Virginia’s capital city is gearing up for something it’s never seen before – an international bike race featuring a thousand cyclists and more than a quarter of a million fans.
If you watched the Tour de France on TV, you have some idea of what Richmond is about to experience. Beginning Saturday, cyclists will fill the roads, warming up and competing in various categories, time trials and races.
Planners have said they’re expecting 450,000 people to line the roads, but that includes locals, and Lee Kallman, a spokesman for the event, says a person who shows up on seven different days would be counted seven times.
“What that number is not is 450,000 Europeans showing up on our doorstep this Friday or Saturday and staying for nine days.”
Still, Kallman told a forum organized by the Richmond Times Dispatch that this year’s UCI World Road Championship will be big.
“This event has only been in the U.S. once before, and that was way back in 1986, when it was in Colorado Springs – in a very kind of off-the-beaten-path place out there, so it’s been a long time since a cycling event of this magnitude has been in the U.S., much less the East Coast.”
These races have already drawn people from around the world, and Peter Hufnagel, who heads a cycling program at the Miller School in Crozet, says fans can expect to see some of their heroes.
“From Peter Sagan, one of the most famous riders in the world to Ben King, it’s as if the Tour de France is coming right here to Virginia.”
His wife, Andrea Dvorak, will take part in the women’s time trial. She says Richmond is definitely ready.
All the roads have been repaved. What they do is before each race they fully close down the road to allow for the teams and riders to train on the roads, check out the corners. Everyone is excited. I think I even read that VCU has been closed for the entire week.”
Richmond Public Schools have canceled classes next Thursday afternoon and Friday, so school buses won’t have to find new routes when some roads are closed for the competition. The city’s 900 restaurants will definitely be open, and Richmond’s mayor hopes these races will be good for business long after the cyclists have gone home.
“We hope that this will put Richmond on the map, and we’re hoping that there will be people who want to come live here, visit here and do business here. We also want Richmond to become a cycling-friendly city. We believe when this race is over that’s going to take place.”
He may be right if the American team is any indication. Members have been training in nearby Albemarle County – enjoying the Blue Ridge in the fall. We spoke with Schuyler Schneider, Chloe Dygert, Logan Owen, Emma White, Greg Daniel and Ashland Woods, who once attended the Miller School.
“It’s nice to be back. They’re some of the most beautiful roads in the country. Yeah, I love the riding out here. It’s been a great time. It’s been a great time. The roads are super smooth. All of the cars have been giving us space, so it feels safe. They’re a lot of different from the roads back home, because I’m from Denver, Colorado. Rockies are gradual. They’re not super steep, but the climbs here are steep but short, and it’s much more green here. I live in Indiana, so it’s really flat. Coming here it’s hard, but it’s just so pretty that it’s enjoyable for me. It reminds me of home, Upstate New York, but a little warmer. I’m from Mesa, Arizona, a whole different climate for sure.”
Richmond’s convention center will host award ceremonies, allow fans to watch racing on the Jumbotron and visit with 90 vendors, and for those who choose not to brave the crowds, the Universal Sports Network will broadcast live, while, NBC Sports and CNBC offer selective coverage.