About 1,000 cyclists from 75 countries are coming to Richmond in September to race in the UCI Road World Championships. And not all of them are coming from the well-funded, powerhouse countries that rent whole floors of area hotels for three weeks.
Lots of athletes must pay their own way. So in a first for the UCI’s championships, a group of Richmonders are getting together to offer free housing and transportation, creating a nonprofit called Richmond Athlete Hospitality.
The Latvian Cycling Federation was among the first to take the group up on its offer.
With a population of 2 million people, Latvia “has limited resources to support sports, especially at the international level,” says Arnie Zvejnieks of the Latvian Cycling Federation. “Latvia does not have many multinational companies with deep pockets to sponsor sports.”
Zvejnieks says his country is sending 10 riders along with a manager, coach, mechanic and a doctor. All will board with Richmond hosts.
Wayland Hundley, a Richmond lawyer who serves as chairman of the group, says the idea came from a talk by Kathryn Bertine, who races for the small island St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We asked what we could do to be a better host during the worlds and she told us about these athletes who have to pay their own way,” Hundley says.
The idea grew from there. Hundley says about 200 of the 1,000 athletes are responsible for covering their expenses during the race.
More than 100 volunteers have signed up, offering a total of 120 beds. The group is in the process of working with the various cycling federations that might want to take it up on the offer. Six have signed up.
Hundley says the organization, which has a board of 15, plans to outlive the bike race and offer hospitality for other local sporting events, such as the Richmond Marathon. And it’s still looking for more volunteers for the bike race. Information at RVAhosts.com.