MSGranPrix earns praise from riders

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Eighth Annual MSGranPrix is history but the 4-stage bicyclerace continues drawing accolades. Over 220 riders from across thenation converged on Brookhaven and Lincoln County last weekend. Thethreat of severe weather kept some racing teams from making thelong drive to the Homeseekers Paradise as they encountered heavydownpours along the way.

According to Human Performance Company president/CEO RichardBarker, complimentary e-mails from participants have been flowingsince the Sunday criterium circuit race was completed.

“We got several e-mails from people, including one from SanDiego,” said Barker. “We have some very beautiful venues here inLincoln County. The trees are green, with lots of limbs hangingover the road.”

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The greenery is a far cry from the sparse vegetation found inmost parts of Texas. The riders and their families also enjoyed thequaint atmosphere and friendly folks they encountered during theirvisit to Brookhaven.

Barker said the money angle offered by the weekend races isattractive, too. “We are one of the largest payout races in theSouth. These guys like to ride and race.”

Speaking of money, Team Hotel San Jose out of Austin, Texas,took home the team championship prize of $2,500. They were led byNew Zealander Heath Blackgrove who won the Bank of BrookhavenDowntown Criterium and the Category 1-2-3 Time Trial. Columbianteammate Carlos Vargas captured the 80-mile road race and Sunday’scircuit race.

Blackgrove was the overall champion and Michael Olheiser ofTriStar Cycling and Huntsville, Ala. was runner-up. Vargas wasthird. Total payout for the weekend was $17,500.

Blackgrove has lived in the USA four years but he still has aheavy New Zealand accent. He was racing professionally for Toyotawhen he lived in Colorado last year.

There were a few crashes in the weekend of racing. Trey Poundsof Herring Gas sustained a fractured collarbone in the Road Race.On Sunday, six riders sustained scrapes, bumps and bruises in acrash late in the circuit race.

Barker predicts a bright future for the MsGranPrix. He wants tomake it a 5-day event, starting on Wednesday with a 3-mile timetrial for the Category 1-2-3 riders. There would be a team timetrial on Thursday, leading up to the Friday night criterium.

“What the riders are looking for are more races and more money,”said Barker. “We could wind up having as many 120 riders in thecriterium.”

Last Friday’s race was the fastest and largest field with 75riders participating. The downtown block party on Cherokee St.added more of a festive atmosphere. The hour-long race featured 40laps and brought some NASCAR-like excitement as country-westernsinger Chad Simmons crooned over the amps that were erected for theblock party.

There was a pre-race invocation and singing of the NationalAnthem that provided a nice local touch for the criterium. Theweather was almost perfect.

Obviously, the competition level has increased. In the earlyyears, Herring Gas and Memphis Motorwerks usually dominated theraces. Higher level teams from across the southeast are adding theMSGranPrix to their travel schedule.

Barker said there is a full-scale effort under way to build aBrookhaven junior racing team, age 15-17. Sponsors have donatedequipment. Lots of practice and hard work are required forprospective team members. It requires strength and endurance.

Loyd Star and Bogue Chitto remain alive in the state fastpitchsoftball playoffs and their next hurdle starts tonight with thefirst game of the South State Championship Series. The Lady Hornetsof Loyd Star are at Enterprise-Clarke for a 6:30 Class 2A test andthe Lady ‘Cats of Bogue Chitto are hosting defending Class 1A statechampion East Webster at 6 p.m.

Sites are reversed for Saturday’s games as Loyd Star hostsEnterprise-Clarke and BC visits East Webster.

Another team of interest is Class 3A North Pike, under thedirection of Bogue Chitto native Sonya Wallace. Her Lady Jaguarsbeat Southeast Lauderdale 7-2 Wednesday and host the Lady TigersFriday at 5:30 p.m.

For sure, Coach Jan Delaughter’s Lady Hornets (27-1-1) and CoachScott Leggett’s Lady ‘Cats (26-5) are talented teams. However, atthis stage of the playoffs, it helps to be both lucky and good.

In the North State finals, Hamilton faces Hatley in 2A andSmithville meets Houlka in 1A.

On May 1-2, the Mississippi High School Activities Associationwill host the state championship finals at Freedom Ridge Park inRidgeland. Five games will be played that Friday evening and 5 moreSaturday morning. A third game, if necessary, would be playedSaturday afternoon.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail