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Our Trip to the UCI World Championships   Leave a comment

UCI World Championships

In my attempt to write a trip report about a guys’ road trip to this year’s UCI World Cycling Championships in Richmond, Virginia, I was well into the 6th page before I realized that severe editing was in order (and that’s leaving out the “what happens in Richmond stays in Richmond” parts).

Rather than providing a highly detailed, blow-by-blow account of the trip complete with the “what really happened in McDonalds?” “what does Lord Baltimore have to say about that?” and “does Rick want to bring the bikes?” episodes, I instead am proud to present you with “Ten Tips for Attending the UCI World Cycling Championships in Richmond.” These might come in handy 30 years from now when the Worlds return to US soil, or if you have a time machine. My ghost co-authors for this piece are my traveling and cycling comrades-in-arms, Eric, Mike, Rick, and Tom.

Tip #1: When in doubt, take a road trip with the guys, especially if it involves a world championship cycling event. Or bikes in general. Or really any road trip.

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Tip #2: If possible, have the good fortune of booking yourself into the same hotel as the German national team (as we did) or any other country’s team. Not only can you scope out their “bike storage room” where you’ll see several lifetimes’ supply of carbon fiber, but you’ll also be able to bump into famous riders like Andre Greipel and John Degenkolb in the hallway on the way to breakfast. You can watch team mechanics working on bikes after the races in the hotel parking lot, score a race-used water bottle filled with top secret Teutonic wonder juice, drink this magic elixir, and immediately have enough energy to pump out 1000 pushups.

Tip #3: Bring your bike and schedule a day for a ride. Mike has family in the area, and knows all about being detained by military personnel for breaching CIA training facility perimeters (true story), so having a local guide is key. Our ride around the Williamsburg area, included a nice lunch stop, occasional tailwinds, views of the James and York rivers, dodging horse droppings in Colonial Williamsburg and almost no hills. It was also precisely planned and timed to return us to our “team car” just before the rain hit. Good job Mike!

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Tip #4: Check out as many races as possible. We caught the tail end of the men’s U23 race, the men’s junior race, women’s elite, and men’s elite races. ALL were exciting.

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Tip #5: Move around the course. The Richmond road circuit was 10 miles long, allowing the riders to pass by every 25 minutes or so. This allows the crowd to spread out very nicely, and allows for you to change locations between laps. In most instances, you could get right up to the edge of the road, often coming within inches of the riders as they passed. Try getting that close in Giant’s Stadium. Our race days started on Libby Hill, a ridiculously steep, heavily cobbled group of switchbacks. It was a natural “stadium” environment with fans scattered all over the hill and in the conveniently placed beer garden. Next was 23rd street, a one-lane, cobbled, 20% incline that’s reminiscent of the famous Koppenberg climb from the Tour of Flanders, with fans packed 20-deep up the embankments on either side, it was a tunnel of noise and energy. On Sunday, an entrepreneurial homeowner opened up a makeshift bar in their backyard (Tip #5a: try the bloody Mary!). After 23rd street, we’d view alongside a blistering descent down Broad Street. With no barriers along the side of the road, riders were whipping past at highway speeds, generating a small windstorm. This spilled out into the hard left turn where eventual champion, Peter Sagan, used his exceptional bike handling skills to establish the gap he needed to win. From there we continued onward until we found ourselves along the finishing straightaway, complete with jumbotron TV and beer garden.

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Tip #6: Be amazed. On a descent down Main Street, the road narrows from 5 lanes down to 2 lanes within approximately 150 meters, and then bangs a hard right in to a narrow road. Looking at this piece of road, it was impossible to comprehend how 150 tightly packed riders would fit into this funnel while descending at 40mph, slow down, and manage the turn at the bottom. Somehow they defied all laws of physics and made it through.

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Tip #7: Never pass a beer garden without stopping in. Hydration is important, and it helps the local economy.

Tip #8: Don’t believe the course profile. On paper, the Worlds’ loop looked pretty tame. In reality, the last 3 miles of the course had 3 back-to-back climbs (Libby Hill, 23rd Street, Main Street) that put a very real sting in the final part of the course. Even the finishing straightaway was uphill, a 680 meter false flat. With 162 total miles of racing, the course was everything a fan could hope for, and a grueling test for the riders. Kudos to the organizers for putting together a great course.

Tip #9: City Diner on Broad Street for breakfast. Delicious way to fuel up for a day of race-watching. Conversely, don’t believe the positive reviews for Extra Billy’s BBQ.

Tip #10: On the long drive back to New York, fun can be had by repeatedly turning on the driver’s heated seat when he’s not looking, and waiting until it’s noticed. It was worth getting punched. In the end, there’s really no way to describe how much fun can be had by 5 grown men behaving like children while on a road trip to attend a bike race. Getting to see, interact with, and finish partially filled water bottles from the same pro riders you see racing around the world is nothing like most stadium- controlled pro sporting events most of us attend in the US. Rick snapped about 10,000 photos, so enjoy!

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