Chattanooga is drawing rave reviews so far as the new host for the USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships.
Rider and organizers praised the city for its hospitality and scenery and how well run the event has been to this point.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, in town as an NBC Sports television commentator for the racing, said she spent time using the city's bike transit system to explore and has found the city to be very welcoming to everyone involved with the pro cycling nationals.
"Ever since I've been here, I feel like I've been at home," she said. "It's just been a wonderful town. ... Everything has just had a hometown feel.
"To me, it's so important when you're putting on a big championship where you're closing down roads, you have to embrace the community and have them be part of this whole huge day in Chattanooga."
Outdoor Chattanooga executive director Philip Grymes said he believe the community is increasingly embracing the event, especially in the past few days as the riders have begun arriving and riding around town to train or just sightsee.
"People are finally starting to see it around town with all the team cars and all the riders," Grymes said. "I think the folks who aren't up to speed on cycling are starting to realize that this is unlike any event that's ever come to Chattanooga before."
Chattanoogan Amy Phillips was doing more than watching at the women's time trial Saturday outside the Volkswagen plant.
The Hub Endurance Women's Cycling Team member competed in the women's time trial event, giving the national championships a local rider to cheer for.
"I am very excited," she said as she warmed up before her start time. "It's great to be a part of this, it's great for the community and it's great for women cycling. I'm just excited to be a part of it all."
Phillips wasn't too concerned about where she finished, just going out and testing herself against some of the best female cyclists in the world.
She said, "I'm just wanting to go out and give the best effort I can give."
She was 32nd out of 42 finishers Saturday with a respectable time of 47:17.97 -- four minutes and 40 seconds behind race winner Carmen Small.
Saturday's time trial was a chance to get an up-close look at elite cycling for a few members of the King College cycling team.
Red Bank High School graduate T.J. Killelea and teammates Derek Hurst and Blake Adams, fresh off the Tornado's eighth-place team finish in the Division II Collegiate Road Nationals in Ogden, Utah, said they were excited to be seeing an event like the pro nationals so close to their school in Bristol, Tenn.
"It's definitely great to have something like this in Tennessee," Adams said. "We grew up in an area where we wanted to be cyclists where nothing like this ever comes here. To see it come here is awesome and awesome for Tennessee."
Killelea said that he saw this event as a chance to meet team managers and riders, which can help him as he tries to continue his cycling career beyond college.
"I'd like to eventually make it as a professional cyclist," the Village Volkswagen Elite team member said. "With the events that are coming to Chattanooga through VW, it just makes that a lot more possible events like this to happen in the future.
This means we have an opportunity to network with teams like this, and hopefully someday we can get an opportunity.
Randall top handcyclist
Twenty-two handcyclists competing in six divisions started off the day Saturday in the USA Handcycling Federation series time trials at the Volkswagen plant, before the U.S. pro cycling time trial championships.
"This was tough, but I like it," men's H2 winner and overall fastest competitor David Randall said after completing the 9 1/2-mile course also used by the bicyclists later in the day. "It's actually a little better course with the cornering and stuff, but it was challenging with the climb at the end of the course.
"So it was tough, but beautiful weather, so that's good news."
Saturday's handcycling was not a national championship event, but Randall and his fellow competitors have enjoyed their time in Chattanooga and are eager for Monday's main event -- the US Handcycling Federation's national criterium championships, which will be held downtown in conjunction with the men's and women's pro cycling national championships.
"The people have been great," he said. "Looking forward to Monday. There should be good crowds down there, so it should be fun."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JFTanner.
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 ...