Joseph Zecevic Published

Charleston Hosts Olympic Qualifying Bike Races

A close up photograph of an athlete on a bicycle. The person is wearing a black and green cyclist suit. Their face is out of frame.
Cyclists from all over biked through Charleston last weekend as part of the 2024 National Pro Road Bike Championships.
bobex73/Adobe Stock

The National Pro Road Bike Championships came to the streets of Charleston last week, ending over the weekend. Events included a time trial along the Kanawha River, a one mile loop through the downtown streets and a longer course through the hills and flats around the city. 

The event was a qualifier for the Paris Olympics this summer, and some of the winners will go directly there to compete. 

For some locals, it was a dream come true.

“For me, in my business, this is probably the most exciting thing that’s happened in Charleston in decades,” said Andrew Green, owner of Charleston Bicycle Center. “The amount of people that we’ve got coming into town to showcase what a gem Charleston is, that’s fantastic for the city, obviously. I really anticipate this is going to create a lot of excitement for riding bikes again here in Charleston. Not that we don’t have people that are excited, we do, but I think this is just going to take it to another level.”

For volunteers like Reagan Good the excitement was high, especially with what’s possible here in the state.

“It’s neat to see people that are levels above me that are here but still making the most of their time,” she said. “And it’s just neat to see how much faster they are and the work that they’ve put in and putting it on display for us.”

Another volunteer, Jefferson Avery, agreed. 

“There’s so much motivation to be gained from it, as well as for local bikers to get out there and enjoy our own terrain and see other people enjoying it as well,” he said. “We’ve got to talk to some of the team members and whatnot. There’s just been so much positive review from them saying, ‘Hey, Charleston is beautiful’ with surprise in their voice. We knew it. And now they get to know it, too. I dig that, I think it’s great.”

One of those racers was Otis Engle of the Kelly Benefits Team. He spoke about the challenges of the road course through the city. 

“We’ve been just kind of riding around Charleston so far, and really enjoying all the roads, and especially the climbing is awesome,” he said. “Unfortunately, we only do one climb on our course, Wertz Avenue, which is an awesome climb. It’ll be a good five minutes of super fast climbing, I think it’d be a really decisive point, especially over the top of the climb.”

After Charleston, the final steps to Paris gold are only one more competition away.

“The immediate implications of having a national championship is that some of these athletes are going to go straight from Charleston, West Virginia to the Olympics in Paris this summer, which is amazing,” Green said. “Is it going to generate more excitement around cycling? I think so. Are we going to have events here kind of perennially in the future. I’m optimistic about that. I really think that once people see what Charleston has to offer, they’re gonna want to come back.”