Last weekend I teamed up with Health Warrior's Austin Harris in Richmond, VA to check out the cycling scene in the city that will host the 2014 UCI World Championships. The ride started on some of my favorite roads, discovered while I attended the University of Richmond, after which we headed downtown to tackle the cobbles and climbs that will test the world's best in less than a year. It was a perfect Richmond day. A little chill in the air in the morning, but with the full knowledge it would be 70 degrees shortly. I rode up Monument Ave to meet Austin and Ashley, a local ironman athlete near the UR campus. The men's elite time trial will feature Monument Ave - a divided tree lined road spotted with round abouts featuring monuments of Richmond's historic figures - from Civil War generals to Arthur Ashe. If you want to see the TT in 2015, this is the place to be.
After meeting Austin and Ashley, we headed down to the banks of the James River. The small suburban roads were loaded with local cyclists as the scene has exploded since the UCI announced the city will host World's. We rode at a pace set to "chill", chatted about whatever came to mind, and ate a few chia bars to stay fueled up. After looping around suburbia for about 90 minutes it was show time. Downtown to the course.
Downtown Richmond is a beautiful mix of wide modern city avenues and classic narrow cobbled streets. The worlds course will feature both. Positioning will be key and the course likely favors a country with a larger team. A Belgian will likely be the odds on favorite as riders like Fabian Cancellara or Peter Sagan will have little help in the peloton to stay positioned. However, with the narrow roads and cobbles if it rains all bets are off.
The final 5k will be electric. Libby Hill park will be an absolute spectacle. It begins with a sharp left turn and immediately jets upward at about 14% and turns sharply back to the right. The road is cobbled and switches back twice more before finishing and turning left onto a flat narrow paved avenue. The scene in the park will rival anything you see in a spring classic. The climb will be a launching pad for some and a survival point for others.
Shortly after Libby Hill is 23rd street - a straight 18% wall for about 100 meters. If a group gets away on Libby Hill, the strongest man in the move could ride away and win Worlds right here. There isn't enough time to recover between efforts. It's a tremendous setup that will set up a fascinating and decisive race.
Only one this is for sure - the winner of the Rainbow Jersey will be a true strongman and will have great legs on race day. You can't fake your way and hide on this course. It's going to be a great show and will prove to the world that the U.S. can throw one hell of a race and one hell of a party. See you in 2015.