OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — USA Cycling is back in East Tennessee.

The action kicks off Thursday morning, with Oak Ridge hosting the Individual Time Trial National Championships.

Oak Ridge cycling enthusiast Brad Spears is excited to see the sport he loves back in the place he calls home.

“The places that I got to see and the people that I got to meet all through cycling are really special,” Spears said.

He’s been on rides like this one before.

“Cycling is a lot to me. It put me through college, I raced on a college scholarship. A lot of colleges are doing that now and providing scholarships for cyclists. And then even after college I continued to race at a fairly elite level and got to travel around and do races such as the one coming here to Oak Ridge. So it’s neat to have it in my backyard,” said Spears.

Because this is home. His heart is as much with Oak Ridge as it is with cycling. Along the banks of Melton Lake and the Oak Ridge rowing venue, pros will soon ride for miles.

“A time trial is really exciting. It is just one guy and one girl racing against the clock. You don’t know where your competitors are at any given point in time. You’re going as hard as you can for 42, 43 minutes for this particular event. And so when you finish you may not know if you won or not until all the other racers are coming through. And for those guys and girls that finish second and third, and maybe they just came in one second behind, they’re going to spend the next 2 months wondering where they could have gone one second or two seconds faster in order to reach that top spot. It’s truly an exciting event from an athlete’s perspective because you have to go as hard as you can for as long as you can,” Spears said.

He had a front row seat two years ago, watching the racers soar past his front yard in 2019. He can already picture the excitement of this year’s return.

“Come out and just watch. And if it’s something you want to try, find your local bike shop and give it a shot and go out and ride. You don’t have to be a bike racer to enjoy cycling. That’s the message. If it’s something you’re interested in, Knoxville, Oak Ridge, they are great places to take up cycling,” said Spears.

While this may be the road to the next cycling champion – you don’t have to be a champion to enjoy the ride.