USA Pro Cycling event thrills Chattanooga bikers

USA Pro Cycling event thrills Chattanooga bikers

May 7th, 2012 by Jim Tanner in News

Bicyclists begin a 100-mile ride during the "3 State 3 Mountain Challenge" on Saturday near the First Tennessee Pavilion in Chattanooga. The route went through parts of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia and over Aetna Mountain, Sand Mountain and Lookout Mountain.

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Bicycle Club member Kevin Bartenfield was tired but happy Saturday afternoon outside Finley Stadium after completing the 100-mile route in the 3-State, 3-Mountain Challenge bicycle ride.

"It went OK for 100 miles," he said despite what he described as an "awful" climb up Lookout Mountain on Burkhalter Gap Road.

In addition to his satisfaction over his personal achievement, Bartenfield was excited about the recent decision to bring USA Pro Cycling Championships to Chattanooga for three years beginning in May 2013.

"It's fantastic; it's awesome. It really is," he said. "We've already got a great cycling community in Chattanooga, and this is just going to add to it."

On Thursday, USA Cycling announced a partnership with Volkswagen that will bring the top-level championship event to the area following a successful seven-year run in Greenville, S.C. The competition is expected to attract close to 200 participants and thousands of spectators for two days of racing over the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

Bartenfield said he thinks the local cycling community will help make the USA Pro Cycling Championships a success in Chattanooga.

"I think that they'll have anything that they need out of the bike community," he said. "Be it volunteer support or whatever. I think it will be a great thing."

For 3-State, 3-Mountain Challenge director Dawn Salyer, Saturday was a hectic but satisfying conclusion to months of work and preparation. She said that there had been a few mishaps and injuries during the day, but nothing out of the ordinary for a ride of this size. As the riders came across the finish line to the cheers of friends and other riders, Salyer was getting positive feedback from the approximately 2,000 riders who had come to take part in the 25th anniversary ride.

"It's been a good day," she said. "Riders love the new routes, and everyone talks about the road support that we offer and say it's unmatched. ... There's just a lot of happy folks here.

"It's a tough challenge, but once they're finished they realize what they've done. So it's been great."

Salyer said she feels the success of 3-State, 3-Mountain and other cycling events played a role in making Chattanooga attractive for USA Cycling officials.

"I think rides like ours and Chattanooga becoming such a destination for outdoor living is what helped bring U.S. Pro Cycling Championships to Chattanooga," she said. "It's just a win-win. It's a great venue, the city will embrace the event and I hope it will stay here for years to come."

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