Up until this past weekend, I had not been to Richmond, Virginia in many years. The last time I was there feels so distant, in fact, that the experience could belong to someone else altogether. I was in a band, and we were touring. A very popular band (among punk rock circles) allowed us to stay with them for the night. I remember sleeping on the beer-soaked carpet in the room of the house where they practiced. The smell there was unbearable, but the whole experience was somehow made better at the time by the fact that one of the band’s members (yes, they all lived there together, like The Monkees) record collections was unlike anything I had ever seen. He had original pressings of records that, even back then, cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. When I think back to that trip to Richmond, it’s not so much the fact that I slept on top on the beer-soaked carpet that makes the experience feel distant, but rather my admiration for that record collection, and my disregard for the fact that the guy who owned it had two kids with a woman that he didn’t help financially in any way, while still buying thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of records.
But I’m guessing that none of you really care about a story like that, and I just wasted a paragraph's worth of your time in telling you that. So let’s just get down to business and talk about the world championships. Here are a few random notes about my experience in Richmond, in no particular order.
1. The shuttle that goes to the start of the race leaves at 7:30am. You need credentials to get on the shuttle. The office to get credentials opens at 8:00am. Credentials are mostly useless unless you have a photo vest on. The person who gives out photo vests is not the same person who gives credentials. That person is not available when the office opens at 8am, because they went to the start of the race on the 7:30am shuttle.
Oh, and in order to get into the building where you get your credentials, you need credentials.
My experiences at cycling races are filled with moments like this, and Richmond was no different. Which is why the next time I hear someone ask how come the UCI can’t figure out or solve issues like microdosing, or why they can't sort out TV revenue profit sharing, I’ll simply remind them of one thing: I needed press credentials to get into the building where I was to obtain said press credentials.
2. But hey, you know the old saying: when the UCI closes a door, the Spanish team opens a window. Or to be more precise, when you can’t get on a UCI shuttle, ask the Spanish team if you can ride in the back of their cargo van, which will feel kind of like you’ve been kidnapped and thrown in the back of a rented white Ford Econoline. It will be worth it.
3. I don't mean to be predictably contrarian, but the most interesting athlete that I met this weekend was not a cyclist, but a man who pitched for the Baltimore Orioles for much of the 1970s, and now found himself directing traffic outside a parking garage at the race that all the locals were calling the “UCI bike race”. I willingly missed some of the race to sit and talk to him, and hear stories about his days playing in the major leagues. And it pains me to no end that despite the fact that we spoke twice, and he told me his name as many times, I forgot it and never wrote it down.
4. But let's get back to what the locals called this race (see photo above). Nomenclature was an issue in Richmond. Banners hung outside houses that read, “Richmond Loves UCI”. Minor point, really, compared to the fact that every business owner I talked to said it was the slowest week they’d had in a long time. The reason? Local media scared everyone about the amount of people that would be coming in, and the traffic nightmares that would likely ensue. With many schools and colleges being closed for the week, along with some downtown businesses, many local residents simply left town. This is just anecdotal information, but I heard many accounts like this.
5. Woman in Chile’s pits looking dejected during the last two laps of the race:
“He would have finished, for sure….I just have to wonder, how could a cycling fan try would push him uphill by the handlebars on his bike?” Needless to say, the rider in question did not finish. He was thrown off his bike, face first onto the cobbles.
6. Do you know what’s happening in Colombian cycling right now? The second biggest stage race in the country. Yes, they scheduled it at the same time as the world championships. Because...you know...why not?
And now, as to not hold up the process of putting up this post, let me just share some photos with you, and call it a day.