Charting a healthy course for bikers, spectators

The wheels are racing in Robin Manke’s mind, making sleep difficult. With 1,000 cyclists headed to Richmond next week for the UCI Road World Championships, Manke, director of emergency management and telecommunications at VCU Health, is charged with coordinating everything from first-aid tents to patient transport to medical provisions.

“I wake up drawing incident command structures in my mind,” she says. “But I feel very comfortable. I think we have it.”

Those complicated logistics are designed to ensure that racers and an estimated 450,000 spectators have immediate access to medical treatment. The matrix includes a mass casualty plan and traffic flow diagrams that designate the quickest routes to the medical center. It addresses parking issues and the feeding of health care workers. No area of operations is untouched.

Robin Manke speaks at the May 2015 Rao R. Ivatury Trauma Symposium.

The medical team was lucky to have had a dress rehearsal in May 2014: the CapTech USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championship. The dry run featured 400 athletes, about 50 of whom were treated for various bumps and bruises. The event convinced the staff to downgrade their catastrophic thinking for the Worlds and focus more on road rash and shoulder separations. It also pinpointed where services might be needed most along the route — high-crash areas such as the Libby Hill cobblestone climb.

“It showed us how important little things are, things you don’t really think about,” Manke says.

About 167 staff members from VCU Health, the exclusive medical sponsor for the event, will be working in tents, fan zones, congested spectator areas, anti-doping sites and vehicles that ride alongside the bikers at a brisk 50-mph clip. There also will be medical staff at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and at the starting lines at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Kings Dominion and the University of Richmond.

The exposure will be invaluable for VCU Health. The experience should be enjoyable for the staff.

“I’m encouraging people to go out on their lunch break and watch,” Manke says. “People will get to see it who don’t even know what a peloton is.”

Want to learn more about VCU’s involvement in the bike race? Watch to see how the university geared up to welcome the world.