With the USA Cycling Professional Championships debut in Chattanooga quickly approaching, local organizers are making final adjustments for the event.
"We have changed the course a little bit and finalized some of the traffic plans as it relates to the course," Outdoor Chattanooga Executive Director Philip Grymes said Monday. "These changes will make traffic easier for some of the businesses on the route."
The May 25-27 races are the national championships for American pro cyclists in the time-trial and road-race disciplines, and they have attracted some of the sport's top names. This begins a scheduled three-year run in Chattanooga and will include men's and women's championships at the same event for the first time.
The weekend also will feature the United States Handcycling Federation criterium championship downtown between the men's and women's road-race competitions on Memorial Day.
The time-trial and road-race courses were announced in January, with the May 25 time trial set to begin and end at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant and the May 27 road race featuring multiple loops through downtown and up and down Lookout Mountain.
Grymes said planning for the event -- which is expected to draw nearly 200 competitors and thousands of spectators -- has been a monumental undertaking.
"There's an incredible amount that goes into this thing -- details that the general public would never imagine," he said. "It's a bulky event, but it's finally coming together."
The road-race course was changed slightly in the St. Elmo area and on Lookout Mountain. Riders coming out of town on Broad Street now will turn left from Cummings Highway onto St. Elmo Avenue, rather than going through St. Elmo on Tennessee Avenue. After climbing Lookout on Ochs Highway, competitors will proceed all the way up the mountain to Ochs Extension, rather than turning right on Sanders Road, then to the descent on Scenic Highway.
"The National Park Service was not comfortable with the race coming through Sanders Road because of the road conditions and potential impact along Sanders Road," Grymes said.
Grymes also said that some of the traffic planning has been set for the downtown area on Memorial Day.
Broad Street will be narrowed to two lanes from 20th Street to the base of Lookout Mountain to allow two-way traffic along that corridor, but there will be no traffic allowed at all along the downtown and North Shore portions of the route while racing is in progress.
"The downtown loop is going to be a hard closure," Grymes said. "No vehicle traffic will be allowed on those roads. Fourth Street will allow emergency traffic to cross, but all other traffic will have to go around the course on Riverfront Parkway or Main Street."
Saturday's fatal bicycle crash during the 3 State, 3 Mountain Challenge happened on a portion of Ochs Highway that is part of the US Pro Championship road-race course. Grymes said that tragedy underscores much of the planning that Outdoor Chattanooga has been engaged in for months. He said emergency services will be stationed along the course to quickly assist competitors, spectators and area residents.
"The staging of emergency services is a conversation we've been having for a while," he said. "And not just as it relates to the race, but also to life around the race."
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...