By Lynn R. Mitchell
Richmond, Virginia, hosted the World, and by Sunday afternoon at 3:30 it was over. The UCI Road World Championships were held in the United States for the first time since 1986 when they met in Colorado Springs and we — Virginia — were the lucky ones to get it.
Oh, sure, there were grumblings about road closures and the financial costs to prepare for the World to come visit and businesses that saw a drop in customers due to limited access because of street closures. On the other hand, there are sure to be other businesses that reaped huge financial rewards — hotels, restaurants, tourist destinations.
Worldwide television coverage offered the opportunity through well-placed (and often) TV ads to show off everything that is wonderful and special and unique about Virginia — our mountains, beaches, history, restaurants, universities, entertainment, outdoor activities and, of course, Richmond itself with the mighty James River that flows through the city. I even heard the announcer proclaim as riders passed the Shockoe Bottom flood wall that it was the longest one in the world with a $150 million price tag to protect the city’s vulnerable riverfront locations. (If you’ve never seen the wall, it’s quite an engineering accomplishment.)
But none of that mattered today with the excitement of the Men’s Elite, the final road race of the week-long event. Huge crowds lined the route that snaked along city streets and cheered on cyclists as they passed, shouting and applauding and ringing cowbells as television cameras caught it all. NBC’s coverage couldn’t help but show off Monument Avenue, Libby Hill, Broad Street, Governor Street (announcers kept calling it “Governor’s Hill”), Carytown, the Fan, and downtown RVA — and throughout the week, cyclists were on streets in the West End, Hanover, and other surrounding areas.
In the end, Team USA’s highest placing was #12 with Alex Howes. Slovakia’s Peter Sagan came in first place to the roar of the crowd (see Slovakian Sagan wins elite men’s road race by Vic Door Jr). The race had begun at 9am; it was now almost 3:30pm, and it would seem that someone who had been pushing himself on a bicycle for that long would be ready to collapse. But he didn’t. He smiled and waved at the crowd, kissed his girlfriend, hopped back on his bike, popped a wheelie, and headed off down the sidewalk.
I don’t know who was responsible for pitching the idea and then selling it to all who needed to be on board but it came together and captured national and international interest in the fall of 2015. Thanks, RVA, for having the dream and the vision to bring the World to Virginia. It won’t soon be forgotten.