The 2015 UCI Road Cycling World Championships will be contested on the historic cobbled streets and punchy hills of Richmond, the state capital of Virginia, in the United States of America. It is arguable that this city is far and away more qualified than any other place in the States to host the race for the rainbow bands. (Full disclosure: I grew up in Richmond so please allow a bit of Chamber of Commerce pitch and hometown pride as we begin Rapha’s look at next September’s championships.)
The United States last hosted the World Championships at Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1986, an historic event we are currently celebrating with a photo exhibition at the Rapha Cycle Club New York. The 1986 championships appealed to an burgeoning American audience thirsty for road racing antics. Three years after that the United States had its very own international stage race, the Tour de Trump. The inaugural event, billed in 1989 by its namesake Donald Trump as, “bigger than anything they got in Europe,” once again brought the greatest names in professional cycling to American streets. Trump would only last two seasons as the title sponsor, and from 1991-1996 the race was known as the Tour DuPont. Richmond enjoyed an unbroken eight-year streak through both sponsors as a host city, welcoming names such as Eric Vanderaerden, Gianni Bugno, Laurent Fignon, Greg LeMond, Andy Hampsten, Davis Phinney, Lance Armstrong and even John Tomac. And then there was the infamous starring role of the pugilistic Michel Zanoli… my goodness, what a crazy finish in downtown Richmond. The city, no doubt, has the racing heritage to justify its selection to host such a prestigious international race.
History is a commodity easily found in Richmond. The origins of the United States were whispered on these old cobbled streets, cobbles upon which Patrick Henry strode to St John’s Church in 1775 and declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death” – an important marker during the war of independence. But Richmond has a modern aspect to it as well. An interesting feature of the race parcours is where cobbled history meets with contemporary tarmac, the city’s original 1737 layout blending into more modern infrastructure. These junctures will awaken riders several times per lap, with the most crowded and raucous location being Libby Hill where resides a Confederate Military monument (Richmond was also the Confederate capital during the Civil War).
Racers will approach the hill as they roll southeast from downtown along a fast, flat route next to a canal system surveyed and planned by the one and only George Washington. Two switchbacks will lift them from the waterfront towards Libby Hill, the second of which turns from contemporary blacktop to colonial cobblestone along a rough, ragged gap. It will be imperative to be on the inside of this tight, right turn in order to make the most of the uphill left shortly thereafter. The heart of the Libby Hill climb has the look of a high frequency wavelength, with a very important ‘feature’ – a modern, concrete gutter along the right hand side. Riders who make it here first will have a fast, smooth ride to the top.
The park here has been designated an official event “Fan Zone” and I anticipate my fellow Americans (and hopefully a few overseas visitors too) to make a show of great pride here. The Surrounding Church Hill neighborhood is also home to numerous cafes and shops, many of which are already emblazoned with signs and posters signaling the 2015 event.
For nine days in September the region will be populated with eager fans and enthusiastic businesses. Count Rapha among both. Rapha will have a big presence in Richmond, leading rides, hosting events, and presenting the world’s greatest riders from then and now. Reports and reaction from the Rapha North America office will be here on the blog and we sincerely hope you will follow along and join us in celebrating this historic event. From Libby Hill on one end, through downtown, and out to the sweeping 180-degree turn in the shadow of the Robert E. Lee monument on the city’s most renowned road, Monument Avenue, Richmond is ready.
For more information on the 2015 Road Cycling World Championships, please visit http://richmond2015.com/