The Road to Richmond

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Josh Lopez Photography

 

From September 19 to 27, Richmond’s population will triple in size as cycling fans from around the world crowd the city for the UCI Road World Championships. The event is a milestone not just for Richmond but the United States as well—the last Worlds to be held on U.S. soil was nearly 30 years ago at the 1986 event in Colorado Springs.

“That was before I was born,” says Team Cannondale-Garmin rider Ben King, a contender for Team U.S.A. “It’s a good opportunity for Richmond and especially good opportunity for me. I’m a very proud Virginian.”

For King, who grew up riding the back roads surrounding Charlottesville, this year’s Worlds will literally be in his backyard. It’s a welcome change for King, who’s used to flying halfway around the world or across the country to get to any of the cycling industry’s premier races.

“Most of my European teammates and colleagues in the sport have been to California and Utah and Colorado, but the East Coast hasn’t had a big race for years. Richmond is putting itself on the map of cycling history.”

“We’re all kinda looking forward to the fact that we don’t have to deal with the jet lag and the things we normally deal with over in Europe, like do I need to bring my own French press? Do I need to bring my own coffee? Do they even drink coffee? What about creamer?”

That’s Andrea Dvorak, a Crozet, Va., local and rider for Team Exergy TWENTY12. Both Dvorak and King have home turf advantage going for them, and with impressive racing resumes to back it up, these two cyclists have high chances of representing their teams at the very least, if not their country, too.

More Than Just a Race

Though Richmond prevailed in the bidding process over candidate hosts like Muscat, Oman, and Quebec City, Canada, the city has some big shoes to fill. As the host for 2015 Worlds, Richmond will join the company of notable cities like Copenhagen, Florence, Melbourne, and Salzburg where cycling is as popular as football is in the States. So how will Richmond’s Worlds compare?

“I think Richmond is going to stack up very well and far better than anyone realizes,” says Tim Miller, an avid cyclist, former road racer, and Richmond native. As Chief Operating Officer for Richmond 2015 Inc., the official organizing committee for Worlds, Miller has been involved with the event planning since the city placed its bid five years ago. “The Worlds event is not just about the bike race and we’re not building an event that’s just about the bike racing fans.”

Between daily live entertainment, kid-friendly activities, VIP party zones, and chances for the public to run or ride like the pros in “Conquer the Cobbles,” Miller says there will be plenty of ways for spectators to occupy their time in Richmond. What’s more, the region’s burgeoning craft beer and food scene is sure to satisfy even the most exquisite of palates.

“In a lot of ways we have a great blank canvas to work with here,” says Lee Kallman, vice president of marketing and development for Richmond 2015. “People all over the world are coming with their plane ticket and hotel reservation, but they couldn’t tell you where Richmond is on the map. They are going to come here with, at worst, a neutral expectation, and we’re gonna just blow them away.”

Since age 16, King has raced all over the world, and he even spends half of the season training in Tuscany, Italy. But there is no place like home.

“This is my favorite place to train,” he says. “It’s beautiful, first of all, and there are so many roads to explore that I can train 30-hour weeks and never ride on the same roads.”

“You can ride for six hours and [not] go through a stop light or a stop sign,” Dvorak adds. “The only thing that stands in your way might be a cow that’s gotten loose.”

International competitors likely won’t encounter any cows on the course, but they will face a technical 10-mile circuit (which elite men will have to ride 16 times, elite women eight) with sharp switchbacks and two steep climbs just two miles from the finish. Fast, furious, and contained completely within downtown Richmond proper, the 2015 Worlds course will be one for the spectators.

“It’ll definitely be a game of who has the best team plan and who can execute that plan the best on that day,” says Dvorak. “It’s a chess match of which nation has the best strategy.”

Until then, Dvorak spends as much time in the saddle as she can, training with her Miller School students and Brazilian Worlds cyclists Marcio Oliveira and Pedro Martins. Though King did not return to this year’s Tour de France, he has been busy racing at the Tour de Suisse, the Tour of Austria, and the Vuelta a España and performs maintenance training in between travels to prepare for Worlds.

Here’s to Team U.S.A. saying “Checkmate, World!”

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