Taking to the streets: Bike racers stage local eventsPublished 1:45pm Wednesday, April 30, 2014
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The annual Bike Crossing Gran Prix bicycle race will have more than 200 bicyclists hitting speeds up to 40 miles per hour in an exhibition race Friday and competition Saturday in Brookhaven and Lincoln County.
Friday’s exhibition race starts at 7 p.m. in front of the Haven Theatre at 126 W. Cherokee Street, then goes east on Cherokee before turning south onto South Whitworth Avenue. From Whitworth, the riders will turn right at the Brookhaven-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce building.
Then the riders will continue west on West Chickasaw Street, then south onto South Jackson Street, then west onto West Chippewa Street, then north onto South Church Street, then right onto West Cherokee Street and back by the theater. Cyclists will do about 27 laps, and the event will last an hour.
All sections of the downtown streets involved in the race will be blocked off for the event.
Saturday’s competition is an open road race and starts at 8:30 a.m. with staging at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, on the east side of the football field in the parking lot. Cyclists can register there between 7 and 8 a.m. The route meanders through the county around the Lake Lincoln area and includes Heucks Retreat Road, Sunset Road NE, Lake Lincoln Road NE and Mission Hill Road NE. Then a final race starts at Calvary Baptist Church at 5 p.m. that will take place along Calvary Drive SW.
The Palmer Cycling team is hosting the Brookhaven event. The director for the race, Richard Barker said the event includes four events and brings in more cyclists than any other race in the southeast.
“We’re the largest race in the southeast,” he said, “As far as the prize money goes, we are really proud of the fact that we have kept the prize money up for grabs at the $10,000 mark.” He said they also donate a portion to local charities.
“I’d like to see other organizations raise money for the smaller, local charities,” Barker said. This year they are donating to Doll’s House, a local half-way house for women.
“It’s an incredible service,” Barker said. “Several of the people who work with this race and I agreed that we would be donating wisely. They put so much time and energy in helping people who truly need a hand up – and no matter how much money we give them, we know its going to benefit someone in serious need.”
The Palmer team competes all over the southeast, Barker explained. They are part of the Louisiana-Mississippi Bicycle Racing Association. He said that between Mississippi and Louisiana many different teams put on races. There are races throughout the year. The Louisiana-Mississippi Association is affiliated with the U.S. Association of Cyclists. Officials from the national organization will be at the event to judge the races.
Frank Moak is the team manager for what is now Palmer Cycling. The team had previously been sponsored by Herring Gas in Brookhaven for 27 years. Now the team is sponsored by Greg Palmer of New Orleans. Moak said.
“Ed Herring retired, and I was thinking about doing other things,” Moak said. “We had a great run with Ed, and I still have a great relationship with him. It was just a perfect time to put a stamp on the experience. But, then this new opportunity opened up when I met Greg Palmer. He wanted to sponsor a bicycle racing team.”
Moak said Palmer’s business is rope manufacturing. He has a worldwide distribution with manufacturers in Malaysia and Mexico.
Moak said he is glad to race for another year with Palmer and has a debt of gratitude towards Ed Herring.
“They have allowed me to compete in a rather expensive sport,” he said. “We’ve had the best equipment of any team out there. I am very thankful for that.”
Other team members for the Palmer Cycling team are Ken Ballau of New Orleans, Corey Ray of Baton Rouge; Andrew Hammon of Jackson; Woody Boudreaux of Westwego, La.; Scott Kuppersmith of Jackson; and Ed Novak and Jordan Lambert, both of New Orleans.
Barker said the race brings in a lot of business for the weekend.
“Friday night there will be 60 to 65 cyclists that will stay in hotels,” he said. “And, Saturday there will be 200 to 235 cyclists that will stay in town over night. Ninety-nine percent are guys that bring their families, and by having it downtown on Friday night, the cyclists get a chance to see our downtown. I think it’s a nice little boost for Brookhaven businesses.”
Baker said that Brookhaven’s race is popular among cyclists because of accessibility to such things as safe bike routes, clean restrooms and staging areas.
“One of the reasons cyclists like to come here is the venues,” Baker said. “We have staging areas with good access to bathrooms and water,” he said. “And, the help we get from officials – the chamber of commerce and the police force – they have been a great support.
“We are lucky to have that support from the community. A lot of races have a difficult time with coordinating races in their hometowns, due to the resistance of town officials to meet with the things the race requires.
“We are so grateful to Calvary Baptist Church in Bogue Chitto and Dr. Ronnie Nettles and Copiah-Lincoln Community College. They have been great in helping us put the race together.
To get details on racing routes, registration and the sport, go to the event website at thebikecrossing.wix.com/mississippigranprix.