Herring Gas team rides through the rural countryside

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2001

When riding the rural roads of Lincoln County, pay closeattention. Watch out for walkers, joggers, cats, dogs, deer,armadillos, livestock and cyclists. The Herring Gas cycling team isbusy preparing for the 2001 racing season and most of theirpractice time takes place on weekends.

Herring Gas team captain Frank Moak has moved the team’s wintertraining camp from Natchez to Brookhaven. Don’t be surprised to seea dozen men wearing sunglasses, helmets, tight-fitting shirts andshorts and riding sophisticated bikes at high rates of speedthrough the countryside.


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An unknowing local native looks up from his yard work just intime to see the taillights. “Mabel, that must have been one ofthose herds of hybrid deer. But they were wearing red and blueoutfits.”

Take another look and you can see these fellows pushing pedals,taking turns drafting and enjoying the atmosphere. It’s a preludeto the upcoming racing season which begins Feb. 11, in Jackson,La.

“When you see 12 guys dressed alike riding bicycles, people lookand wonder what’s going on,” said Moak. At age 40, Moak is the onlyoriginal member of the team which was founded here in Brookhaven,in 1987. He and his wife Terri, have two children, a 12-year-olddaughter and an 8-year-old son.

Moak and his teammates often ride over 100 miles on a weekend.Their longest competitive race during the season usually covers70-80 miles.

“My dad (Tom) says Lincoln County has the most paved roadsaround,” said Frank. “There are a lot of good roads with verylittle traffic.”

Moak’s teammates are Jack Ditt of Shreveport, Chris Stokes ofJackson, Shawn Casey of Dallas, Brad Hecker and Kenny Bellau of NewOrleans, Kenny Zyriek of Memphis and Bryan Bunch and Jim Phyfer ofJackson. Bellau, 32, has been with the team for 13 years.

Looking back to last season, Herring Gas won many championships.The highlight was winning the Tour of Louisiana for the third timein four years.

There are individual championships in the criterium, open andtime trials but everything is team oriented. “If one of us wins, weall do,” said Moak.

In Moak’s case, his recent years have been spent in Natchezwhere he owned a bicycle shop. Last year he was first overall inthe St. Francisville/Woodville Race Series, the Tour LA roadracing, LA district champ on the two-man event, the Anthony NolanMemorial SR and the Bike Fest 2000.

Obviously, the elite amateur cycling team costs money tooperate. Each bike is valued at $3,500 which is an average cost fora racer. There are travel expenses, uniforms plus lots of wheelsand tires to replace during the 8-month season.

According to Moak, the team has been blessed with sponsorshipsthis year. “Our sponsors have been more than generous.”

Besides Herring Gas, team sponsors are Walls New Media, acomputer media company; Trippe’s Western Auto of Natchez, TotalOffice Solutions, Natchez Bicycle Center and Trek Bicycles.

Racing is highly competitive, even on the amateur level. HerringGas promotes a positive image. In a prepared statement, “It is theresponsibility of the riders and the team as a whole to display apositive image. They are representatives of their sponsors andtheir actions directly reflect upon the supporting sponsors.”

Team harmony is important. Arguments and disagreements must besettled behind closed doors and not in a public setting. Profanityand use of other inappropriate or disrespectful language will notbe tolerated. Fines and suspensions could be levied, depending onthe degree of the offense.

There’s nothing like a positive image for an amateur sportsteam. Nowadays the image of a professional athlete has been taintedby offensive language, actions and attitude. Many millionaireathletes don’t care who they offend, as long as they get theirpaychecks.

Thank God for amateur athletics.