The UCI World Road Championships, the preeminent competition for bike racing, is back in the United States for the first time since 1986. The city of choice: Richmond, Virginia, the adventure capital of the South, thanks to its ever-growing road and mountain-biking, climbing, trail-running, and whitewater scenes.
The Team Time Trials kicks off the Worlds on September 19, and the events conclude on the 27th with the Men’s Road Circuit. The layout of all the courses are built with spectators in mind — passing the pub-lined cobblestone streets, the ever-popular Monroe Park, and always ending up at the Fan Fest near the Richmond Convention Center. Here is your complete guide for the best places to see all the races — while getting the most out of a city crowded with fans of cycling.
FanFest, Broad and 5th
All of the races finish at the intersection of Broad and 5th. A block away, the Richmond Convention Center houses FanFest 2015, where fans can catch the podium presentations, check out bike gear, and refuel. Jumbotrons will show the race coverage.
Already a popular overlook, this became an obvious choice for a fan zone once race organizers announced its cobblestone switchbacks would be included in courses. With a view of the city and the riders on a tricky climb, this could get more crowded than the fan zone at the finish line. It will be one big beer garden, with food vendors, Jumbotrons, and a nearby bike valet.
Main Street: From Pear St. to 23rd
Look for the Lucky Strike smokestack on your way toward the base of Libby Hill. Riders will climb Main Street before turning onto the cobbles of Libby Hill. Poe’s Pub is located right there, so get a drink before walking up to 23rd St. to watch riders attack that hill. After, you can refuel at Millie’s Diner or the 23rd & Main Taphouse.
23rd and Grace Streets
From the hillsides, fans can look down on riders as they bank right off Main St. and hit the block-long cobbled climb that averages a steep 14 percent. If you’re feeling patriotic, follow the riders toward Broad and duck into St. John’s, where Patrick Henry gave his “Liberty or Death” speech.
Monroe Park (Best during Road Circuit)
No longer an official fan zone, the park will provide great views of the race and access to the Fan district’s many restaurants, cafes, and galleries. Most of the time trials and the road circuit will pass the park on its north and south sides; so fans can watch the riders pass, walk to the other side and see if there’s been a lead change over the past three miles. The park is inside the course loop, but pedestrian bridges have been built to allow access during the events. The Alchemy Coffee trailer will be on hand to keep you alert.
Monument and Davis Avenues
Worlds will hurdle down the city’s distinguished promenade and U-turn at a statue of Jefferson Davis. Monument’s wide grassy median is open to viewers and the turn will slow riders. Since getting out of the inside loop of the course will depend on breaks in the riders, this spot is better for fans looking to stay in one place for long periods.
The climb up Governor is a steady 7 percent, and a good example of what riders call a “punchy” climb. This is the last hill before riders sprint up the false flat to the finish line. Riders should make their final moves here, and because it’s a hill, fans will get a better view.
Down by Landing (Best for Team Time Trials, Road Circuit)
Team time trials and the road loop include long stretches of Dock St., and spectators will have a nice traffic-free path that edges the river. Where that path ends, the newly completed Virginia Capital Trail begins. Recreational cyclists can help break it in, and take a spin on 50 miles of paved path to Jamestown.
Riverside Drive and 20th Street (Best for Individual Time Trial Circuits)
The competitors will ride across the Lee Bridge to the south side, so fans should use the pedestrian walkway and trails on Belle Isle to cross the river. These are well-worn and official trails, and the isle itself includes a mile loop worth the detour. Locals like to hop across the boulders between the island and the southern shore, but you can take a foot bridge if your ankles aren’t up to the challenge.
The riders will take several 90-degree turns, and Riverside and 20th is the last before they gear up for a more gradual loop back onto the bridge. This spot is adjacent to Buttermilk trail, a demanding singletrack for mountain bikers and runners. Head east and drink up on the porch of Legend Brewery, and soak in views of the river and downtown skyline.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (Best for Team Time Trials)
The botanical gardens provide a roomy and picturesque start to the time trials. After the riders depart, fans can watch the race on big screens and explore the gardens and their history as a bicycle club in the late 1800s.
North Boulevard and Monument Avenue (Best for Team and Elite Men’s Time Trials)
Riders will fly down Boulevard before they tap the brakes coming up on the nearly 90-degree turn onto Monument. The Virginia Museum of Fine Art is a few blocks away and beer lovers should head north along Boulevard toward Scott’s Addition historic district for the Ardent and Isley craft breweries.