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Rain could dramatically alter worlds road races

Forecasters are calling for a 60-percent chance of rain over the weekend, which could impact the elite road race championships.

Richmond’s technical, turn-heavy road race courses are already drawing comparisons to Flemish-style racing. Things could become very Belgian if forecasted showers douse this weekend’s world championship road races.

The 16km circuit presents a non-stop challenge, with a mix of corners, cobbles, and climbs that many are quick to compare to the Flemish classics.

Things could be even sloppier over the weekend, with forecasters calling for 60 percent chance of rain both Saturday and Sunday.

“It changes the equipment, it changes how you ride the cobbles, where you go into the cobbles, it changes the mentality,” said American sprinter Shelley Olds. “But I think the course itself is selective even without rain.”

Olds’ teammate Evelyn Stevens played down the significance of the weather, but agreed that fewer women would come to the finish line together should the skies open up. “If it rains, it rains for everyone,” she said. “It’s not the first time that we’ve seen rain in a big race; all the best teams and the best riders are prepared for that, it’s part of our job to be ready for any weather.”

Each lap features two-dozen corners, including two U-turns, meaning that the road races will be a fight for positioning, and a test of bike-handling skills.

“If there’s rain, it’s going to be an epic race for sure,” said American Lawson Craddock. “It’s not going to be easy even if it’s good weather; it’s always going to be a fight for position on the two cobbled climbs. It’s going to be a brutal race, a lot harder than people expect.”

Rain on top of the turn-heavy course could dramatically alter the outcome of the race. Crashes — and avoiding them — will go a long way toward deciding who will be arrive to the finish line in optimum position and condition to challenge for the rainbow jersey. Tire selection and pressure will also be a key factor if the weather turns sloppy.

“I think for our team, it’s good,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of women who are experienced in Europe and in the rain. We all have really good equipment. The main reason I don’t want it to rain is for the spectators.”

After excellent racing conditions to open the UCI Road Word Championships, the weather is expected to take a turn for the worse later this week. Forecasters are calling for a possibility of showers beginning Friday. On Saturday, for the elite women’s road race, there is a 60-percent chance of afternoon showers, with temperatures in the 70s, and 10 to 12mph winds out of the northeast.

On Sunday, for the elite men’s road race, there is also a 60-percent chance of showers, but earlier in the day, around early to mid-afternoon, meaning that if it does rain, roads could start to dry for decisive final laps later in the afternoon. Temperatures will be in the low 60s, with 10 to 12mph wind out of the east and northeast.

Caley Fretz contributed reporting from Richmond, Virginia.