When I awoke just after 5 a.m. on Saturday April 7th, it was quite cold (29 degrees) for this time of the year here in metro Richmond. To my surprise when I open the door to let the dogs out there was the an inch of snow on my back deck and it was still snowing. Snow? Yeah, snow!
To provide a bit of perspective, this past winter had been uneventful here in metro Richmond — hardly any snow at all, but lot’s of cold weather. To have snow this late into spring is unheard of, especially if you are concerned that a major bike race (U.S. Open Cycling Championships) would be starting in Colonial Williamsburg in just a few short hours. What a day this was going to be!
When I arrived in downtown Richmond at the Start/Finish line just after 9 a.m. all the snow had stop, the sun was out, but a bitter cold still griped the area with a North-Westerly wind blowing around 5-10 m.p.h. I guess Old Man Winter was having one last laugh. I knew right then, this morning was not going to be good to be in the saddle for the riders. Due to the weather conditions in the area, the race was delayed for 90 minutes. A bit after 10 a.m. both the women’s (Richmond) and men’s (Williamsburg) races started.
It felt like an eternity before the men arrived in Richmond just after 12 p.m, about 1 1/2 hours after the women had finished. By that time I was already a frozen ice cube for the last three hours, so I could just image how the riders felt as they braved the elements on their trek up Route 5 from Williamsburg to Richmond.
Once the racers started to make their eight laps around the 5.5 miles downtown circuit, I forgot all about the cold and started to enjoy the great race that this one was shaping up to be. Lucky for me, the course was laid out in such a way, it was easy for me to watch the racers on one street and be able to run down to the next block or two see them come through again.
Each lap created a bit more excitement as riders jockeyed for the lead position while attacking from the pelaton. By the fifth lap, I made my way up to the finish line on Broad Street between 8th and 9th streets in front of the Library of Virgina. Here, at the Finish Line the crowd was already in a frenzy that was being whipped up by each passing lap, the Jumbo Tron (live race coverage), and an over-the-top announcer encouraging the crowd to get louder and louder for each lap. The whole scene reminded me of a home college football game right before kick off. Wow, Richmond really came out to show their support for this even, no matter how many flat tires Mother Nature threw out.
As the final laps approached, the crowd started to see how the race was going to unfold. It was now down to Svein Tuft (Symetrics) and Pat McCarty (Tam Slipstream) as the potential winners. As they battled over the last few laps, it was anyone’s race. It wasn’t until the final assault on Libby Hill that Svein Tuft took the lead for good and rode off into victory as he crossed the line at 4.19.10. Pat McCarty came in a distant 2nd at .41 seconds behind Tuft with very little left in his tank. What a day of racing. The race started out in Williamsburg with 150+ riders in a snow storm and ended four hours later in bright frozen sun with 54 riders left. All I can say is WOW!
With the delay in the race and the winter weather, the crowd’s energy never wained nor did I hear a bit complaining about it. Everyone was there to see a championship race and boy we sure did get one! I would like to give my compliments to NBC, City of Richmond, State of Virginia, Sports Backers, and Red Five Sports Group for putting on such a world class event. Saturday brought back memories of days when Tour de Trump and Tour de DuPont rolled through this area. I just hope this one will not become the last, but an annual event. Now I wish I could get over the cold I caught, but it is a small price to pay to see a GREAT race.