- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The organizing committee for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships unveiled the courses for the nine-day event on Tuesday, and the layouts not only will provide stern tests for the premier bicycle racers in the world, but also highlight the best of what Richmond offers to a worldwide television audience.

The announcement of the courses brought together Brian Cookson, president of the International Cycling Union; USA Cycling president and CEO Steve Johnson; Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones; and Gov. Terry McAuliffe to celebrate not only the race in September 2015, but its expected impact on the region.

The courses also will highlight the city’s history-rich Monument Avenue and the cobblestone streets in Shockoe Bottom, and take viewers through surrounding counties. The event begins Sept. 19, 2015.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Virginia as a great place to live, to work, to visit and to cycle,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, an avowed cyclist and co-chair of the board that won the right for Richmond to host, said via a video because he was not able to attend the unveiling. The city will be the first in the United States to host the world championship races since Colorado Springs in 1986.

The event’s economic impact on Richmond and the region will be an estimated $158 million, Jones said. The race also is expected to draw 450,000 spectators to the courses, and be viewed by more than 300 million people worldwide, giving the region a chance to show itself in its best light to the world.

The marquee event of the championships, the men’s road race, will take riders up and back along scenic Monument Avenue, dotted with statues to confederate heroes, and into Shockoe Bottom, where the sale of slaves once marked the streets now filled with tony restaurants and clubs in a bustling nightlife.

“The urban setting is very, very interesting,” said Brian Cookson, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), noting that the road race course twice will bring racers over cobblestone roads.

But the impact of hosting the event can also have far-reaching benefits for the region, he said.

“For nine days, Virginia’s capital will be in the limelight as images are broadcast worldwide to many millions of spectators” in Europe and elsewhere, where the championship is like the Super Bowl, he said.

Richmond, which will use the same courses when it hosts the Collegiate Road National in May 2014 as a trial run of its championship plan, has high expectations that everything will go smoothly, Jones said.

“We are just as excited as we can be,” he said, “and we know that we’ll be ready.”

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