The crowd was electric, screaming, ringing cowbells and pounding on the barriers on either side of the first fifty meters of the time trial course. Tony Martin was number 1, the last man to start at the world championship time trial. A slight smile spread across Tony’s face as he stepped up onto the start ramp and took in all of the excitement and noise coming from the crowd of spectators and cycling diehards below. We all knew that we were about to see one of the fastest men in the world make his bid for world championship glory.
The city itself felt vibrant and full of energy and cyclists were everywhere. At every coffee shop and on every street corner I saw people in cycling kits or sporting t-shirts from their favorite pro team or local bike shop. Everywhere you turned there were bikes too. Vintage steel beauties, ten thousand dollar carbon speed machines, and every kind of bike in between filled the streets and sidewalks. For this week the city of Richmond Virginia had been transformed into a cycling mecca. Locals who didn’t know much about bike racing beyond the name of Lance Armstrong, were getting an education in the sport that I love.
Ben King, an American and native Virginian was in a breakaway during the elite men’s road race. As he came through, lap after lap, the crowd went wild, screaming, clapping and yelling the name of this hometown hero while also chanting U-S-A, U-S-A! This was the finale of the week of world championship racing and the sheer number of spectators and amount of energy was extraordinary.
Watching the race from Libby Hill Park was an amazing experience as a spectator. Normally, even at a big local race, there are only a couple of hundred spectators while here there must have been several thousand. There were so many fans texting and tweeting and posting photos from this part of the course that the announcers commented that we had crashed the cell circuits in the area. As the riders climbed Libby Hill, their bikes bouncing around the cobblestones, I know that although these riders were fueled in part by water and energy gels, the energy from all the fans was the real fuel powering their legs up this climb. I can’t even imagine the feelings and emotions going through the minds of each rider as the multitude of spectators created a deafening wall of noise in support of the peloton. I have had a small taste of this at some of the bigger races I have competed in, but those crowds paled in comparison to this.
The winner of this grand finale was Peter Sagan, a fan favorite and quite the character in the men’s pro peloton. This win by Sagan seemed like the perfect ending to a great week of racing and a fantastic time for cycling in Virginia’s capitol.
The winners of each of the races were as follows:
Women’s Elite Team Time Trial: Team Velocio SRAM
Men’s Elite Team Time Trial: Team BMC Racing
Women’s Junior Individual Time Trial: Chloe Dygert (USA)
Men’s Junior Individual Time Trial: Leo Appelt (Germany)
Men’s Under 23 Individual Time Trial: Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Denmark)
Elite Women’s Time Trial: Linda Melanie Villumsen (New Zealand))
Elite Men’s Time Trial: Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)
Women’s Junior Road Race: Chloe Dygert (USA)
Men’s Junior Road Race: Felix Gall (Austria)
Men’s Under 23 Road Race: Kevin Ledanois (France)
Women’s Elite Road Race: Elizabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)
Men’s Elite Road Race: Peter Sagan (Slovakia)