KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – One of the most important jobs at the USA Pro Cycling Nationals this weekend is one that doesn’t provide a paycheck, but gets you close to the action in a critical role: volunteer.
It takes hundreds of volunteers to work in a variety of capacities behind the scenes.
Michelle Kenik is a busy personal trainer, investing 100 percent in each client and making sure their form is just right, whether it’s for weightlifting or spinning. She’ll jump right in and do the workouts with them. It’s all about motivation.
When her trainer’s work is over, Kenik often hops on her bike for her own personal cycling session.
“Cycling is my number one favorite hobby, sport, exercise. A lot of my friendships have come from cycling. I’ve been riding bikes since I was a kid, but more seriously for 20-something years. From mountain biking to road biking, it’s just a great way to be outside, socialize and get really great exercise,” Kenik said.
Kenik learned three years ago the top cyclists would be coming to Knoxville to compete. She immediately signed up to volunteer as a course marshal, learning what was expected during volunteer orientation.
“You’re there for safety for everyone including spectators and the athletes, mostly keeping people off the course. People tend to walk across the course and you’re there to make sure if they do that it’s at a safe time,” she said.
Kenik says there was one moment last year that could have ended in disaster. Thankfully, she was paying attention.
“Something popped up in the road,” she said. “So I went to try to fix it, but there was an official so close by. He was on it immediately and they had people take care of it.”
Kenik said it could have been a danger to the cyclists.
“Some sort of utility lid popped up in the street. When the cyclists went over it, it flipped up and was perpendicular with the street so it would’ve been a huge issue if nobody noticed. So that’s what the course marshal does,” she explained.
Kenik is looking forward to this year’s championships through giving her time as a volunteer. She truly is a part of this historic athletic event in Knoxville.
As athletic as she is, Kenik says she doesn’t plan to compete at this level of the sport.
“It’s scary, to me. That’s the other thing that makes these races so exciting to me. I think it’s so brave of these athletes to hit such tight corners and just tricky corners that they go through and those fast descents. It’s exciting to watch, but it would be terrifying to me,” she said with a laugh.
Volunteers will man the course as marshals like Kenik, but will also help distribute race materials, radios and escort rides to and from different locations.