American Ben King is looking forward to the cycling world coming to his backyard in September of 2015 when Richmond will host the UCI Road World Championships. King lives about one hour away, near Charlottesville, Virginia.
"I think my teammates get sick of hearing me talk all year about how great Virginia is, and so it's pretty exciting for me to have them come here so I can show off my home state," said the 25-year-old King. "I hope they'll have a chance to stay a bit longer and also get to see the mountains."
King was born in Richmond and still often visits the area for training. "Richmond is a cool city. I've got family and friends that live on the course. They're excited to be out there."
"What I do is hard to describe to people who've never seen it, so it's special to have people who have been supporting me since I was a junior be able to be out there and share this event with me, assuming I'm there in Richmond if all goes according to plan."
King, who races for Garmin-Sharp and will ride in 2015 for the team being formed by the merger of Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale, is hoping to be selected to represent the US in the elite men's road race. He talked about the course.
"It's going to be interesting. The whole thing is in the city, and I think they've repaved a lot of the roads, so hopefully the surface will be good," he said. "The finish will be interesting. Obviously, Libby Hill will be an element where someone can try something early on."
Heading into Libby Hill there are some bottlenecks on the course where there could be crashes or attacks. Should one or several riders get away, King thinks it's possible they could stay away.
"Whether it would come back together for the finish is up in the air," said King. "The climbs are close enough to the finish and there is no descent after the last climb. Someone could try an early move and would have a chance to stay away if they had the engine for it."
"However, I think if it comes back together after the last hill, it will be a group sprint. You never know how it's going to be after 260km. It's such a long race. There are only a few Classics that guys are racing that long every year."
King is not underestimating the wild card factor at Worlds. He pointed out that team dynamics can play a big role. Smaller teams may take bigger risks - move that might otherwise not be so predictable.
"You have other countries with less riders who will try suicide moves which can be hard even for the most organized teams to control," said King. "It's the Worlds after all. Anything can happen. No one really knows what to expect - it's a race."
King is optimistic that the US team could do well - especially with the extra riders it will have as the host nation.
"Having more riders will play into our hands. The US team has a cohesive group of guys who like each other and get along off the bike. I think a team that's organized, cohesive and functional will change the strategy of the race. We saw that in Copenhagen at the Worlds when the British riders rallied around Mark Cavendish and controlled the race from start to finish."
"It'd also be cool if we had someone in the break. I'd like it to be me with the race being so close to home."
King says the team's strategy will ultimately depend on who is on the team. "Before his accident this year, Taylor Phinney was one of the favorites. He's good at the Classics and can do long, hard races. We'll see how he recover. He could be our guy."
"Alex [Howes] has a quick finish and keeps improving from year to year. He had a good finish this year at Worlds. This course could suit him, but we might have to try something outside the box."
"It may fall into the hands of some of us to soften the field a bit. If we don't have a guy who can win in a sprint finish, we'll have to try some long bombs, some hail Marys to get out in front with a group from which we could win."
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