A challenging new cycling event aimed at attracting thousands of riders here will launch this fall in conjunction with Oktoberfest.
The Oct. 13 ride features full and half century (100- and 50-mile) options, and is being touted by event organizer Shannon Burke, owner of Velo View Bike Tours, as an affordable, scenic ride organized by locals. It's also an event Burke believes could fill the void left by the canceled 2018 3 State 3 Mountain ride.
"The Oktoberfest Chattanooga Challenge is my answer to the lack of a hometown ride," Burke said in an email to the Times Free Press. "Yes, we'll have the Hincapie Gran Fondo in May, which I'm sure will be great, but I felt that Chattanooga needed a century ride put on by locals at a price point that was accessible to a wider audience."
Both the century and half-century rides will feature a climb up Lookout Mountain via Ochs Highway, which will be closed during the event for safety purposes.
The climb boasts panoramic views of the Chattanooga Valley and a view of Rock City's Lover's Leap waterfall. One of the rest stops during the ride offers views from Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding.
Cyclists on the 50-mile ride then turn back toward Chattanooga, while those on the 100-mile ride snake through Georgia's Dade and Walker counties.
Century riders will make a second trip up Lookout Mountain, climbing the wooded Dougherty Gap Road with switchbacks and a steep finish before descending back to Finley Stadium for a post-ride party at Oktoberfest.
"We're happy to work together and promote the bike race which gives the community another great reason to visit our annual Chattanooga Oktoberfest," Oktoberfest marketing director Melissa Siragusa wrote via email.
Burke hopes to make the ride an annual event and expects a few hundred cyclists the first year.
"I want it to be the signature bike ride of Chattanooga, and I think we can grow it pretty quickly to where it would attract a couple thousand riders," he said. "Hopefully the closed-road climb up Ochs Highway will become an annual end-of-season event for the cycling community."
Several other local businesses, including Cycle Sport and Springhill Suites, have partnered with the ride, providing discounts and perks to riders.
"We have a great relationship with Velo View, and we go out of our way to find ways to support the cycling community through programs like this and discounts," Cycle Sport employee Kim Morris said. "This is a ride we wanted to support because we like the route, we like the idea of the event, and even considering how brutal the event [route] could be, it could be fun."
Springhill Suites has agreed to give registrants a discounted stay at the hotel, which is situated on the Tennessee Riverwalk and allows for cycling to and from the event.
"As Chattanooga becomes more renowned in the cycling community due to our scenic views and bike-friendly environment, hoteliers like SpringHill Suites Downtown jump at the opportunity to partner with organizations such as Velo View Bike Tours," hotel sales director Justin Strickland said.
Registration is now open at veloviewbiketours.com/chattanooga-challenge. It includes tickets for two beers and food at Oktoberfest, parking, a T-shirt and a water bottle.
The event is $40 for those who register before Memorial Day, $50 for those who register between Memorial Day and Labor Day and $60 for those who register after Labor Day. Registration closes Oct. 7.