Businesses brace for UCI’s anticipated 450,000 spectators

Alchemy Coffee, next to The Depot at VCU, is still preparing for the bike race, but they’re expecting a decline in business. PHOTO BY Anastasia garvin

Sophia Belletti
Staff Writer

Alchemy Coffee, next to The Depot at VCU, is still preparing for the bike race, but they’re expecting a decline in business. PHOTO BY Anastasia garvin
Alchemy Coffee, next to The Depot at VCU, is still preparing for the bike race, but they’re expecting a decline in business. Photo by Anastasia Garvin

With the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Road World Championships only 19 days away, Richmond’s local businesses are taking caution and making preparations for the quickly approaching event.

From September 19-27, the city will host 1,000 cyclists from 75 different countries, and is anticipating more than 450,000 on-site spectators — doubling Richmond’s population for those nine days.

The same cyclists who race in the Tour de France will compete in the UCI Road World Championships. Richmond landed the position as host in September 2011 through a bidding process, similar to the one used to determine the location of the olympics.

Alchemy Coffee owner Eric Spivack expects a possible decline in business at his shop. With road closures, Spivack doesn’t see the race increasing business for his cafe on Broad Street near campus.

“We originally expected it to be busier than usual because Monroe Park was a ‘fan zone,’” Spivack said. “But now they took that away, I expect the same, maybe a little less. People might be a little intimidated to come out where we are.”

The VCU Medical Center has been preparing for the massive influx of human traffic since 2013, two years after Richmond was named host of the UCI Road World Championship. VCU Health was named the exclusive medical sponsor for the event, making it the only medical facility that will provide care to the athletes on the course, during the event, and after hours.

“We have worked collaboratively with the city to make sure the streets and the roads are taken care of,” said Robin Manke, manager of emergency management and telecommunications at VCU Health. “Most of the athletes aren’t going to want to seek treatment; they’re going to want to ride the last weekend because that’s their career, that’s what they’re here to do. As much as we can, we will assist them with their aches and pains.”

Manke said a tent will be deployed at 5th and Broad that will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. She added that one of the biggest difficulties in planning for the number of tourists is also making sure regular patients and Richmond residents still have access to the care they need.

“It’s a twofold mission to take on this race,” Manke said. “VCU Medical Center is one of biggest infrastructures in downtown Richmond. We have to continue the practice we do at the main facility in addition to out in the field. We’ve done lots of planning with our partners and patients so that they know how to get to us and ambulances know how to get here.”

The VCU Medical Center is the only level-one trauma center in central Virginia. Manke said protecting critical infrastructure with 450,000 people enables them to assure patients and visitors, as well as take extra measures to ensure athletes and spectators are being taken care of.

For instance, Manke said doctors are receiving additional training in fields they don’t treat on a regular basis, such as how to treat road rash, and reviewing their skills to leave no room for error.

“We did some simulation last week on that,” Manke said. “We actually had our medical staff go through and see if they knew what the protocol was and see if they knew how to help the athletes get back on the course as soon as possible.”

The Richmond Marriott is one of the few hotels at the finish line of the race. The hotel will have VIP areas for sale to watch cyclists as they finish the race, along with beverages and food available. Rand Goodman, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Richmond Marriott, believes the hotel is well equipped and informed to take on the chaos.

“The Richmond Police Department has been fantastic,” Goodman said. “ We have met with them several times so we have a complete understanding of road closures that we can in turn communicate well in advance to our customers and associates.

“In addition, preparing for a large influx of tourists is what we do every day. The biggest difference with this group is the international guests, and we have made sure we have translators, who are on our team, on stand by.”

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