This year’s UCI Road World Championships are taking place from 18-25 September in Wollongong, near Sydney. Frankly, we should be there, but we’re not. We were in Australia for the 2010 Championships held in Geelong. We were also in Richmond, VA for those held in 2015 which I’m revisiting today.
My beloved’s halo has slipped. Having downloaded the instructions on how to get to Richmond from Long Island, he decided to ignore them and go off-piste. I can’t tell you how often he does this but usually GPS gets us back on track – not this time, no GPS.
We were staying in a hotel just outside of Richmond, far enough away from the madding crowd. This was my tenth consecutive World Championships and expectations were high after one of the organising committee told me it was modelled on my first, and still my favourite championships, which were held in Salzburg, Austria.
We drove in early Sunday morning for our preliminary reconnaissance of the course, when Richmond more closely resembled a ghost town, which allowed us to marvel at the splendour of their civic buildings before the crowds came out and, more importantly, decide where we wanted to stand and watch the racing.
We based ourselves in The Marriott Hotel on the finish line: television, great WiFi, restrooms and refreshments readily available and right opposite the convention centre for the podium ceremony and press conference.
The racing kicked off with the trade team time-trials with BMC successfully defending their crown, as did Velocio-SRAM in the women’s. It was somewhat poignant victory as four-time winners Velocio are disbanding at the end of the season.
It’s Monday, the sun has gone, the crowds have thinned, volunteers outnumber the crowd, my beloved has departed for a two-day business trip to Baltimore and I’m flying solo, sans camera. Happily, he was back for Wednesday’s elite men’s time-trial where Belorussian Vasil Kiryienka prevailed – to the surprise of many.
Thursday there was no racing which gave us ample opportunity to explore Richmond. We spent a delightful morning at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, built around a number of very generous donated local collections, and explored the historic area of Carytown which has the finest examples of Victorian housing in the US. We ventured along W. Cary St littered with property porn which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Surrey commuter belt.
I was amused to see they had a “Downton” Exhibition. They do know it’s only a television programme, don’t they?
A month away from Halloween and many houses had pots of matching chrysanthemums and gi-normous pumpkins on their porches.
While we were sightseeing the teams were out training in glorious sunshine on the road race course.
The biggest group of fans, apart from those supporting the US, were the Eritreans. Over 400 – or was it 4,000? – had come in hired coaches from all over the US. They were enthusiastic and very noisy supporters – just what the riders ordered.
Back to the racing and on Friday, USA’s Chloe Dygert and Emma White, who had won gold and silver in the time-trial respectively, got in the day’s break with Dygert going solo to take her second gold. She had such a large time gap over the chasing group that she cruised over the line. I could easily have kept pace with her. White collected her second silver.
Changes to the men’s U23 meant that riders in ProContinental teams were now eligible to take part and the French, who have a great record in this competition, were much fancied. France’s Kevin Ledanois and Anthony Turgis didn’t disappoint going one-two on the day.
The elite women’s race was very aggressive with riders constantly pinging off the front and being brought to heel. Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead capped a glittering season with a gold medal – next stop Rio and Olympic gold.
Finally, the blue riband event which had supporters out in force, particularly on Libby Hill which resembled a mini Alp d’Huez. In my book, there was only one favourite and he prevailed – a very popular winner.
Former world champion Tom Boonen looked lively throughout the race even getting into one of the breaks. He’s keeping a close eye on Alejandro Valverde who, despite five trips to the podium, has yet to stand on the top step. Would that change today?
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan followed an attack by Greg Van Avermaet and just kept on going from 2.7km out. Some daredevil descending and superb cornering allowed him to build a three second cushion which was enough to see him solo over the line.
This man captured all the action which will be in a book edited by me and published in time for Christmas. Be sure to add it to your letter to Santa.