UCI World Championships

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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!

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.