Chat­tanooga cy­cling event moves to Se­quatchie County

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARK PACE STAFF WRITER

Chat­tanooga’s lo­cally backed cy­cling event is mov­ing away from the city to the Se­quatchie Val­ley to en­sure sus­tain­abil­ity while ap­peal­ing to a broader au­di­ence.

The news dashes any hopes for a 3 State 3 Moun­tain ride resur­gence, but it gives the re­gion a ride or­ga­nized by lo­cal cy­clists. The new ride, Cy­cle Se­quatchie, will be Oct. 5 and take the place of last year’s Chat­tanooga Chal­lenge. The event will be put on in tan­dem by Velo View Bike Tours and the Chat­tanooga Bi­cy­cle Club.

“The Chat­tanooga Chal­lenge last year was a lot of fun, but I felt like it might run into a sim­i­lar fate as 3 State given the traf­fic con­trol re­quire­ments to make it work. It was also hard to find ap­peal­ing short-route op­tions to add to the menu given the ur­ban start lo­ca­tion,” event di­rec­tor Shan­non Burke, owner of Velo View, wrote in an email.

For sev­eral years, a lo­cal cy­cling event had been in limbo as Chat­tanooga Bi­cy­cle Club mem­bers de­bated

the fu­ture of the 3 State 3 Moun­tain ride, which drew a cou­ple thou­sand cy­clists an­nu­ally dur­ing its peak years. The event was a sta­ple of the re­gion’s cy­cling cal­en­dar for 30 years but ended in 2017 af­ter much back-and-forth within the club.

In the event’s ab­sence, Burke launched the Chat­tanooga Chal­lenge. The ride fea­tured a sun­rise climb up Look­out Moun­tain via Ochs High­way with 100- and 50mile route op­tions. It had 250 rid­ers in its in­au­gu­ral year but largely fea­tured Burke work­ing by him­self to find spon­sors and pull off the event.

In the mean­time, there was ma­jor turnover at the top of the bi­cy­cle club. New lead­ers wanted to con­tinue of­fer­ing a lo­cally pro­duced ride at an af­ford­able price that high­lighted the area’s scenery.

“I feel like 3 State was the back­bone of the bike club,” long­time club mem­ber and com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Daisy Blan­ton said. “I’m not sure any­thing is go­ing to re­place it, but I un­der­stand there were prob­lems with 3 State … I think the ma­jor­ity of the club has moved on. We’re get­ting some new people — people with good ideas.”

Burke and the bike club talked about part­ner­ing for the Chat­tanooga Chal­lenge. Both wanted to see a lo­cally pro­duced an­nual ride suc­ceed.

How­ever, the club was still fig­ur­ing out what di­rec­tion it wanted to take while ush­er­ing in new lead­er­ship.

“We had talked last year with the Chat­tanooga Bi­cy­cle Club about part­ner­ing with us,” Burke said. “It was a bit in­for­mal with the Chat­tanooga Chal­lenge be­cause we had a short time­line, but as were talk­ing about that, we were also look­ing down the road at pos­si­bly bring­ing 3 State back or do­ing another right. With this much lead time, it has helped get them more in­volved to give us a lit­tle more mo­men­tum and man­power.”

The two came to­gether and launched this year’s event. The bike club of­fered its re­sources — such as its data­base of past 3 State 3 Moun­tain par­tic­i­pants — and years of event ex­pe­ri­ence to help Burke con­tinue putting on an event that draws both lo­cals and people through­out the Ten­nessee Val­ley.

The club wants to con­tinue its goal of get­ting area res­i­dents in­ter­ested in the leisure ac­tiv­ity while teach­ing safe rid­ing.

“We hope to make it the sig­na­ture event for the club, but if we could re­ally make it the premier ride for the tris­tate area, that’d be great,” club pres­i­dent Joe Lodato said.

The ride part­nered with the Land Trust For Ten­nessee to fur­ther con­ser­va­tion ef­forts across the re­gion.

A move away from the city also gives or­ga­niz­ers the abil­ity to of­fer more routes. Last year’s ride started at Fin­ley Sta­dium and fea­tured only the 50- and 100-mile loops. Shorter rides were harder to or­ga­nize in a down­town set­ting. This year’s event has 16-, 37-, 63- and 78-mile loops and a farm-to-ta­ble buf­fet pro­vided by Se­quatchie Cove Farm af­ter the ride.

“Se­quatchie is beau­ti­ful; it’s beau­ti­ful rid­ing,” Blan­ton said. “It’ll be a ru­ral ride, and there will be sup­port that way. I can’t say any­thing bad about it. It’s nice; it’s good. I think it will be pop­u­lar, I hope.”

Regis­tra­tion is open at Cy­cleSe­quatchie.com. Regis­tra­tion costs $40 for the first 40 people. From there, it costs $50 through Me­mo­rial Day, $65 be­tween Me­mo­rial Day and Sept. 15, $75 for late regis­tra­tion be­tween Sept. 15 and Sept. 30, and $80 cash only for those who reg­is­ter on the day of the event.

The event will in­clude an out­door expo with lo­cal re­tail­ers, out­door re­cre­ation groups and con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions. In­ter­ested or­ga­ni­za­tions are asked to con­tact Burke at shan­[email protected]­bike­tours. com.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO BY SHAN­NON BURKE

DJ and Nisha Sardel­lla tour the Se­quatchie Val­ley last Au­gust. The val­ley is the first area in­cluded in a new re­gion cy­cling ini­tia­tive.

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