Staff Photo by Nikole Dugger
Carl Weiss and his son, Andrew, react as a cyclist crosses the finish line on Riverfront Parkway during today's Tour de Georgia time trial.
By Nikole Dugger
Before the rain came this afternoon, downtown Chattanooga buzzed with excitement as Tour de Georgia cyclists pedaled their way from Chickamauga, Ga., to the time trial’s finish line on Riverfront Parkway.
Sport utility vehicles with bike racks were almost as prevalent as small children in floppy hats being pushed in strollers. Enthusiasts took advantage of the tents housing vendors on the riverfront’s closed streets.
“It’s great for the Southeast to have an event of this magnitude in cycling this close,” said Paul Hendrix as he waited for the first competitor to cross the finish line. “I would travel coast-to-coast to follow (the cyclists) if I could make it happen.”
Mr. Hendrix and Jim Smith took the day off from work and drove 3.5 hours from their central Alabama homes this morning to participate in the Scenic City’s festivities.
“I knew Chattanooga knew how to promote itself and had high expectations, but they’ve been exceeded,” said Mr. Hendrix, who was looking forward to seeing some of the sport’s elite cyclists.
Though the race route passed along her family’s subdivision, Jenny Whitener brought her two young children to Ross’s Landing for a quick snack before watching the cyclists pass.
“I thought it would be better to go to the finish line and celebrate with other people,” she said. “My son is really into cycling, and this is a good way for him to see the excitement of the sport.”
The event, which turned part of Chestnut Street into a BMX biking exhibition, coincided with studies at the Creative Discovery Museum for 9-year-old Andrew Weiss.
Watching the cyclists pass served as a nice field trip for the home schooled student and his father, Carl. They said they completed a 15.6-mile bike ride together on Tuesday.
“I like the riders and their equipment,” said the younger Weiss. “The wheels look so cool with the things that go around them that make them go faster.”
Ken Lefler stood alongside the orange barricades with a walkie-talkie in hand, but he is not a member of the Tour’s organization.
Having trained Jason McCartney, a member of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, for 16 years, Mr. Lefler used the device to check on his pupil’s status.
“He (Jason) races in Europe primarily, but they fly back for a few select races,” Mr.Lefler said. “This is definitely one of the premier events.”
Mr. Lefler and his wife LuAnne left their Ohio City, Ohio, home via motorcycle, met the Tour in Rome, Ga., and plan to follow along until its completion.
“They (the Tour de Georgia) put up enough prize money, and the course is tough enough to attract the Europeans,” said Mr. Lefler of the event’s uniqueness. “So, they have a level of competition that is not usual to have in the U.S.”
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