The week of September 20-27 will see over 1,000 of the world's fittest athletes race for gold at the UCI Road World Championships, with historic Richmond, Virginia, playing host. This edition of road worlds, an event that leaves Europe only occasionally, offers a huge opportunity for US riders and fans.
It's only the second time they have been held on US soil — you have to go back 29 years to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the first visit — and the US has an excellent shot at winning several medals, most notably in the elite women's road race with Wall Street analyst turned bike racer Evelyn Stevens and in the elite women's time trial with Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong.
While the Tour de France is the world's most famous bicycle race, for many the road world championships are a more intriguing affair. Unlike the Tour, where just a handful of riders have a real chance at winning the overall and a few big-budget teams control the three-week race, road worlds are one-day events held at the end of a long, grueling season, and they are much more open and therefore more unpredictable.
It is not uncommon for Tour champions and stars of the sport to be beaten by so-called lesser riders. Winning the famous stripes, one of sports' greatest prizes, can land a rider a lucrative contract and make a career. To become champion you need world-class talent, endurance, racecraft, and motivation, but past winners and near winners alike will tell you that you need luck, too.
This year's eight-day, 12-race UCI Road World Championships will showcase over 1,000 cyclists from 75 countries. Each race crowns a new world champion, and each champion wears the rainbow jersey for a year until the next championships. Organizers in RVA expect 450,000 on-site spectators, with another 300 million people tuning in to see the races broadcast worldwide. Lending importance to this year's World Championships is next year's Olympics, because in Richmond we should get a preview of Rio 2016.
Scroll on for detailed course information, race schedules, the favorites, how to watch on TV and online, some insights into worlds' colorful history, and "the curse of the rainbow jersey."
Below is the complete schedule for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships
Sat., Sept. 19
Team Time Trial Training: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Time Trial Training: 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 20
Women’s Team Time Trial: 11:30 a.m. to 12:55 p.m.
Men’s Team Time Trial: 1:30 p.m. to 3:35 p.m.
Mon., Sept. 21
Women’s Junior Time Trial: 10:00 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
Men’s Under-23 Time Trial: 11:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 22
Men’s Junior Time Trial: 9:30 a.m. to 1:05 p.m.
Women’s Elite Time Trial: 1:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Wed., Sept. 23
Men’s Elite Individual Time Trial: 1:00 p.m. to 3:35 p.m.
Thurs., Sept. 24
Road Circuit Training: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 25
Women’s Junior Road Circuit: 10:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.
Men’s Under-23 Road Circuit: 12:45 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.
Dominion Conquer the Cobbles Ride: 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 26
Men’s Junior Road Circuit: 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Women’s Elite Road Circuit: 1:00 p.m. to 4:25 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 27
Men’s Elite Road Circuit: 9:00 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
This map shows the 10-mile course for the circuit races — the elite men will race 161 miles and the elite women 80.5
The course is fast and technical with lots of turns and three punchy climbs in the last few miles. (See the profile below.)
"All road races will take place on a challenging, technical inner-city road circuit," organizers say. "The peloton heads west from Downtown Richmond, working their way onto Monument Avenue, a paver-lined, historic boulevard that's been named one of the '10 Great Streets in America,'" according to the official race website, Richmond2015.com. "Racers will take a 180-degree turn at the Jefferson Davis monument and then maneuver through the Uptown district and Virginia Commonwealth University.
"Halfway through the circuit, the race heads down into Shockoe Bottom before following the canal and passing Great Shiplock Park, the start of the Virginia Capital Trail. A sharp, off-camber turn at Rocketts Landing brings the riders to the narrow, twisty, cobbled 200-meter climb up to Libby Hill Park in the historic Church Hill neighborhood. A quick descent, followed by three hard turns leads to a 100-meter-long climb up 23rd Street. Once atop this steep cobbled hill, riders descend into Shockoe Bottom. This leads them to the final 300-meter-long climb up Governor Street. At the top, riders face a 680-meter false flat to the finish." See a bigger map here. Here's the schedule for the circuit races:
Thurs., 9.24.2015 | Road Circuit Training | 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Fri., 9.25.2015 | Women’s Junior Road Circuit | 10:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.
Fri., 9.25.2015 | Conquer the Cobbles Ride | 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Fri., 9.25.2015 | Men’s Under 23 Road Circuit | 12:45 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.
Sat., 9.26.2015 | Men’s Junior Road Circuit | 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Sat., 9.26.2015 | Women’s Elite Road Circuit | 1:00 p.m. to 4:25 p.m.
Sun., 9.27.2015 | Men’s Elite Road Circuit | 9:00 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
These three spots will probably be the best places to watch the circuit races in person
Expect massive crowds on the trio of short, steep climbs that come near the end of each lap. Since the riders will be going (a bit) slower on the climbs, you'll get to see a little more of the action. But you'll want to arrive early.
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