Here’s how to take it all in as a Big Bike Race™ spectator.
Original — September 20, 2015
So you want to watch the Big Bike Race™? Well, that’s good news for everyone involved, as the City and the Richmond 2015 folk have been encouraging us for months (nay, years!) to think of it as a fun festival where we maybe don’t have to go to work and certainly have the opportunity to enjoy its international-festival-like atmosphere.
We spoke with Paul Shanks, Richmond 2015’s Director of Communications & Digital Marketing, and Lee Kallman, its VP of Marketing & Business Development. They gave us the inside scoop on where to get the best views and have the most fun.
- Do not bring your dog. You’re not forbidden via law to bring it, but it could seriously cause trouble if it gets loose, freaks out from all the noise, or otherwise upsets the fragile balance of a bunch of riders in very close quarters.
- Do not bring selfie sticks.
- Bring noisemakers! Even an airhorn is totally fine, they promise.
- Consult navigate.richmond2015.com before heading out. It’s entirely possible to get your days mixed up and show up all excited to one spot just to end up being alone except for your sad cowbell.
Opening Ceremony at Brown’s Island, with the Richmond Symphony and Rayvon Owen
American Idol finalist Rayvon Owen will be performing with our own Richmond Symphony at Brown’s Island under the worthy baton of Steven Smith.
You’ll get the National Anthem, sure, but you’ll also get a parade of flags a la the Olympics–each flag representing one of the 70 countries participating in the race, and each flag made by hand by students from Richmond Public Schools. This is where you’ll need to start out-cheering the Norwegians and shout for Team USA as they’re led in by the Armstrong Cycling Corps.
This free event is open to all (please do reserve a ticket, though and please bring your own chair or blanket!).
Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday, September 18th from 6:30 – 8:00 PM on Brown’s Island. Gates open at 5:30 PM.
The official FanFest at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, located conveniently close to the official 5th and Broad Start/Finish line, will be the site for each day’s wrap-up awards ceremonies. It’ll also include live TV coverage (in case it’s hot, or you don’t feel like moving, or you get dizzy on hills or something) and opportunities for you to hobnob with actual riders.
But now for the important things about FanFest: cold beer, good food, and live music (in that order).
FanFest will be available to the public from September 20th – 27th. You may not bring any artificial noisemakers, selfie sticks, or coolers. Repeat: you may not!
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
A very picturesque spot to watch the start of the Team Time Trials on Sunday, September 20th. You can hang out amongst the flowers while watching the action on a Jumbotron. They’ll also have a ton of other things for you and your family to do, such as sculptures, exhibits and, rumor has it, something very big, involving many LEGO®.
“That’s a no-brainer,” says Kallman of the popular sunset-watching spot in Church Hill. Not only do you get a great view of the city, of Main Street, and of cyclists toiling up switchbacks on the hill itself, but it’s the site of one of the official “Fan Zone” beer gardens.
Admission to these epicenters of international cycling bro-downs is free! “We describe what the scene is going to be like as ‘straight out of Belgium,'” explains Kallman. “In California or Colorado, things are more serene and spread-out–cool and calm with big wide roads. We always say that this is going to be a lot more European.”
Kallman and Shanks both filled my head with visions of gregarious Scandinavians, slapping us on the back and sloshing around mugs of beer, talking to us about how great our city is and how they will crush our team under the wheels of their mighty sprinters. Give ’em a backslap in return, and say, “Oh yeah?? Well…what’s a sprinter?” Giant “Haw haw haws!” all around, and then a bunch of cowbells when the people doing the athletic feats ride by. Sounds pretty great.
On Sunday, September 20th, Kallman recommends hanging out at the bottom of Libby Hill, not the top, and watching the dudes work their way up Main Street.
On most days, Monroe Park will offer a great view for watchin’, chillin’, and just being close to the action. Plus, you can walk to a lot of places to get something to eat, which is always a plus.
Monument Avenue (including its medians)
Think Monument 10k, only with the potential to kill humans if you accidentally let your dog loose. Please do not even bother bringing your dog. And leave your selfie sticks at home, too, they’re becoming a problem for cycling events. No joke!
Capitol Lawn / Governor’s Street
When the cyclists are climbing up that hill next to the Capitol Building, you’ll have a chance to see them move really slowly–and really work at it. “WORK!” you may shout at them. “WORK! WE HAVE SCANDINAVIANS TO GOOD-NATUREDLY BEAT!”
Kallman promises some “really cool visuals” at Battlefield Park, which is “kind of a sneaky thing, because you look on a map and you don’t get a sense that the roads are so narrow and that you have to snake through.”
If you’re not stuck manning your group’s hibachi grill, Shanks suggests taking a walk against the race tide–that is, walk in the opposite direction of the course, alongside it. Then, every 25 minutes or so, the peloton (that’s that big clot of cyclists in every race, a strategic thing as well as a naturally occurring one) will go by you, and you can add your voice to the multitudes.
Keep an eye out for Belgians
Kallman attended last year’s UCI World Road Championships, and ran into a group of Belgians who, he says, had possibly consumed a good quantity of alcohol. “It was the last few minutes of the race, and we all had Richmond shirts or jackets on,” Kallman remembers. “They stopped us and asked, ‘Are you from Richmond?’ and said they’d seen our craft beer video. They were like, ‘So you think your beer is good? We’ll see.'”
Find a Belgian in a beer garden and take a photo of him or her enjoying a local craft beer. Look at it triumphantly forevermore.