Criterium should provide plenty of exciting action

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rain or shine, the Bank of Brookhaven Criterium will take placeFriday night in downtown Brookhaven. It’s the main showcase for theseventh annual weekend of intense bicycle racing in Lincoln County.Three more major events will be held during the weekend.

Imagine racing wide open at 30 miles per hour on rain-slickenedstreets, made extra slippery by drops of lubricant from dailytraffic. The curves and corners should be listed as Hazardous ToYour Health.

Oops!

Bikers dread pileups. Consider this fact. Their only protectionis a crash helmet. The conditions are indeed favorable for bruises,scrapes and cuts on bare arms and legs.

This column recalls a major crash about two years ago. It was astraightaway, just past the corner of South Railroad and WestCherokee Streets. Two riders happened to bump wheels and spokes.Almost like a domino effect, several more riders crashed unable toavoid the wreck. One rider suffered a concussion and a fracturedelbow.

A KDMC ambulance was summoned and whisked the rider to theemergency room. Some riders who didn’t sustain severe damage totheir $2,000 racing machines, got off the pavement, remounted andcontinued the fast-paced race, ignoring the bloody scrapes..

Pass the bandaids, please.

The criterium will begin at the corner of South Railroad andWest Cherokee at 7 p.m. It will last approximately one hour andinclude 30 laps on a 9/10ths of a mile course.

Adding to the excitement is a $5,000 grand prize purse for thetop three riders from each team. They’ll combine their times forthe best overall mark.

Area residents are encouraged to tailgate in the parking lotadjacent to the railroad depot. At 4 p.m., Just Kiddin’ will host awelcome party for Colby Barrett, a cancer survivor from the BlairE. Batson Hospital for Children. Barrett will participate in apreliminary race with local mascots Cassie the Cat and MoJo themonkey.

Race headquarters is located at the State Bank & Trust StateRoom.

On Saturday morning, the grueling Denbury Resources Inc. RoadRace will be held, starting at 8:30, at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.There’s a Mt. Zion exit ramp on I-55 north. There will be sixdivisions, led by the 78-mile Senior Division for Category 1-2-3riders. The women will race 52 miles and the novice/juniors willtravel the same distance.

On Saturday afternoon, interest turns toward the 5 p.m.Physiotherapy Associates Time Trial. It begins at Union HallBaptist Church on Nola Rd., just east of Brookhaven.

On Sunday, the energetic riders will rise early for the HumanPerformance Co. 80-minute circuit race around the campus ofCopiah-Lincoln Community College. Action starts at 7 a.m., sobikers can still make it to their favorite church for worshipservice.

Frank Moak, a Brookhaven native and captain for the Herring Gasteam, is the hometown favorite. He founded the team 21 years agoand the gashouse gang has enjoyed a high level of success with thesame sponsor.

Moak, at age 47, is in remarkable physical condition. He wassecond in the criterium last year. Third overall last year, he wasoverall champion in 2003 and 2005.

Other Herring Gas team members are Chris Alexander, 38, of BatonRouge; Kenny Bellau, 39, Bain Foote, 32, and Tim Regan, 31, of NewOrleans; Ryan Boudreaux, 36, of Westwego, La., and ScottKuppersmith, 32, of Mobile, Ala.

According to Jennifer Legg, race media relations director,”registration is looking good.” She said 116 riders had entered byWednesday afternoon. As many as 150 riders are expected to invadeBrookhaven this weekend.

Most of entries are from out of town and out of state. BesidesTennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, racers from NewMexico and Arizona have signed up.

As a charity project, efforts are under way to raise money forthe Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. Legg said Wal-Mart wouldprovide free water to riders and spectators at the downtown parkinglot.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER,P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS, or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com