Competitors race into town for annual bicycle contest

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Sixth annual Human Performance Center Mississippi Gran PrixBike Race will be held this weekend on Brookhaven streets, and over200 participants are expected by the end of the weekend.

“We’re approaching a hundred people in preregistration, and thatusually doubles,” said event organizer and participant FrankMoak.

Besides having a general home-course advantage, Moak has won theoverall event twice in its five-year history. He said it’ssomething of a personal mission for him.

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“I guess I’m a little disappointed in the fact that last year’swinner isn’t going to be here for me to go up against,” he said.”If there was one race I’d love to win, it’s the Friday night one.Retirement has to come one day, so I’d like to do it beforethen.”

The three days of events start Friday at 7 p.m., when the Bankof Brookhaven Criterium is held downtown from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.Saturday brings the Human Performance Company Road Race at 9:30 atHeuck’s Retreat Baptist Church and the later Cellular South TimeTrial 5:30 p.m. at Union Hall Baptist Church. Sunday’s event beginsbright and early on the streets of Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege, with the 7 a.m. Phisiotherapy Associates Circuit Race.

Race organizers and city officials alike encourage the public toattend.

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said the excitement at therace, for which his officers provide security and direct traffic,is outstanding.

“Everyone really needs to come out for this,” he said. “This issomething to bring your kids to. It’s been outstanding since thefirst year we had it here.”

According to Moak, each day has its suspenseful moments, butthat Friday night’s events are the most action-packed.

“Friday night is the night to watch,” said Moak. “It’s downtownand we always have multiple turns in real close proximity and we’lldo like 25-30 laps.”

Moak said the point of the criterium is to complete the mostlaps in a one-hour period.

“We reach speeds around 40 miles per hour in some of thesprints,” he said. “It’s more like NASCAR than anything you’veseen. It can be a real exciting event.”

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive DirectorCliff Brumfield said the event is great for spectators of allages.

“The organizers are to be commended for growing this into afirst class really well-known event,” he said. “It’s quality,wholesome entertainment for the whole family and is growing inpopularity from year to year.”

City officials say the dedicated efforts of the organizers arethe reason for the great success of the event.

“This is great for Brookhaven as a city,” said Henderson. “And Ipersonally appreciate the sponsors bringing it here. It says a lotfor Brookhaven and Lincoln County that they keep having it hereyear after year.”

In addition, said Brumfield, it is a great asset to the economyof the community.

“The annual bike race brings a wonderful influx of people intothe Brookhaven area,” he said. “These people will be staying in ourhotels, eating in our restaurants and shopping while they’re here.It also exposes these families to the amenities we have to offerhere in Brookhaven, like the great shopping down the Boulevard andon Highway 51, etc. it’s always a nice boost to our local tax basedue to the dollars it brings in.”

Moak said the bike racers come from all over the South, and inthe past have come from as far away as Puerto Rico.

Out-of-town guests and Brookhaven residents alike are beingasked to be cautious on the roads during the races. The BrookhavenPolice Department will direct traffic during the events Fridaynight.

“We always get great enjoyment out of this event every year, andout of the people that participate in the race,” said Henderson.”This is one of those times we really enjoy our work.”

Henderson said the streets will be barricaded, and that hisofficers would be there to work the intersections. He said thepolice department is also in place to help any visitors to the citywith any help or direction they might need during the event.

“As always, any time there are visitors, we’re going to be hereto show hospitality and direct them in the way they need to go,” hesaid. “We’re here to help, and we really appreciate these folkscoming to this event.”

And direction will be required around downtown on Friday, as thestreets will be closed shortly after the close of business hours.Officers will be able to inform motorists of detours if there isconfusion.

The route for Friday night will start at State Bank going northon Railroad Avenue, they will turn right on Monticello Avenue,right on First Street, left on Cherokee avenue, right on SecondStreet, right on Court Place, left on First Street, right onChickasaw, and right again on Railroad Avenue. The finish line isat the intersection of Railroad and Cherokee.

Henderson said the streets will be barricaded as of around 5:30p.m. on Friday.