The best American bicycle racers will be coming to Chattanooga this year.
USA Cycling and Volkswagen announced last spring that the US Pro Cycling Championships would move to Chattanooga after a successful seven-year run in Greenville, S.C., and will be here for three years.
The event is the national championship for pro riders in the time-trial and road-race disciplines, and it has attracted some of the sport's top names since it started in 1985 in Philadelphia.
The event will be conducted over Memorial Day weekend with the time-trial competition - in essence a solo race against the clock - to be held May 25 at the Volkswagen plant.
After an off day, the road-race championships will be held Memorial Day (May 27) on a course that winds through downtown and makes several climbs up Lookout Mountain. Hundreds of riders will fly down around the race circuit several times in competing for the honor of wearing the red, white and blue jersey awarded to the national champion.
Organizers say the event could attract "tens of thousands" of spectators, including many tourists who will visit Hamilton County to see the racing.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, who leaves office on April 18, says the event is another way to introduce the city to new visitors and demonstrate the changes that have been made to improve the quality of life locally in recent decades.
"We're a great outdoor city," he says. "We have a great environment that we have substantially improved over the last 40 years, and we're excited to show it off."
In addition to the racing, the US Pro Championships will feature an array of activities for visitors and recreational riders. Among those events will be a charity ride on May 25 before the time-trial competition at the Volkswagen plant. Recreational riders of all ages and abilities will be able to ride in 15-, 30- and 60-mile options before watching the competition.
The charity ride will be run by Erlanger, the official medical provider of the US Pro Championships in Chattanooga, and proceeds will benefit Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
Perhaps the most exciting addition to the US Pro Championships for 2013 will be the inclusion of pro women riders for the first time, crowning the first American women's champions from a field of riders that features some of the best female racers in the world.
"We're very proud to be adding a professional women's event to the pro championships this year," says Sean Petty, chief operating officer for USA Cycling. "For the first time the women will have a pro championship event. They will ride the same time-trial and road-race courses as the men and will have equal pay with the men.
"We really can't wait to get here to Chattanooga and put on a great show and show some real excitement and color. We hope everyone will come out and watch."
Contact staff writer Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478.