FIRST ON 3: Major cycling event moving to Chattanooga
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - One of the biggest cycling events in the country will be moving to Chattanooga next year.
Channel 3 has confirmed through multiple sources that USA Cycling has tabbed Chattanooga as host for the U.S. Pro Road Race and Time Trial Championships starting in 2013.
The annual Memorial Day event has been held in Greenville, South Carolina, for the past five years. It will make its final run there later this month.
The championship races feature the biggest names in American cycling, including a host of past, present, and future Olympians and Tour de France participants.
"This is an absolutely huge get for Chattanooga," said former Channel 3 Olympic Zone correspondent Joe Jacobi, who is now CEO of USA Canoe/Kayak. "This will be a great experience not only for the athletes competing, but for spectators, sponsors, and the sport of cycling in the Chattanooga area."
Jacobi, who described himself as a recreational cyclist, knows what it takes to pull off events of this magnitude after competing in the Olympics and being a key cog in both local and national canoe/kayak efforts.
He believes the Scenic City is a perfect fit for such a high-profile race.
"When you pull in this caliber of an event, you're trying to find a place that is a challenge for the athletes, and Chattanooga will definitely provide that," Jacobi said. "But you also want to go somewhere you can raise the profile of the sport and attract new audiences.
"Looking back, I think Chattanooga was arguably the most popular and successful stop on the Tour de Georgia, and I believe the city will embrace the championships in a similar way."
Matthew Busche won the 115-mile race in 2011, edging cycling star George Hincapie in a photo finish. Hincapie, who has been a key domestique in nine Tour de France wins, has won the road race event three times in his career.
Steve Johnson, President and CEO of USA Cycling, Inc., will make the announcement official on Thursday at 1:00 at Volkswagen headquarters. Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger will also attend.
Count on Channel 3 to keep you updated on this developing story.