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VCU physician, a die-hard cycling fan, subs as race starter for the Worlds

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VCU's Lisa Brath, M.D., serves as a starter during the men’s under-23 individual time trial race Monday. Photo by Eric Futterman.

Lisa Brath, M.D., received what seemed like a random phone call at about 10:45 a.m. on Monday, but the call proved to be tailor-made just for her.

The caller was Alexa Warner, associate director of marketing strategy for Virginia Commonwealth University Health, and she wanted to know what Brath was doing that morning. She had an opportunity for Brath related to the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, which would soon be starting its men’s under-23 individual time trial race.

“She says, ‘You want to come drop the flag before the race?’” said Brath, a VCU physician. “I said, ‘Really? Are you kidding? Yes!’”

And so, just 45 minutes later, as cyclist Sean MacKinnon of Canada waited poised on a raised partition on 3rd Street, Brath waved the white, UCI-labeled flag to signal the start of the men’s under-23 world championship race.

Brath, who attended this year’s Tour de France in July, is a cycling enthusiast and was visibly giddy about the opportunity to serve as the race starter.

To be able to see the same professionals I saw in France right here in Richmond is amazing.

“To be able to see the same professionals I saw in France right here in Richmond is amazing,” she said. “I have watched every stage of the Tour de France for I don’t know how many years. And this year I attended the event. Having this event in Richmond, I knew what a big deal it was.”

Lisa Brath, M.D., at the starting gate during the men’s under-23 world championship race.
Lisa Brath, M.D., at the starting gate during the men’s under-23 world championship race.

Brath, who serves as interim director and chair of the VCU Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division and medical director for the Unique Pathogens Unit, has been at VCU since 1988. When Warner received a call from Richmond 2015 officials that the original race starter had canceled, she remembered Brath being part of VCU’s cycling club and thought of her as the ideal replacement. At the time, Brath was working in the VCU Health medical tent on Broad Street between 3rd and 4th streets. VCU Health is the 2015 Worlds’ exclusive medical sponsor.

“I knew this would be something that would really get her going. I know she is a huge cyclist enthusiast and rides all over the state of Virginia,” Warner said.  “Dr. Brath is usually very poised and calm, but she said, ‘Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding me!’”

After completing her race duties, Brath seemed to begin regaining her calm. As she walked away from the start line toward the throng of spectators, she said softly, as she still clutched the UCI start flag, “That was really cool.”

 

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