A look back at the 2015 World Championships in Richmond, VA.
Just over three years ago I remember a quiet buzz beginning about the UCI Road Racing World Championships making its way to a city two hours South of DC. Luckily I had numerous friends in the Richmond area with rooms to spare so I laid claim to a bed as soon as the rumors proved true. I took off an entire week from work, packed up my bike and all of my cycling related t-shirts and headed North.
Considering the best cyclists in the world (and plenty of amateurs) would be in Richmond for an entire week, one has to go for rides during that week. The group ride scene was awesome, with the best I could find being a daily ride led by Mike Stoop from Carytown Bike Shop . On Friday the group numbered close to 100 with a speed between 27-30mph on the open roads! Clearly everyone was feeling the energy and it was a thrill to be part of it.
Each day I dragged my longtime friend who I was staying with to all the spots the worlds course had to offer. I don’t think he’s a very big cycling fan, but this week everyone was a cycling fan. I wish I had kept my GPS running during the days, we had to have walked over 20 miles throughout the week. One of the highlights of the week for me was heading over to The University of Richmond for the start of the mens elite race on Sunday.
I’ve watched many of these guys on TV for years, but there is something about being able to see them in person, in front of you, mere steps away which makes the experience surreal.
The final day of the Richmond 2015 World Championships was the highlight of the week of racing and the elite men’s battle for the coveted rainbow jersey. I went down to Richmond with Vashek only for the Sunday race and I was prepared for crowds but surprisingly the city was not even dealing with any traffic issues. I was wearing a Slovak national hockey team jersey, where I modified Miro SATANs name into SAGAN, covering the letter T for homemade G
We got downtown Richmond around 8am, walked over to the finish line and learned that the racers were staging at the University of Richmond for the start. We decided to stay put and watched as soon the first lap just flew by and the race was ON!
Once we got our bikes out of the truck and we were on the move for the rest of the day. We were able to speak to interesting people, while spectating the race from different spots. It was fairly easy to move around and even get some food and drinks while watching the race from the restaurant windows. Richmond was alive! When we got to Libby Hill, we were shocked how many people were cheering and having amazing time.
The atmosphere was very vibrant anywhere we went. My hockey jersey (right there^) got lot of attention during the day and I learned that Sagan had a huge amount of fans in the crowds! Before the end of the last 16th lap we moved to the finish line and were waiting for the finale. We could not see the screen, but we heard the loud sportscaster at the finish line and through his excitement we were cheering and hoping for the best finish.
Our favorites included Slovak Peter Sagan, Czechs Zdenek Stybar, Roman Kreuziger or Jan Barta and all riders from team USA. Son of the city Ben King was in the 4 hour break and enjoyed the glory, then later was exchanged by another American, Taylor Phinney as he went out on a three men break for one loop. At the end with about 6 miles to go American sprinter Tyler Farrar was leading a short break. We loved to see USA in the lead all day!
The last lap became a frantic chase and the peloton heated up. Zdenek Stybar was the first to launch his attack on the Libby Hill cobbles followed by John Degenkolb and Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet. A small group of riders emerged at the top of Libby Hill but they were caught by the base of the 23rd Street climb.
Finally Peter Sagan took his first world championship in thrilling style, out climbing an elite selection of riders on the 23rd Street 19 percent climb up and then flying away downhill, never to be caught over the final 2 kilometers. Sagan’s superior downhill skills in cornering proved to be the decisive moment and the three seconds he had at the finish line kept the charging peloton behind.
Peter was walking right in front of us, when he jumped from the bike, doffed his helmet and tossed it into the roaring crowd of fans, while he was greeting all the other riders rolling into the finish line. He is the World Champion! He won the rainbow jersey and will wear it for the coming year. Unbelievable success, epic win in an epic race.
After the race was over, we headed back to the Slovak bus to meet the Slovak racers and we got chance to congratulate to teammates Juraj Sagan, Michal Kolar and finally after 2 hours of waiting to congratulate Peter Sagan himself. He looked tired but happy. The Slovak fans roaring around the bus were amazing, loud and happy too. Alex Howes was the best of the American on home soil finishing in 12th place.
This was a race that won’t soon be forgotten. This was a cycling race history witnessed by many thousands of cyclists and cycling fans all over the world.