The Tri-Cities Road Club is one of the oldest bicycling clubs in the state, founded in the early 80’s by Tom Raymond, James Brooks and others. In the early days the club produced the first ever Professional bicycle race in the United States, which was held in Jonesborough, Tennessee. When asked about the race, James Brooks was quoted as saying “My only regret for choosing a purely professional race was that it was not able to continue and grow, but to see what happened to pro racing in the United States as a result has to make it the greatest accomplishment in this humble journalist’s life.” The race was also directly responsible for the growth of cycling in Tennessee as evidenced 30 years later.
Over the clubs long history it has promoted many races and several of note. The Roan Groan, which was also the first race to have a mountain top finish, starts in Elizabethton and finishes on top of Roan Mountain, making it the highest race finish east of the Rocky Mountains. The Roan was also included in the 1996 Tour DuPont. In 2003 the Pro category was one by Ryan Trebon, who is now a professional cyclo-cross racer and three time national cyclo-cross champion. Throughout the years the club produced many races. Two of largest and most well known were the Coors Classic in the eighties and later the Carnegie Classic. The Coors Classic was a stage race, including a road race, time trial, and criterium, and it was part of the now defunct Johnson City Springfest. In 2000 and 2001 the club produced probably the most prestigious race to that point, the Carnegie Classic, sponsored by the Carnegie Hotel. The race consisted of a grueling road race of 85 miles, starting at the Carnegie Hotel, crossing Hughes Gap into North Carolina, and then climbing Iron Mountain back to Johnson City. There was a time trial up Buffalo Mountain in Johnson City that afternoon, and the following morning a criterium on the campus of ETSU with the finish line in front of the Carnegie Hotel. The Carnegie only lasted two years but attracted professional teams from around the country as well as Olympic and national champions.
In 2006 the club combined the long running and popular Roan Groan with the Settlers Life Criterium in downtown Bristol, and with the addition of a short time trial the Settlers Life Omnium was born, and the event had 400 entries in its first year. As a result of the increased entries and the continued sponsorship of Michael Lowe and Settlers Life Insurance, the club was able to support the D.A.R.E camp located in Bristol, Tennessee. The Tri-Cities Road Club has donated over $1400.00 to the D.A.R.E camp from the proceeds of the race and support of Settlers Life. 2008 was the 3rd year of the Omnium and broke records for attendance. The professionalism of the race and challenging venues has drawn more professional teams to the event including Hincapie-Coca Cola (owned by the brother of Tour De France star George Hincapie) and by the international professional team of BMC. The 2008 event was won by BMC rider Brent Bookwalter, who during his collegiate career at Lees-McCrae College was the National Champion in Road, Mountain, Time Trial, and Cyclocross. The Omnium is currently in 3 locations: The Roan Groan begins in Elizabethton, the criterium is located in downtown Johnson City during the Blue Plum Festival and the Time Trial is in Erwin, TN.
As we look to the future we have added more events to our calendar – a criterium training series this summer in Johnson City, a metric century ride, the Jacob Francisco Memorial Century (which benefits a lectureship fund to inform the medical community of the dangers of E. Coli), the Tuesday Pack Rides at Lamar School, and the TNR (Thursday Night Ride) behind Knights Pizza every Thursday at 5:30 & 6:00. This fall will mark the 11th season of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Cyclo-cross Series, rounding out the club’s year. We are committed to the promotion of cycling and cycling events now and in the future.
To help grow the cycling community we have now focused on more than just racing. We now sponsor the two rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have several members volunteering to help new riders “learn the ropes” of group riding. We also assist juniors anytime we can, as they are the future of our sport! If you have any questions please contact one of the current officers or any board member and we’ll be glad to help.
Safe, happy riding everyone!