Cyclists race into town this weekend

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2006

An estimated 200 bicycle racers and their families will convergeon Brookhaven this weekend for the 5th annual Human PerformanceCenter Mississippi Gran Prix Bike Race.

A series of four races will be held during the weekend, startingat 7 p.m. Friday with a twilight criterium in downtown Brookhaven,said Frank Moak.

Moak, the 45-year-old captain of the nine-member Herring Gasbicycle racing team and the Mississippi Gran Prix defendingchampion, is one of the event organizers.

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Drivers are being asked to remain alert while traveling downtownBrookhaven Friday evening, said Brookhaven Police Chief PapHenderson. The race route will be closed to traffic.

The starting line is near the Brookhaven-Lincoln CountyGovernment Complex on Court Place. Racers will travel west on CourtPlace, turn south on First Street, west on Chickasaw Street, northon Railroad Avenue, east on Monticello Street, south on FirstStreet, east on Cherokee Street, south on Second Street, and returnto the start on Court Place to complete the lap.

“We’re going to set up Friday evening. We’ll have (the streets)all blocked off around 5:30 p.m.,” Henderson said.

Detours will be established for the few hours of the race andthe roads will be reopened once it’s over, he said.

“We should have the streets back open about 8:30 p.m.,”Henderson said.

The chief commended the community for its “outstandingcooperation” in prior years and said there have been no incidentsrelated to the race.

The Friday night criterium on Brookhaven’s streets has been themost popular among spectators, who often line the road to watchbikes pass by at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, Moak said.

“This is our showcase event. It’s one race, kind of acombination of NASCAR and roller derby,” he said.

Three other races will be held this weekend. A road race beginsat 9:30 a.m. Saturday starting at Heuck’s Retreat Baptist Church.On Saturday afternoon, a time trial will begin at 5:30 p.m. atUnion Hall Baptist Church on Nola Road.

The final race is a closed circuit criterium on theCopiah-Lincoln Community College campus Sunday afternoon.

All of the races are free and open to the public.

Aside from the entertainment value, the Mississippi Gran Prixevent “provides a strong economic impact in the downtown area, aswell as among other area retailers,” said Cliff Brumfield, chiefexecutive officer of the Brookhaven-LIncoln County Chamber ofCommerce.

The estimated 200 racers and their families and friends willrequire hotel lodging, meals and fuel during their stay, he said.Most will also find time to shop at Brookhaven stores and retailoutlets.

Brumfield said because Easter sales and an annual trend ofincreasing sales taxes in the local area make it difficult todetermine specifically how much of an economic boost the eventprovides to the city.

However, he said “it would be easy to see the difference if therace wasn’t held. There would be a considerable drop.”