RICHMOND, Va. — Excited about the UCI Road World Championships so far? Here’s your chance to jump on your own bike and race down the same downtown course as the pros. Sports Backers, Richmond 2015 and Dominion are putting on the race “Conquer the Cobbles,” which allows amateur cyclists to participate in the UCI Road World Championships. More than 900 participants had already registered late last week and the organizers expect between 1000 and 1500 by the end of registration.
Online registration, which is $125, ends on Monday night.
Richmond cyclist Brian Gale, has been training and tracking his progress in anticipation of this race. He said this is a chance to experience the Belgium’s Cobbled Classics at home and test his own skills. According to Gale, the course is very demanding and those who have not prepared might not have a easy time.
“It is very challenging,” said Gale. “You are going over cobblestones, it’s very easy to crash on those. You need to set your bike up to have special tires, you want your handlebars set up a certain way. It takes some prework for you to be ready. I don’t think it’s just for casual person.”
Gale was surprised at the number of registered participants due to the nature of the course and the fact that it will be a night ride which adds to it’s difficulty.
Pete Woody, communication manager of Sport Backers, said the number of people currently signed-up falls in line with the company’s expectation and he believes that more will attend from out of town.
Ed Mekalian, director of the cycling advocacy group RVACycle, said he could not ride in the event due to a scheduling issue. He will be working as a volunteer at UCI Road World Championships, so he cannot attend both the ride and fulfill his obligation. If it were not for that, he might have ridden the course, he said.
But other cyclists are also very critical of “Conquer the Cobbles,” such as the Co-founder of Richmond’s Critical Mass, Alex Hattwick. He said that his group will be riding its own course. Critical Mass is a bicycle-based form of protest where riders take the streets in order to be in the face of car drivers.
“There are some companies out there that are doing some pretty horrible things to our environment,” said Hattwick. “I feel like that if we are taking money from a company as rich as Dominion, I am not sure why it still costs $115. I wouldn’t say I am protesting necessarily, but I am definitely choosing not to give them my money.”
Woody said registration fees are common with events like these. The money goes to closing up roads and other road support. He emphasized that the longer one waits the sign-up the higher the price will be. Up until Aug. 31, registration was $115. It will be $135 on the day of the race.
He also said no one has reached out to him to say why they won’t be attending. “We’re mainly hearing from the people who are excited, who want to do it,” Woody said.
Mekalian has concerns over whether or not staging a protest ride is the most productive way to get their message across. He said there should be unity within Richmond’s cycling community
“If I had concerns, or if I felt strongly enough that I wanted to stage a ride,” said Mekalian. “I would not — for the sake of unity of the cycle community in Richmond — I wouldn’t put it up against the Sports Backers event. I can’t say I agree with their methods, but I can certainly understand where they are coming from. I do get it.”
Online registration for “Conquer the Cobbles” ends on Monday night, but interested cyclists can still register at the event on Friday. For more information please visit the organizer’s website .
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the iPadJournos mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. This story was reported by the iPadJournos.