Ironman new face of city's competitions

Ironman new face of city's competitions

March 28th, 2014 by Jim Tanner in Fyi2014

A crew rows past the Hunter Museum during the Head of the Hooch rowing regatta.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Racers speed through an "s-turn" on McCallie Avenue during the 2013 Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Men's Road Race National Championships.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Last summer's announcement of the Ironman triathlon coming to the Scenic City for a five-year commitment is just the latest in a growing number of world class-level endurance and outdoor competitions.

The debut Chattanooga Ironman will be held Sept. 28, and competitors will battle over a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle section followed by a full-marathon 26.2-mile run. The top finishers will be competing for 50 spots in the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and the race features a $25,000 prize purse, according to the event's website.

Officials with the Chattanooga Sports Committee estimate that the Chattanooga Ironman will bring an estimated $40 million in revenue to the city over the next five years.

When registration opened online last September, the race's 2,500 spots sold out in minutes despite some technical problems with the event's web registration, and the competitors as well as friends and families are expected to spend several days in Chattanooga prior to race day.

Ironman is just the latest in big-ticket outdoor competitions that now call Chattanooga home. Last Memorial Day weekend, the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial Championships made their first of a three-year run in the Scenic City. The US Pro Championships brought some of the best American men and women pro cyclists to Chattanooga to compete for the honor of wearing the Stars and Stripes jersey as the national champion in the time trial and road race cycling disciplines.

The time trial competition was held at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, and the road race was held on a circuit that took riders through downtown Chattanooga, along the North Shore, into St. Elmo and up Lookout Mountain.

Chattanooga police estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 spectators lined the road race route to see Freddy Rodriguez and Jade Wilcoxson win the men's and women's road race championships on Memorial Day. USA Cycling and local organizers began planning last fall for the 2014 racing, with plans to make the event even bigger and more exciting for the athletes and spectators.

The Head of the Hooch rowing regatta is also a big draw for many of the top rowing teams, with hundreds of boats attracting fans to the racing on the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. The Head of the Hooch generates an estimated $4 million in economic impact each year.

Rock climbing in Chattanooga is becoming more widely known nationally, with several climbing gyms introducing the sport to novices and several natural climbing areas throughout the tri-state area.

The area's terrain attracts elite climbers each year to compete each September at the Stone Fort Bouldering competition near Soddy-Daisy. The Stone Fort competition is one of three events in the Triple Crown Bouldering Series, a highly regarded competition sponsored by Marmot.

Running has long been popular in Chattanooga, and many top races are held each year. The Seven-Bridges Marathon started in 2012, and the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50 ultra-marathon has been bringing many top endurance athletes to the area for more than a decade.

The StumpJump 50 helped launch the Salomon Rock/Creek Trail Series of races, and in mid-May the latest edition to that race series will be the Thunder Rock 100, a grueling 100-mile point-to-point race on single-track and double-track trails through the Cherokee National Forest.

The addition of Ironman Chattanooga to the many top athletic competitions already in the area, makes the Scenic City even more attractive as an outdoor destination for elite athletes as well as casual runners, cyclists, climbers and boaters.

Contact Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478.