For the college cycling community, this weekend's 2014 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Richmond are a culmination.
For the group helping to host the races while also organizing next year's UCI Road World Championships, the weekend also is a great trial run.
"It's a test event and there's going to be things that we're going to learn and tweaks that we're going to make based on how this goes," said Lee Kallman, spokesman for Richmond 2015, the organization that will host the world championships on the same routes over nine days in September 2015.
About 400 athletes will compete this weekend, with races Friday through Sunday. That's a sizeable field, but the world championships will be exponentially larger with about 1,000 athletes and organizers expecting 450,000 spectators to line the course over the nine days of racing.
Richmond 2015 won the right to bring the world championship to the United States for the first time since 1986 three years ago, and having a trial run was always part of the group's plan, Kallman said.
"There's going to be things that we've done that we're going to do differently in 2015 and that's kind of the whole point of it," he said, noting that part of one of routes has already been adjusted.
Two of the courses being used this weekend are the same as what will be used 16 months from now, and since they were laid out, organizers have worked to blanket businesses and homeowners most likely to be impacted by road closures and access with information. The trial run will help with that message, too.
"Inevitably, someone's going to wake up tomorrow morning and walk up their street and say, 'What's going on?' because there's just no way to reach everybody," Kallman said. "The good news is this is going to get on the radar of the entire community, which is exactly what we want as we prepare for 2015.
"It will get people thinking about how things will be come 2015," he said.
Even so, organizers and police know to be prepared for some unhappy residents along the routes, and those who commute to the city.
On Friday, for example, stretches of Broad Street and other roads on the course will be closed off at 8:30 a.m. to prepare for the 9 a.m. start of the races. Vehicles safely parked inside the closed-off area by then will essentially have to remain there until about 5:30 p.m.
"There are going to be some hiccups getting into town, especially tomorrow because it's a work day," Richmond police spokesman Gene Lepley said, noting that "so far, everyone's been in a pretty good humor."
City residents also are accustomed to giving up main thoroughfares for athletic events, Lepley said, because of the Richmond Marathon and Monument Ave. 10K, one off the nation's largest 10K races, which also close streets for long stretches.
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