With the UCI Road World Championships just days away, Tim Miller, chief operating officer of Richmond 2015, is putting the last touches on what residents can only hope will be a logistical masterpiece. Four years of planning have led to this moment, and Miller and his board of directors have worked to make sure that everything’s been covered, as wide-ranging as traffic, safety and engaging spectators. Miller brought his expertise as a former elite amateur cyclist to the planning table as well.
Style: What has been your biggest challenge in planning the bike race? Getting all of the strategic partners and businesses working in concert together, and making sure that communication is flowing. We have people with a tremendous amount of experience putting on a cycling event. The other piece that was unique for a lot of us is that this event is technically owned by UCI [Union Cycliste International]. … We have to follow guidelines set by the UCI. Everything takes a little bit longer because you have to get approval. Anything you do is scrutinized. There are any number of site visits.
How have you worked with the Richmond Police Department during the planning to reduce the impact of the race on traffic, and to make sure everything returns to normal as quickly as possible? We have worked with various police departments for four years. … Some of [the Richmond Police Department] has become embedded with our staff. We have gone to enormous lengths to minimize that impact. Sure, there will be road closures, but we have gone to great lengths to make sure everything functions. People are still going to be able to get to work downtown. To people out there who say it’s going to be a nightmare, it’s not.
How have you worked to ensure that the race isn’t a nightmare for commuters? We designed the race schedule around where the morning rush hour ends and the evening rush hour begins. If you work downtown, we advise you to try to get to work early. … We have also created a comprehensive navigation website that is part of our Richmond 2015 website.
Have you worked out any emergency response plans for racers, spectators and others? The Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center is our official medical partner. They are the medical team, they provide medical services to the cyclists and event attendees. They will set up temporary facilities while maintaining operations at their hospital downtown. The race itself will never prevent first responders from responding to an emergency.
Did you ever work with restaurant owners and other business owners in the community to ensure that they could still receive shipments and other supplies during the race? Oh God yes, we conducted over 200 community meetings, ranging from church groups to civic groups and community groups. We had a number of meetings with restaurant owners and business owners, and talked to them about how to prepare and plan and take advantage of the event, and how to plan for stock and inventory.
What is another big challenge you’ve faced in planning this race? Trying to work with the [UCI] governing body to produce an event that makes sense in America. In Europe, it’s just a bike race. To be a success here, we need it to be more than just a bike race. It has to be an international festival.
What are some ways that the race has been tailored to an American audience, to get them on the bandwagon and excited? We will have public beer gardens throughout the route. We have created what we called the [Richmond2015 FanFest] that will take place in the convention center. That is where all the daily awards will take place. … Historically, the award ceremonies haven’t been accessible to the public. We worked hard to make sure the public could take this in. … When the winner is putting on the iconic rainbow jersey, we want to be sure that the people of this area get to see that.
What went into choosing the routes? That is where my experience and time as an athlete came into play. We kind of looked at a couple of comparisons from a competition standpoint and from a tourist standpoint. … It’s one of the rare sports that when televised, it becomes a picture post card of the region.
Originally published in Style Weekly on 15 September 2015