The 2015 UCI Road World Championships, and Why You Want To Be There

photo by Nick Davis Photography
pho­to by Nick Davis Photography

In Sep­tem­ber 2015, an esti­mat­ed 400,000+ on-site spec­ta­tors will join 1,000 of the world’s top cyclists over nine days to enjoy the UCI Road World Cham­pi­onships in Rich­mond, Virginia.

We talked to Tim Miller and Lee Kall­man, the orga­niz­er of the 2015 UCI Road World Cham­pi­onships to find out why the event is so popular.

THE CLYMB: How did you get involved with the project? What’s your cycling background?

Tim Miller: I am a for­mer com­pet­i­tive cyclist who has worked in the sport of cycling since 1992. I have worked on major inter­na­tion­al events, includ­ing the for­mer Tour DuPont and the Tour de Geor­gia, and found­ed the CapTech Clas­sic, which became one of the pre­mier one-day events on the nation­al cal­en­dar. In 2009, I was involved in the deci­sion to pur­sue the event and lead the bid process from start to finish.

Lee Kall­man: I got involved in the Spring of 2011 dur­ing the bid process. Much like the Olympics, mul­ti­ple cities from around the world sub­mit bids to the UCI to host the World Cham­pi­onships. I got involved because I saw this as a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to merge my pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ences (sports mar­ket­ing) and per­son­al inter­ests in cycling. As for my cycling back­ground, let’s just say my phys­i­cal abil­i­ty nev­er quite lived up to my pas­sion for the sport.

THE CLYMB: Can you give us a lit­tle back­ground on the UCI Road World Cham­pi­onships and why 2015 is a spe­cial year for them?

TM: The UCI Road World Cham­pi­onships is an annu­al event that is held in an inter­na­tion­al city as select­ed through a bid­ding process, much like the Olympic Games. The event hasn’t been held in the Unit­ed States since 1986, when it was held in Col­orado Springs, Colo. It is no secret that cycling his­tor­i­cal­ly has been a Euro­pean-cen­tric sport. In an effort to glob­al­ize cycling, the UCI decid­ed to lim­it Euro­pean bids for the Road World Cham­pi­onships every fifth year, thus ensur­ing that the event would take place out­side of Europe in those years. This prac­tice began in 2010 when the event was held in Melbourne/Geelong, Aus­tralia, and is the pri­ma­ry rea­son that we chose to bid on the year 2015.

LK: The UCI Road World Cham­pi­onships is the pin­na­cle of the sport of cycling; it’s an annu­al event con­sist­ing of 12 World Cham­pi­onships over nine days. We’ll have about 1,000 of the best men, women and junior cyclists com­pet­ing in time tri­als (a.k.a. race against the clock) and road races. The World Cham­pi­onships is unique in that, like the Olympics, ath­letes com­pete for their country.

photo by Nick Davis Photography2
pho­to by Nick Davis Photography2

THE CLYMB: What does the event entail? How many rid­ers are you expect­ing and from where? What makes the event so large and important?

TM: The Road World Cham­pi­onships is one of the most impor­tant events of the year. Every­one wants to be a World Cham­pi­on! The event fea­tures races for Junior boys and girls, Under 23 men and the Elite men and women. It is one of the few oppor­tu­ni­ties that the ath­letes have to com­pete for their coun­try, just like they do dur­ing the Olympic Games. The event also fea­tures a unique Team Time Tri­al that is con­test­ed by pro­fes­sion­al trade teams, both men’s and women’s.

LK: The Worlds, as they are known, will attract more than 1,000 of the world’s best cyclists from about 75 coun­tries. The top cyclists in the world, includ­ing those com­pet­ing in the Tour de France, will be in Rich­mond in 2015. Worlds is a unique expe­ri­ence because out­side of the Olympics, this is the only oth­er time cyclists com­pete for their coun­tries, rather than their trade teams, and the only time they can be called a World Cham­pi­on. Greg LeMond was a World Cham­pi­on twice, Lance Arm­strong topped Miguel Indurain in Oslo in 1993. Tru­ly, the best cyclists in the world will ride in Rich­mond, and a world­wide TV audi­ence of 300 mil­lion will be watch­ing their every move.

We see the 2015 Worlds as more than a bike race: The broad­er ini­tia­tive is about rais­ing aware­ness about bikes for every­one. Sure, we’d love to see more peo­ple get into rac­ing, but the big­ger pic­ture is to get more peo­ple on bikes for recre­ation and trans­porta­tion. Bikes are great for the waist­line, the wal­let and the envi­ron­ment. The event itself will have the feel of an inter­na­tion­al fes­ti­val wor­thy of a world cham­pi­onships com­plete with fan zones, inter­ac­tive oppor­tu­ni­ties and con­certs to accom­pa­ny ter­rif­ic racing.

THE CLYMB: Can you describe the cours­es available?

TM: There are four dis­tinct cours­es that will be used, all of which high­light Richmond’s his­toric avenues and the regions abun­dant scenic beau­ty. The Team Time Tri­al course, which is approx­i­mate­ly 21.9 miles in length, fea­tures rolling ter­rain through the coun­try­side just east of down­town Rich­mond. The Indi­vid­ual Time Tri­al course, which will be used for all cat­e­gories except for the Elite Men, fea­tures a very tech­ni­cal, urban circuit.

The Indi­vid­ual Time Tri­al for the Elite Men will fea­ture a point-to-point course that starts north of down­town Rich­mond through rolling ter­rain before it makes its way into the city. And final­ly the Road Race course is a 10-mile cir­cuit through down­town Rich­mond that is very tech­ni­cal with three short, chal­leng­ing climbs in the final 3 miles.

photo by Josh Lopez
pho­to by Josh Lopez

THE CLYMB: Any course par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing or that most peo­ple are look­ing for­ward to? 

TM: The three climbs in the final 3 miles will prove chal­leng­ing as each race reach­es its sec­ond half. The cob­bled climb through Lib­by Hill Park will be the most pop­u­lar spot to watch because it is where rid­ers will launch attacks.

LK: All of the cours­es are chal­leng­ing and inter­est­ing for a vari­ety of rea­sons, but I think the road races will be espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing as they include sev­er­al cob­bled sec­tions and three short but steep hills in the last cou­ple miles of each lap. More specif­i­cal­ly, Lib­by Hill is a cob­bled climb with a cou­ple of switch­backs. Lap after lap, it will be incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult for the cyclists; for fans, it’ll be an incred­i­ble place to watch the race unfold.

THE CLYMB: What kind of turnout do you expect? 

TM: We are pro­ject­ing 452,000 spec­ta­tors over the course of nine days of com­pe­ti­tion. That includes both local cit­i­zens as well as out-of-town vis­i­tors. The race will draw about 1,000 ath­letes from 75 coun­tries and rough­ly 500 mem­bers of the media.