River Gorge Omnium brings bike racing to the Chattanooga area this weekend

River Gorge Omnium brings bike racing to the Chattanooga area this weekend

August 21st, 2014 by Jim Tanner in Sportlocal

Racers compete in this file photo.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Despite a weather forecast that calls for temperatures in the mid-90s, bicycler racers from 15 states will be converging on Chattanooga this weekend to compete in the Village Volkswagen River Gorge Omnium.

The two-day event, which is entering its second decade as an annual event, is comprised of three events, beginning with the Goss Insurance Time Trial on Saturday morning on a four-mile course at Raccoon Mountain, and wrapping up Sunday with the Citizen's State Bank Road Race with 36- and 59-mile routes, both finishing with a brutal climb to the finish on top of Raccoon Mountain.

But the centerpiece of the event according to River Gorge Omnium PR director Jack Howland will be the Litespeed Criterium on the streets of downtown Chattanooga. After not holding a criterium last year, Howland said that its inclusion for the 2014 event should boost excitement for racers and spectators.

"Hopefully the reintroduction of the criterium will bring more racers in," he said. "Last year, we were unable to hold a criterium, so this year we will through the help of the mayor's office and Outdoor Chattanooga.

"The criterium this year is the result of a lot of people coming together to make sure that it happened. I think we've been able to use that as a selling point to potential racers who may not like to time trial or do a road race where you finish up a four-mile climb."

While the time trial is a Tennessee Bike Racing Association Division III event, the road race and criterium are both Division I events run under the auspices of USA Cycling. The competitors in the events will be competing for $16,000 in cash and prizes. Young up-and-coming riders from professional developmental squads will be competing as well as more than a few local racers.

The criterium course will be a 0.65 mile loop on Market and Broad streets and M.L. King Jr. Boulevard and 12th Street, with racing beginning at 12:30 p.m. and the last race schedule to start at 7:35 p.m.

Food and beverage vendors will be on site throughout the day to serve spectators who come out to watch riders zipping around the tight course in various categories for men and women.

"They're all beautiful races in their own right, but you get to see the racers more [in the criterium]," Howland said. "It's just a cool race to [watch] I think. It's like NASCAR on two wheels.

"I think the course shows off downtown Chattanooga. It's a great venue and a good course."

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