, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis.   It won’t be as spectacular as the Champs Elysee or the Olympic route going past Buckingham Palace, but its the best Richmond has to offer and it should be neat.

The Road Race Route
The Road Race Route

So I’ve got 573 days to plan my attendance.  Anyone who has been to one of these things and has some advice, please comment below.  And anyone else who has a good idea, a passing thought, or a completely unrelated issue, chime in as well.  There’s plenty of room in the comments section!

20 thoughts on “UCI World Championships

  1. Sounds to me as if you have not only 573 days to plan your attendance, but 573 days to plan the party when your extensive network of internet cycling. friends descend on your lovely city!

  2. Oh you’re going to have lots of fun. Just plan ahead (as Suze says – plenty of time!) and then get there early to secure a good vantage point. Then enjoy! You’ll be adding the Tour de France to your bucket list before you know it.

    1. “Get there early” is the key phrase, I think. Just how early will be necessary? If this is the 4th of July Fireworks on the Washington Mall, I’d need to get there 12 hours early. If this was a typical NFL football game, arriving in the parking lot 60 minutes early would be more than sufficient. I suppose with only one shot at this it is better to be safe than sorry.

  3. Should be a brilliant event Steve. Never been to anything like this myself, but the Tour de France is hitting Britain for two days this year. Myself and some other mad cyclists will be making an effort to see 180 cyclists rush past at about 45 mph. Should last all of 20 seconds!
    Hope it all goes well for you.


    PS. Mark Cavendish is entitled to act like a big shot. He deserves it, and he is British!

    1. This certainly is a golden age in British cycling, isn’t it?

      I’m trying to imagine what a peloton moving at 45 mph would look/feel like. I have very briefly achieved that speed once or twice while flying down a mountain by myself. It was pretty intense. Doing it on a flat with 180 of my friends within inches of me is beyond my ability to comprehend.

  4. That’s exactly my point in my latest blog. Why isn’t ESPN all over this?! It makes me so angry. UCI should have better marketing. 573 days is a long time, but just enough time to build a big excitement. Thanks for the post! 🙂

    1. ESPN is in the business to make money and it would seem they aren’t convinced they can do that with cycling. I liked your post a lot. It has some great ideas on how to promote the sport. Once UCI develops a product that is compelling to enough Americans, you can bet ESPN will buy the television rights to show it. Until then, we’ll simply wait patiently for Universal Sports or some such network with a tenth the production capability as ESPN to run with it.

  5. This sounds AWESOME! I live about 3 hours north near Baltimore and actually lived near Ashland, VA a number of years ago and cannot wait to see my first road race when this comes to Richmond. Thanks for the post, with so little emphasis placed on cycling in the states I probably would never have heard about this. I cannot afford to travel to France for the TDF so I have had the USA Pro Challenge on my bucket list and this race will be a great lead in to the day I can get to Colorado to see that.

    Cannot wait for this race and thanks again for the post!

  6. Watching bike races other than city centre criteriums (like your road race) has all the allure of hitting yourself on the head with a hammer but it doesn’t stop us going to watch the Tour of Britain when it goes past us. I hope that you have a good time getting excited in the run up to the great day.

    1. I tend to agree. I’m not enough of a fan to sit by the side of the road for a glimpse of the peloton – unless that road happens to be the one I live on and I am waiting on my porch with a cold beverage.

  7. The Road Race is usually up around the 200 mile mark and last for hours.. you won’t need to find a good spot you will probably have time walk the ten mile lap during the race.. but walk towards the riders then you won’t have so long to wait between laps .. 🙂

    1. Well that is encouraging news. I feared arriving at what turned out to be a terrible spot with no time to adjust. The result would be me shoving my camera as high as I could and taking pictures of what I could not see, then looking at them later!

  8. I’d like to say I’m jealous, but most of the other Worlds happen here, so I won’t. But I am. I read something the other day about cobbles being in the cards for the road race. I’m guessing that would be in Richmond?

    1. No, Gerry, you are not permitted to say you’re jealous. Just keep your Ventoux-climbing thoughts to yourself and avoid the unpleasantness that would be directed your way! 🙂

      Seriously, though, since you have seen these people in their natural habitat many times, any thoughts about attending a criterium-style event would be very welcome.

      Just don’t say you’re jealous!

      1. I would say you should try and position yourself either along the finish straight somewhere (get there early!), or on any stretch where the riders will be going slower, e.g. a climb (get there early!). Long, flat stretches will just allow you to watch a flash of colors fly by every once in a while. Probably not that interesting.

      2. That certainly sounds like excellent advice. The course is mostly flat, especially along the afore-mentioned Monument Avenue. There are cobbles downtown, which might be fun to watch. There are two short climbs (less than a half mile each) on the other side of town – not as scenic but perhaps a place to see the racers moving at a speed slower than 45 mph.

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