KNOXVILLE (WATE) – One of the most important domestic bike races in America is coming to Knoxville.
Knoxville Mayor Rogero and Kim Bumpas with Visit Knoxville announced Friday that the 2017 Volkswagon U.S. Professional Road and Time Trial Championships for cycling will be in Knoxville June 23-25. The tournament draws crowds of up to 20,000 people.
“This is a very prestigious step for Knoxville on multiple platforms and it is expected to bring significant tourism to our city,” said Mayor Rogero. “Though details are still being hammered out on the actual race course, there are plans to keep the circumference of the race within city limits to specifically make it a Knoxville event.”
The men and women’s individual time trials will run on Friday, June 23, followed by the June 24 Knoxville Gran Fondo. Showcasing the weekend, the men’s and women’s road races will run Sunday, June 25 in Downtown Knoxville.
USA Cycling President Derek Bouchard-Hall said they chose to do the event in Knoxville because of the beautiful topography, city leadership and culture. He said the local organizing committee and Visit Knoxville’s understanding of the significance of the race helped them choose Knoxville.
“It is a beautiful city. We’re thrilled to be able to bring our marquee event to a city like this, we’re going to have a lot of visitors coming and they’re going to have a great time being here,” said Bouchard-Hall.
He said this is the most important race of the year, crowning a national champion.
“It is right up there with winning the Tour de France and going to the Olympics. Having that honor of being the national champion is a big deal and everybody really wants it.”
Bouchard-Hall said he liked the culture of biking in Knoxville and hopes that the championships will leave a legacy of cycling. He also really liked the topography of Knoxville.
“It is a very very hard sport, and the sport pushes people to their limits, and the hills that are around here will do exactly that. There’s plenty of them and they will do them again and again and again for the 4-6 hours of the race. ,” said Bouchard-Hall.
For Knoxville it means about 100 cyclists, their supporters, and about 10,000 spectators are expected to head into town.
“It’s kind of two-fold. It’s an exciting event to host and it’s going to be a way for people to get out and see a lot of different things, but then it’s going to equal even bigger and better stuff as people say, ‘Oh my gosh I’ve never visited Knoxville. I want to go now.'” said Kim Bumpas with Visit Knoxville.
As they hope to keep pushing the city as a bike-friendly destination.
“What’s really neat about our destination is the outdoor adventure aspect because in other destinations you might have to travel like 30 miles out to get that type of adventure,” Bumpas said.
It will be an all-weekend event with a bike expo on Saturday and Sunday as well as the Knoxville Gran Fondo race that Saturday.
The Gran Fondo was inspired by the late proprietor of Blackberry Farm, Sam Beall IV, and will benefit the American Red Cross of East Tennessee.
Red Cross said they will be out in force volunteering for the race.
For more information on volunteering visit usacycleknox.com.