What's Cool In Road Cycling

Photog’s View Reload: WORLDS’15 Richmond Road Championships

Photog’s View Reload: As the 2018 Elite Men’s and Women’s World championship road races are about to kick off this weekend, we look back at the 2015 Worlds with photographer Darrell Parks. Darrell captured the best and unique images from Richmond, climaxing with Peter Sagan’s first of three-in-a-row rainbow wins.

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Team 2016 was one of the early women’s teams to hit the course during the Team Time Trials. A fifth place showing on the day was pretty good for the American based team. The clean background and contrasting colors really make this image pop.

I had big expectations for the venue and the caliber of racing I was likely to experience, and Richmond did not disappoint! The entire week of racing turned out to be nothing short of phenomenal and all just a short trip from home. Here’s a recap of my escapades throughout the week and a few more of my favorite images and the stories behind them.

My World Championship coverage started with the Elite Men and Women’s Team Time Trial on Sunday. I made the 90 minute drive to Richmond from my home in Northern Virginia. It was hard to believe I was really on my way to the UCI World Championships, right here in the good old USA, let alone so close to home. I initially had some reservations about the venue being located in Richmond, but they were all squashed once I set foot on the course. This was an awesome route, and very conducive to some fast racing, with many interesting features to photograph along the way.

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Team Jelly Belly takes on the Team Time Trial with Fast Freddie Rodriguez on the front. It would be his last race before retirement after 20 years in the pro peloton.

I found myself drawn to Dock Street, part of the course that runs along the James River, in the section of town known as Shockoe Bottom. One of the cool features is the Peninsula Subdivision Trestle, an enormous, elevated train track that runs between the road and the canal. The giant steel structure makes a great backdrop for the race as the light filters through all the different posts. As an added bonus for cyclists, there is also a bike path that follows the canal and eventually runs along the river itself.

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Team Trek Factory Racing emerges from the darkness of the old elevated warehouse building on Wharf Street.

Further down the road, Dock Street turns into Wharf Street where an old, elevated, building straddles the road. The riders duck into the darkness under the building and emerge from the other side. The building is huge and seems to have been plopped down in the middle of nowhere. It stands alone, isolated from any other nearby structures. “City of Richmond Intermediate Terminal Warehouse No. 3” is etched into one of the concrete support beams on the side of the buildings utilitarian exterior.

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“Can you take my picture?” Did you say something about free beer? Yes? Then of course I can!

After shooting the Trek Factory Racing Team, I hear a voice cry out from above. I look up to find a man standing on top of the building, yelling down at me to take his picture. I fulfill his request and then continue shooting the TTT. Later, back on the ground, he introduces himself and asks if I can send him the photo when I get a chance. I hand him one of my business cards and he offers me a beer, around the corner, where he’s promoting the opening of a new brewery. As much as I’d like to grab a cold beer, the big teams are now on course and I can’t find the time to break away and take him up on his offer. I finish shooting the TTT and grab the media shuttle back to the press room, then make the drive back home.

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USA rider Kristin Armstrong gutting it out on the Governor Street climb.

Tuesday morning I head back down to Richmond for the Women’s Individual Time Trial. After taking in the entire TTT course on Sunday, I decide to shoot the Women from the top of Governors Street. Here I can shoot them with a long lens as they begin the short, but punchy climb. Then I can shoot them up close as they pass me near the top. The women do 2 laps of the course, so I’ll get a second chance if things don’t turn out on the first lap. The other plus side of this spot is I get to shoot sitting down in one spot the entire race!

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Evelyn Stevens attacks out of the saddle on the lower slopes of Governor Street.

I make sure to capture Team USA rider Kristin Armstrong, as she’s one of the top time trial racers in the world. I get what I was hoping for, as she’s grimacing in pain from going deep into the red on the climb. Typically winning gold or at least getting on the podium, she could only muster fifth place on her home turf. Of course the race would not be complete without America’s darling, Evelyn Stevens. Everyone loves Evie, and she used the energy from the cheering crowd to push her to a solid sixth place finish. And then there’s the pure TT form of Alena Amialiusik on Team Belarus. She stayed in her aerodynamic tuck, the entire length of the climb, on her way to eighth place.

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This shot of Alena Amialiusik is all about shapes and color.

Wednesday was the day for the Elite Men’s Individual TT which was on an almost completely different course than the women’s. The men would ride on a mostly rural course that started at the King’s Dominion Amusement Park, some 20 miles north of the Richmond finish. I would only be able to shoot the riders from one location as the course did not go back on itself, or do any laps.

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It’s “Tongue’s out!” as USA rider, Lawson Craddock turns himself inside out during his TT Ride.

After shooting some of the early riders at the start I make the 25 minute drive back into Richmond. To shoot the last wave of riders, I settle on one of the corners just after the course enters the finishing circuit in Richmond. From here I can move around a bit and get a few different angles as the riders blast into town. I catch Team USA rider Lawson Craddock, at his limit with his tongue hanging out, and shoot him with a slow shutter pan.

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No one in the current peloton gets more aerodynamic than Australia’s Rohan Dennis.

I change my vantage point to a spot against the barriers, about 50 feet from the exit of the turn. Here I can shoot the riders with a long lens as they enter the turn and then get a head on shot as they exit the turn coming straight at me. Australian rider Rohan Dennis has been winning almost all Time Trial races he’s entered in this year. But, like most of the favorites, things don’t quite go his way in Richmond. A mechanical out on course has left him to settle for sixth place. I captured him as he sped by in his super tight tuck. Winner of the TT, Belarus rider Vasil Kiryienka, gave me the pain face I was hoping for as he accelerated out of the corner and right towards me.

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Vasil Kiryenka has the pain of winning a World Championship Time Trial written all over his face.

I drove back down to Richmond early Saturday morning to cover the Elite Men and Women’s Road Races taking place over the weekend. The forecast was for heavy rain both days, with predicted rainfall amounts at nearly 2 inches for Saturday alone! I put on every piece of rain gear I had and set out to shoot the Junior Men’s race already in progress. I took up residence near the cobbled entrance to Libby Hill Park and waited.

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The cobbles at the entrance to the Libby Hill Park climb were intense.

There was a light but steady rain coming down and the stones were very wet. The break turned onto the rocky climb and German rider Patrick Haller was really on the gas. As a matter of fact, he was on the gas a bit too much as his rear wheel began to lose traction. Before he knew it he was down, and having a hard time getting up again. These cobbles were going to wreak havoc on the race if it continues to rain as predicted!

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German rider Patrick Haller going hard on the wet cobbles of Libby Hill Park.

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Haller going a bit too hard on the wet cobbles.

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And down he goes…

After the Junior’s race I get ready to shoot the Elite Women’s Road Race. Fortunately the rains are tapering off and it’s drying out a bit. Remember that chap I took a picture of on the roof during the Team Time Trial? It turns out that he wasn’t just affiliated with any ordinary brewery. That was Chris Cochran, marketing guru and Community Relations Manager for the one and only Stone Brewing Co. Makers of one of my favorite IPA’s, Ruination! After sending him the photo, he invited me onto the roof to shoot a few laps of the race.

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My vantage point for the opening laps of the Elite Women’s Road Race. Thank you Chris!

It turns out Chris is also a huge cycling fan and was stoked to have the race in Richmond. The Stone Brewing Co. owns the elevated building with plans to turn it into a restaurant in the next couple of years. His love of cycling, and watching races like the Tour de France, gave him the idea to put a mural on the roof during the race. Sure enough, when the peloton came through, the helicopter was hovering over the rooftop, filming us and the mural on the roof, and getting exposure for the brewery to boot.

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Chris and his rooftop Mural tribute to Richmond with the gargoyle wing referencing the logo of the Stone Brewing Co.

I stayed on the roof and shot a couple of laps of the women’s race from each side. The view of the Richmond Skyline, the James River, and the race below were breathtaking to say the least. And of course I made time to have that beer with Chris before the race was over.

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The Elite Women’s Road Race with the Richmond skyline and the James River as a Backdrop.

I shot the remainder of the women’s race from Libby Hill Park, the 23rd Street Climb, and the top of Governors Street. This image of a Team USA rider, cresting the hill on 23rd street, gives you a slight idea of just how steep that climb really is. This is where the Elite Men’s Road Race would be won or lost.

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The climb up 23rd street is nothing less than extreme.

The predicted soggy weather for the Elite Mens road race was a bust. It was going to be a fairly dry, fast, and exciting day of racing. Team USA Rider Ben King was in the early breakaway and had his own fan club out in force on Libby Hill. I shot this image of Ben from yet another rooftop vista. This was from the roof of a house, on top of the hill, right next to Libby Hill Park.

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Ben King had his own fan club cheering him on in the early breakaway.

The day before, during the Elite Women’s Race, my friend and colleague, Marco Quezada, had a nice chat with the owner of the house, Ron. Ron allowed Marco and I access to his roof, and invited us back to shoot the Men’s race as well. The view from the rooftop was the only way to get the entire Libby Hill climb and all the fans in one shot. Thank you Marco and Ron for making this incredible view available!

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This incredible view was made possible by Marco and Ron!

Of course, Ron, being the super nice gentlemen he is, allowed a few others to gain access to his roof during the Men’s race as well…

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So much for the exclusive shot of Libby Hill!

I climb down off of the roof, thank Ron one last time, and head into the crowd in search of a different angle. I want something that screams “This could be a World Championship Race in Europe!” Something with huge crowds, riders on a steep climb, and flags. Yes, I need to find some flags. Ah yes, this will do nicely…

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Is this a race in the USA or somewhere in Europe?

After a couple more laps on Libby Hill, I’m once again drawn to Shockoe Bottom. I guess somewhere, deep down inside, I have an affection for trains. I really liked the PeloPic shot I have on the tracks, from the TTT, but I believe it could be better with a large peloton in place of the 5 riders on the TTT squad.

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Back on Shockoe Bottom, I return to the train tracks I photographed during the TTT. The cloudy day makes for a great black and white image.

The same goes for my TTT shot in front of the Peninsula Subdivision Trestle. This time though I shoot it from a slightly different angle. I usually like to capture the Peloton in full gas race mode, but they’re in no particular hurry at this time. In fact, the peloton is spread out across the entire road, practically sitting up. Fortunately, this time this arrangement works well and adds to the dynamic of the image.

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The Peloton stretched across the road with the Peninsula Subdivision Trestle in the background.

With only about 6 laps to go It’s time to head to the wicked 23rd Street climb. This hill has it all. Crowds, cobbles, and a short but steep incline. The climb may not be long, but with 150 miles in their legs, it will be a soul crusher. This is the ultimate launching pad for a fierce attack.

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Cobbles? Check! Screaming Fans? Check! Extremely steep? Check and double check! Team USA’s Taylor Phinney drives the late race break.

With just a few laps to go it’s starting to get really crowded here at the top of the climb. There’s almost too many photographers to get a clear shot down the hill and stay out of harms way when the group spills over the top of the climb. I grab this shot of Tom Boonen on the front and take a ride in the media van to the top of Governor Street for the last two laps

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Tom Boonen tests his legs on the 23rd Street climb.

One nice thing about shooting from the top of Governers Street is the big Jumbo-tron located just outside the barricades. You can watch the race unfold as you wait for it to come to you. USA rider Tylar Farrar has a dig with 2 laps to go but can only muster a few minutes off the front. Then on the final lap, it happens. Peter Sagan attacks on the 23rd street climb and gets a gap. The sound of the cheering crowd is deafening. Peter may not have won many races in 2015, but he’s by far the most popular rider in today’s peloton.

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Peter Sagan turns himself inside out as he’s mentally pushed up the final climb by the screaming fans.

I wait in the corner at the top of Governors Street with about 20 other photographers. They too, have decided to skip the finish to capture the action at the top of the climb. Finally, Sagan comes into view and he’s still all by himself. They still haven’t managed to catch him. His head is cocked to one side as he tries to muster every last ounce of power left in his body and push through the pain in his burning lungs and wasted legs. It’s a long false flat to the finish, but he manages to hold off the charging hordes. Peter Sagan is the new UCI World Champion!

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Peter Sagan – World Champion!

Please check out www.DarrellParks.com for more cool cycling images.

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