We had a great time at the World Cycling Championships in Richmond, VA this past weekend. We flew in Thursday so Heather could give a talk at the University of Richmond, where we discovered the Elite Men's roadrace would start on Sunday morning.
We spent Friday visiting Charlottesville, VA where we lived briefly in the early '90's. Sadly, the town is now surrounded by ugly "development" as in never-ending strip malls and car dealerships.
Saturday morning we headed from our lodging in Short Pump, VA (another soul-sucking, endless line of strip malls and car dealerships) to downtown Richmond to see the races. But first Larry bought the "mother of all umbrellas" in an attempt to prevent the predicted downpours. We got rained on a bit during the junior men's event, but it was dry by the time it was the elite women's turn. As you can see, we were able to get pretty close to the riders as they were introduced and called to the line. We always have soft spot for the Italians of course!
Above you see the cobbles of 23rd street. Not as big as those in Flanders but from the shaking of the rider's upper arms you could tell they were far from smooth. We moved to Governor's Hill for the final lap and saw Lizzie Armistead's winning move, but failed to get a photo. We thought it was likely the winning move on Sunday would be here as well.
Our friend and CycleItalia client, Myron Lehtman was camped out on Libby Hill all day
Saturday and Sunday. We ran into him on Saturday and he sent us this photo. The crowds were pretty thick here both days.
Sunday's start was at 9 AM so we were up early to get to the University of Richmond in time. Our visit on Thursday helped, since until then we thought the race was starting on the actual circuit!! Above you can see how close we got to stars like Philippe Gilbert of Belgium...
....and the Dutch team...
...as well as pre-race favorite Andre Greipel (who reminds us of Lurch from the TV Addams Family)...
....and Michael "Bling" Mathews of Australia, another pre-race favorite who, unlike Griepel, would play a part in the finish 6+ hours later...
...and let's not forget Vincenzo Nibali who responded "Crepe!" when Larry called out "In bocca al lupo Enzo!"...
...or this tiny squad from Slovakia with that guy in the middle who would go on to play a BIG part later this day.
Once the race was underway we returned to the car and drove to downtown Richmond, easily finding a free parking place just a block from the course. We like to walk around the course in the reverse direction to see the riders come past in various places, like Libby Hill above.
And again here. This snaking, cobblestoned hill was a dramatic scene but not difficult enough or close enough to the finish to really affect the race outcome. But it was a great place to watch with the big screen TV and valet bike parking! We watched the race come past 2-3 times before heading off to find some lunch.
We'd watched from the 23rd street hill earlier, where it was easy to get a feeling of a cobbled climb in a place like Flanders. Riding on these stones didn't look easy, though not as tough as real Belgian pave. When we heard Peter Sagan had attacked here, we both thought the move was too early and he'd be brought back later and not have enough energy left to contest the sprint.
But we were wrong, though his demon descent was as responsible for his victory as much as the climb. When you see the video (go here to see it via Bikeraceinfo) highlights you can see he's not got much of a gap at the top of the climb, his real gains were on the descent, especially through the 90 degree left turn at the bottom that had the team cars (why do they supply the teams with SUV's? A top-heavy vehicle to start with, only made worse when you attach a rack and 7-8 bicycles on top) looking ready to go round the corner on two-wheels! Above you can see Rigoberto Uran on Governor's Hill trying to chase down the fleeing Sagan.
Seconds later Sagan's foot came out of the pedal and he fumbled with the gears to regain his momentum on the climb, but nothing was going to stop him from taking the rainbow jersey, especially when Uran ran out of gas and the others started looking at each other, thinking about silver and bronze medals. We thought Sagan was a worthy champion, thoughts made stronger once we heard his post-race comments. We hope the "curse of the rainbow jersey" doesn't affect him next season.
Will we have to wait another 29 years for the World's to return to the USA? We hope not!