Mark Cavendish stopped in Richmond, Virginia on his way home from the Tour of California to preview the course for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, and was given a full police escort to allow him closed roads to better evaluate the course.
The Etixx-QuickStep sprinter, fresh off his four stage wins in the Tour of California, can be seen in this video published on Sky Sports, being escorted by police motorcycles through the streets of downtown Richmond and riding up Libby Hill.
The 2011 World Champion showed he is on flying form in California, only conceding one sprint to Peter Sagan on an uphill finish in Avila Beach. Whether or not Richmond would suit him, he did not say.
"It's harder than Denmark," Cavendish told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "There’s a lot of 90 degree corners, which there wasn't so many [of] in Denmark [where] there was a lot of flow. There's going to be a lot of acceleration."
Although the steep, cobbled climb of Libby Hill is difficult, Cavendish found the climb less difficult than the Governor Street climb in the final kilometer.
"Those are not challenging, if I'm honest," he said of the Libby Hill cobbles. "The most challenging hill is the [climb on Governors Street]. The cobbles is more about positioning. We're professional bike riders. The juniors might find it hard there but [to] the professionals it's not really anything. It's not like riding on a flat road, obviously. Positioning is probably key, but in terms of technical difficulty, they're not that big a deal."
Paul Shanks, the Richmond 2015 communications director, told Cyclingnews that the city doesn't make a habit of closing the roads for one individual, but that the police needed training in escorting cyclists ahead of the event, and the timing just worked out with Cavendish.
"There was a window of opportunity that opened up - the city had officers needing to be trained, and there were extra resources between the night and day shifts. We don't necessarily do this [for riders]," Shanks said.
The city has been having regular visits from the various cycling federations, some giving advance notice and some showing up unannounced. "We've had 20 different federations visit already, and a lot more on the books," Shanks said.
"The city has really embraced the event. Cavendish visited a local bike shop [on Tuesday] and although we didn't publicize the ride, word got out and by the time he reached Libby Hill there were quite a few fans out."
Though the course might look too hilly for Cavendish on paper, Shanks said that he and British performance manager Rod Ellingworth left with "a positive outlook" on the course.
"He was very excited about it, he seems to be very pleased," Shanks said of Cavendish. "The combination of punchy climbs and technical nature of the race left him with a positive outlook."
The world championship men's road race takes place on Sunday, September 27, 2015 and is preceded by the trade team time trials, individual time trials and road races for junior men and women, U23 men, and elite men and women.