A week of world-class road racing, only let down by poor television coverage
Peter Sagan’s victory on Sunday and the thrilling elite men’s road race was a perfect finale to a great week of racing at the World Championships in Richmond.
Each race was world class and exciting thanks to some impressive performances, aggressive tactics and a finally balanced course.
The 16km road race circuit was not packed with climbs; with some nations expecting or hoping for an easy race decided by a big group sprint finish. However the three climbs of Libby Hill, 23rd Street and Governors Street all came in the final five kilometres of the circuit, with little time to recover between them. Each climb was also different with the cobbles of Libby Hill stringing out the riders before the steep cobbled ramp up 23rd Street. A fast descent followed by Governors Street offered a final test of strength and fitness before the long finishing straight.
In theory the course suited many different riders, inspiring so many to believe they had a chance of victory. This lead to an aggressive race, with riders and nations using different and contrasting tactics. It was a perfect course for a world championships.
The UCI opted not to broadcast the Junior races live, presumably to save money, images were often disturbed and the director and camera crews missed key moments of the race, including the sprint for second and third place behind Peter Sagan. The idea of holding the podium ceremony indoors meant it was anodyne, with the fans unable to cheer the riders on the podium.
Quality television coverage reveals the drama and suffering of racing, explains the often complex tactics and captures the emotions of victory and defeat. The television coverage of the Richmond races meant that fans missed out. It was a missed opportunity for the UCI to show the beauty of road racing to the world and especially to new, casual viewers in the USA and elsewhere.
Not investing more on the best possible television coverage was the wrong way to save money. The riders and our sport deserved better after such great racing. (SF)
Velocio-SRAM go out with a bang
The highly successful Velocio-SRAM team will fold at the end of the season, but they will do so as four-time team time trial champions after winning the title again at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia.
The team is known for being the best when it comes to team time trials. They won three previous titles since the inception of the trade team time trial to the World Championships in 2012 in Valkenburg. They won the title again in 2013 in Florence and again in 2014 in Ponferrada.
The team’s strength going into Worlds this year was in doubt after they placed second to Rabo-Liv at the team time trial World Cup in Vargarda. However they proved to be just as strong as ever when they won their fourth consecutive title in Richmond.
An emotional Kristy Scrymgeour told Cyclingnews following her team's victory that, "This is a relief in some ways. It's always been building up to this moment and we've put a lot of energy into this as it's finishing our season and we know that it was going to be even harder than before because we came off the last World Cup in second place and it was so tight going back and forth the whole time."
"There's also a bit of sadness because this is the end of the team but we've ended on a good note and that's great. We couldn't have asked for a better ending to this team." (KF)
Will Valverde ever wear the rainbow jersey?
The result comes on top of Valverde’s two silver and four bronze medals in past editions and, while the rainbow jersey continues to elude him, he has cemented himself as the nearly man of the World Championships. With the exception of two low placings in 2007 and 2008, and the two-year absence during his drugs ban in 2010 and 2011, Valverde has no fewer than nine top-10 finishes to his name since his debut in 2003.
Sunday’s fifth was his lowest finish since his return from the ban, and reflects a remarkable wider level of consistency at the top of the sport from the man who is showing no sign of fading despite his 35 years of age. He has topped the WorldTour rankings for two straight years now but that holds precious little significance compared to the prestige of the rainbow bands. Will he ever get to wear them?
Next year’s race takes place in pan-flat Qatar and would seem to be a write-off for Valverde against the pure sprinters and by 2017 he’ll be 37 years old. That said, this is Valverde; his power has shown no sign of waning and it would be foolish to think this was his final realistic shot at Worlds glory. (PF)
Team USA can be proud of strong home-team performances in Richmond
The highlight of the week for the USA team during the World Championships was hands down the double world titles won by Chloe Dygert in the junior women’s road race and time trial, and her compatriot Emma White’s double silver-medal performances in the same events.
In the elite men's race, Alex Howes was 12th and the top placed American, and his teammates factored into every breakaway during the 260km race. The elite women were equally as aggressive in their race with riders Coryn Rivera and Evelyn Stevens involved in breakaways, while Megan Guarnier went on to secure a bronze medal behind new world champion Lizzie Armitstead and silver medallist Anna Van der Breggen.
The elite men may not have played a big factor in the time trial but the elite women placed two riders in the top 10 including former double world champion Kristin Armstrong in fifth and Stevens in sixth.
It was the first time that the World Championships were held on US soil in some 30 years, and the American riders were rightly treated to boisterous crowds cheering their names. (KF)
Looking forward to Qatar
Now that the dust has started to settle on the Richmond World Championships we can start thinking about Qatar in 2016. Anybody who attended the World Championships in Richmond or even watched them on the television would have been left with no doubt of the support the riders and racing had from the fans. People lined the streets, particularly the climbs, and provided a party like atmosphere to proceedings. The course also gave us some thrilling racing throughout the week.
Qatar 2016 will have a lot to live up to. Due to the extreme heat that defines the region, the Worlds will be held slightly later, in the second week of October.
Going on the nature of the country’s profile, we can expect a pretty flat course that will lend its self to the power men and women in the time trial and the sprinters in the road race. As we’ve seen in the Tour of Qatar, it doesn’t mean that it will be a simple, straightforward affair. Cross winds will likely be a big factor in all of the events and could cause some interesting conundrums when it comes to the time trials.
As for the fans, they’re not exactly out in force at the Tour of Qatar but let’s hope that they can step up their game for the World Championships. (SOS)