- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Organizers of the UCI Road World Championships in Virginia were celebrating Monday after pulling off the international bike races with no big problems and drawing more fans than they even expected.

Meanwhile, some businesses that said the event hurt their bottom line were looking forward to the city returning to normal.

Officials estimate that there were 645,000 spectators over the course of the 10-day event - roughly 200,000 more than they anticipated. That doesn’t refer to unique individuals, so if someone attended all 10 days, they were counted each time.

Tim Miller, chief operating officer of the organizing group Richmond 2015, said the beautiful weather was a big help and the excitement about the race being held in the U.S. for the first time in nearly 30 years was contagious.

“This is right up there with the Tour de France and the Olympics. It was a big deal and people wanted to see it,” Miller said Monday.

Joe Flynn, an avid cyclist who came from Dallas to watch the event, said that turnout was light earlier last week, but he was impressed by the size and energy of the crowds to watch the elite men race on Sunday.

Some of his friends who had been planning to come stayed away because of the threat of rain, but he wasn’t going to miss it.

“I told my wife that this is my Super Bowl,” he said. “This might be the one time it’s here in my lifetime,” he said.

The event was not without some hiccups.

Just before it began, a cyclist’s $10,000 bike was stolen from the Marriot Hotel in downtown Richmond, although it was later recovered by police. On the first day of racing, a man was arrested after driving erratically on part of the bike course and running into barricades.

Some businesses say they took a hit as many local residents opted to stay home because they were worried about road closures and traffic.

William McCormack, who owns two restaurants in the city - including one right on the bike course - estimates that the drop in business cost him as much as $18,000.

Jake Crocker, owner of F.W. Sullivan’s Fan Bar & Grille and two other restaurants, said revenues were down about 40 or 50 percent from where they usually are this time of year.

“I think it was great for Richmond and I loved the attention that we got, but at the same time for most of the small businesses … we’ve got some holes to dig out of. It’s going to take months of recovery,” Crocker said.

But for Poe’s Pub, the huge crowds this past weekend made up for a slower week, said owner Mike Britt. Poe’s is right next to Libby Hill Park, where thousands of fans came out to see the elite racers on Saturday and Sunday.

“We got to meet a lot of interesting people,” Britt said. “I have new friends in Belgium.”


Follow Alanna Durkin on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

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