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Deep Breath, Richmond

Andy Thompson

September 22, 2015 2:07pm

“It’s unbelieveable. You can’t get any where near downtown in a car. It’s totally shut down.”

My dad said this to me on the phone Sunday, describing a scene of brutal gridlock and dozens upon dozens of road closures near the scene of the big event.

But he wasn’t talking about bike races. He doesn’t even live in Richmond. My parents live in Philadelphia, and this weekend the Pope arrives. That’s right, the Pope isn’t doing anything in Philly until this coming Saturday, yet Center City was barricaded off last Sunday.

By contrast, I took the family downtown on Sunday to watch the team time trials at the UCI World Championships, and parking was a breeze. First we parked in the Fan, only to find out we’d missed the elite women coming by on Monument Ave. Then we cruised down to Cary and 6th and walked up to the finish line and took in the entire men’s race.

Fans pack in to see the podium after the men's team time trial. Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Fans pack in to see the podium after the men’s team time trial. Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Not only was all of that easy, but there were lots of people out. The finish area was packed from the line out at least until the 250m-to-go mark, with fans pounding the placards on the barricades as teams came thundering by. The Fan Fest had plenty of traffic, as well. And keep in mind, this was for the team time trial — not exactly The Big Races. Those would be the Elite men’s and women’s road races. Heck, it’s not even the biggest time trial of the week. Cycling fans are much more into the individual version of those races — the women’s is this afternoon. The men’s is tomorrow.

Maybe I need a more varied Twitter feed, but I feel like I’ve heard a lot of grousing three days into this event. If it’s not road closures; it’s restaurants complaining about being sold a false bill of goods. The road closures I’ve already addressed. Simply put, it is not difficult to get around this city. Go to www.richmond2015.com and find out what roads will be closed. Then go around them. It’s not complicated. There are lots of options.

On the “Hey, where are all the people?” front. Yes, we were initially led to believe that 450,000 Belgians and Dutch would descend on this city for these races. But did that ever really make sense? And anyone who dug a little deeper would have found stories in the T-D, Style Weekly and other local news sources explaining that the vast majority of out-of-towners start showing up mid-week for the men’s individual time trial and really start arriving for the weekend road races.

Women's Team Time Trial. Credit: Washingtonian

Women’s Team Time Trial. Credit: Washingtonian

I know people from Durham, N.C., Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville coming in to watch tomorrow’s time trial. An old friend is coming from Atlanta on Friday. And I know a friend of friend coming from Utah to watch the weekend racing.

The people will come, Richmond. And from what I’ve seen, there are plenty of people already here. Deep breaths, and remember it could be worse. The Pope could be on his way.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?