With highs in the mid- to low-80s this weekend, Chattanooga's River Gorge Omnium will have ideal weather conditions for bicycle racers coming to town from across the country.
"We are thrilled about the weather," said Melanie Singer, a second-year racer and a volunteer organizer for the omnium. "It makes it much more enjoyable and it's a lot easier to spectate when it's not 90 degrees."
Singer is one of the women on the Chattanooga Taco Mamacita women's team who will be participating in all three races — time trial, criterium and road race — as well as a stationary time trial challenge on Friday.
"The team is the most important thing to me," she said. "I have these best friends who are as into bikes as I am, and they are incredibly supportive."
Today: HerTT - 6 p.m. at Warehouse Row
Saturday, Aug. 26: Criterium - noon-9 p.m. at 1201 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Singer, who is also a mother, said it's more than just racing for her and her teammates.
"It makes us better moms when you set goals and your kids see that and they know that you have your thing and they're cheering for you, too," she said.
The omnium begins today at 6 p.m. with the HerTT challenge at Warehouse Row downtown.
HerTT is the women's time trial in which women ride a bike that is on a stage in a stationary position and compete on a digital course, said Scott Morris, director of the race.
"It's a fun thing we do as the racers are picking up their event packets," Morris said.
Singer said she participated in the HerTT last year because it was an opportunity to do something she had never done.
"It was the hardest 5 minutes I have ever raced in my life," she said, adding that she still had a lot of fun. "You're watching yourself like in a video game and you see your little bike and how fast you're going compared to everybody else and everyone is cheering."
Ali Whittier, another racer for the Taco Mamacita team, said this will be her first time participating in the HerTT. She said it'll be challenging because she's scheduled to race against the women in the pro category, but "it's really fun and a great way to stay in shape and get involved in the community."
"I have a really animated face, so I imagine there will be some wonderful photos and video of me suffering," she said laughing. "I'm really nervous for it, but at the same time I've been an athlete and a dancer my whole life, so I'm excited."
This evening's HerTT and the criterium race beginning Saturday afternoon, also downtown, are the most spectator-friendly events, Morris said.
For the criterium, riders race laps around a three-block stretch between M.L. King Boulevard and West Twelfth Street on Market and Broad streets.
"As the day goes on, the races get bigger and faster," Morris said, referring to the increase in experience categories, from junior to pro.
Morris said that stretch of road is the only section along which streets will be closed, and organizers try to minimize impact on traffic in other locations.
"We try to be friendly to traffic," he said. "I mean, people may get delayed a little bit, but we try not to shut down big sections of road."
Morris said he's expecting more than 600 cyclists from 25 states participating in the races.
"It says a lot for how much Chattanooga has done to support cycling and build an outdoor community that people are willing to spend their money, pack up their family and come down here to ride bicycles with us," he said.
Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.