World cycling championship races through Richmond, VCU will close for a week

Kris Mason
Staff Writer

The UCI Road World Cycling Championships courses will run through campus next fall and VCU will cancel classes the week of the event. The races will be nationally televised. Photo by Julianne Tripp.

VCU will not hold classes the week of Sept. 19-27, 2015, to accommodate Richmond hosting the UCI Road World Cycling Championships next fall.

The race courses will run directly through the Monroe Park Campus. The men’s elite individual time trial will take place on Broad Street, and the team trial circuit and the Road circuit course will cross through campus on Franklin Streets and Main Streets.

To compensate for the week off from classes in September, the fall reading days VCU normally schedules for Oct. 16-17 will be held during the week of the race.

The Richmond race is the first time the championships have been held in the United States since 1986 when they took place in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In addition, fall semester classes will begin on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, one day earlier than previously scheduled. The remainder of the fall 2015 semester will not be affected.

John Wiencek, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs​, was involved in the decision-making process. After thorough analysis, Wiencek concluded there would have to be drastic changes in the academic calendar due to the race.

“Consulting with our safety teams, food service, student services and the wide host of units that staff VCU’s educational enterprise, we quickly realized that the race would isolate the campus from vehicle traffic and prevent us from functioning in an effective manner that would support normal classes,” Wiencek said.

Wiencek then asked the academic calendar committee that includes student representation to propose not scheduling classes while the race was happening. He acknowledged that many factors influenced the decision to postpone classes next fall.

“Student safety, the ability to be effective in delivering student services and classes, access to campus, and faculty and staff safety were just a few of the many factors discussed in arriving at this decision,” Wiencek said.

Health Sciences schools will formulate their own schedule and students will have to check with their individual program contact regarding schedule alterations due to the races. These schools include allied health, dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy.

VCU established a planning committee chaired by VCU police chief John Venuti this summer. The group continued to meet into the fall 2014 semester to assess the impact of the May 2014 Collegiate Road National Championship in Richmond and to discuss how to best handle the next event. In May 2014 VCU altered its final exam schedule to avoid conflicts with the race.

Despite the large accommodations made for the nine-day biking event, there are also many benefits to VCU and Richmond as a whole.

Paul Shanks, director of communications and digital marketing for Richmond 2015, Inc., viewed the cycling Championship as a tremendous opportunity for VCU and Richmond due to its historical significance.

“VCU was a no-brainer. We recognize VCU is part of Richmond’s unique identity and focusing on it and displaying that in that way is not only good for the school but also good for the entire community,” Shanks said.

The nine-day cycling competition will air on Universal Sports, NBC, NBCSN and CNBC. There will also be live streaming available on the Richmond 2015 app, which is scheduled to be launched next year. The final day of the race will be broadcast live on NBC, meaning Richmond will be in the national spotlight on basic cable.

Shanks said the committee took a long time to decide what areas of Richmond they wanted to highlight but VCU was always intended to be a part of the course.

“We will be bringing to Richmond what will be the largest sporting event the city has ever seen and one of the only world championships in the globe that will be on U.S. soil in the foreseeable future,” Shanks said.

Shanks said the course was designed based on three primary criteria. The first was to create a course that caused the least amount of disruption for the city. The second was to create a technical and challenging course worthy of the cycling Championship. The final element was deciding what parts of Richmond they wanted to display to the entire world.

While the exposure will potentially benefit the university, VCU will not directly receive any monetary gain from the race.

Shanks said the region will see an economic boost due to the increase in spending at local hotels, bars, restaurants and shopping malls, however. Richmond will also see potential improvements in infrastructure on roads where the race runs, as well as overall beautification projects.

“If you think of it as a visual postcard, nine days of international broadcast and the hundreds of thousands of folks tuning in, looking and seeing the images of VCU and Richmond and all the city and the area has to offer, you can’t put a pricetag on that. That’s fantastic value,” Shanks said.

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