What: USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championships
Where: Volkswagen plant, 8001 Volkswagen Dr.
8:30 a.m. -- Handcycling time trial
11 a.m. -- Women's time trial
2 p.m. -- Men's time trial
It's time to race.
After more than a year of anticipation, the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial Championships make their debut in Chattanooga today with the men's and women's time trial competitions set to take place at the Volkswagen plant.
Competitors and fans have been filtering into the city during the past 48 hours to get settled and take a look at the routes. More than 150 of the nation's best cyclists will compete for the honor of wearing the Stars and Stripes jersey as the national champ for the next year in races around the world.
For the past seven years U.S. pro nationals were held in Greenville, S.C., and USA Cycling president and CEO Steve Johnson said preparations in Chattanooga over the past year have gone well.
"It's been wonderful moving the event to a new city and a new venue," he said Friday at the kickoff news conference at Volkswagen. "It's always a challenge trying to get a handle on the courses and make decisions on specifics of the courses, but we've had great support from the city.
"It's obviously great to have one of our own sponsors as part of this event, and to have the time trial at the Volkswagen plant is phenomenal."
Eight competitors -- including two handcycling participants and U.S. military veterans also competing this weekend -- were at Friday's news conference to discuss the racing and the new host city for the national championships.
"You're always wondering what's going to happen when [the race] moves to a new city," said UnitedHealthcare rider Keil Reijnen. "But immediately as soon as we got here, everything's clicked so far. This morning was a great ride -- everyone was friendly and cars were honking. We went to look at the Tennessee River, and that was beautiful. Then we rode up Lookout Mountain to see the views from there.
"I just keep checking everything out. It's been really great."
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke welcomed USA Cycling and the athletes and said the city is ready to be the host for at least the next three years.
"We've billed ourselves as a city on the outdoors, quality-of-life experience, looking at the mountains and rivers and the great natural assets we have," he said. "We appreciate the fact that this event is here and that you can play a role in showing people what Chattanooga really is."
New to the U.S. pro championships for 2013 is the addition of the women's championships at the same venue with equal prize money to the men. Women's competitors Evelyn Stevens and Megan Guarnier clearly were thrilled to be racing on one of the sport's biggest stages this weekend.
"I just want to say thank you to the sponsors, USA Cycling and Volkswagen, for including the women in this event," said Stevens, a former U.S. time trial champion and member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. "I think America is leading the way for women's cycling, and I think this event is going to showcase how exciting we race and the talent we have.
"I'm thrilled to be in Chattanooga."
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com or 423-757-6478. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jftanner.