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By Ed Arzouian, Competition Coordinator, Hamilton 2003
Two of the most common questions we get at Hamilton 2003 are “why aren’t your tickets on sale?” and “when will they be?” The answer is, they are now and we still have more than six months to go. Now, let me explain why it took longer than you might expect and where the best places are to see the race.
Like most other busy downtown cores, Hamilton, Canada’s eighth largestcity with a population of over 500,000 people, doesn’t normally have grandstands for more than 10,000 lining its Main Street. What it does have is big, bustling city hall, a very beautiful and well-attend performing arts center, a growing art museum and lots of traffic. But we need seats and you cannot sell tickets until you have seats. The grandstands, pedestrian bridges spanning five full lanes of traffic, podium, cables and finishing arches, press gallery and VIP stand all had to be designed around existing buildings, streets, statues and trees, none of which could be moved or touched.
Those things in themselves are usually a big challenge, as any other race or event organizer and promoter can attest to. Add the Union Cycliste International (UCI) which owns and controls the World Road Championshipsand their very stringent requirements about the look and functioning ofthe races, and you have a very narrow, and sometimes complicated, lineto walk.
For instance, in any other event you could probably get away with makingyour press gallery to your own specs. Ours had to have enough room for150 tables with 450 chairs. All tables are required to have electricaloutlets. It all had to be covered to protect it from the elements. Furthermore,it has to sit right on the start finish line with the TV reportersbeing seated directly before the line, the radio and written press directlyafter the line. It could not go anywhere else.
The pedestrian bridge crossing Main Street at the Start Finish areahad to span five lanes of traffic and support a few tons of people. Itsaccess stairs could be straight on their northern section but due to amonument to the fallen soldiers of World War II sitting on City Hall groundssurrounded by trees the southern stairs had to be turned eastward but
they couldn’t run too far or they would interfere with the podium.
The placement of the finish line had to leave at least 300 metres forthe final sprint from the last corner on James Street.
Different city layout plans from different dates and different departmenthad differing information. Trees do not necessarily appear on buildingplans. Numerous field trips were required to get it all straightened out.It was tedious, complicated and expensive.
Somehow Optex Staging and Services Inc and Peri Formwork Systems Inc.,the two companies contracted to build all this stuff, got it done. Bothfirms had done Indy races and rock shows and the like but none had donea bike race like this because there has never been a race like this inCanada or the U.S. I was a kid in Montreal in 1974; it didn’t have anythinglike what you’ll see here in Hamilton. The Air Force Academy in Coloradoin ’86 didn’t have the big city bonuses but it didn’t have the problemthey entail either.
As for the seats and paying standing room tickets, here are a few thingsyou should know about them. Paying spots on course, whether at the startfinish, the climb or concession areas, will have access to a large screenTV monitors to watch the coverage by the host broadcaster, CBC, Canada’snational television network.
The two climbs on the course are, first, the Beckett Drive (also knownas Queen Street hill) about 2km from the start on the west end and the second, the Claremont Access at the eastern end. The two climbs are both difficult but very different.
Beckett Drive is a narrow winding road, sheltered in trees, which risesin three separate pitches. The Claremont Access is completely the opposite.It is a broad, straight, steady climb that will usually be into a strongheadwind. It ends about three kilometers from the finish line, just beforeriders make a U-turn (on a road section being built just for the event)and plunge down James Street to the finish.
The descent down James Street is closed to spectators. It was just too narrow, dangerous and fast to allow anybody on it. In many ways the course here resembles the one used at the ’74 World’s in Montreal. Both offer a total of about 15,000 feet of climbing, with two very similar, steep climbs per lap. Montreal’s 12.5km laps are nearly identical to Hamilton’s 12.4km and, as a result, both races are contested over the course of 21 laps for the Elite men.
Beckett Drive and the Claremont both have the potential to join the ranks of legendary climbs like the Mur de Grammont, Côte de la Redoute, the Poggio and Philly’s Manayunk Wall. The winner here will deserve to be remembered for a long time, just like Merckx in ’74. Personally, that’s why (with a few other reasons) I think Lance Armstrong won’t pass this event up. He will want to write his name on this course for history.
Standing room tickets on the Claremont are already available. The northernside of the Claremont has grassy bank that makes a natural viewing spot,bring chairs and it’s just like a grandstand. Probably around 30,000 peoplecan fit there.
From the top of the Claremont there are stairs leading down the “mountain”(or Niagara Escarpment) and to another pedestrian bridge on James at thebottom of the descent that will bring people back into the center of thecourse and allow them to make the 15-minute walk close to the finish line.All the space at the finish is reserved and limited, so if that’s whereyou want to be, you’d better buy your tickets soon.
Next week: Radio Tour, “Can you hear me now….?”