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Bicycle racers invade Brook this weekend

Bees are buzzing, birds are singing and Lincoln County isbracing for a wild weekend of bicycle racing. Over 200 bike racersfrom across the South are expected to visit the HomeseekersParadise for the Ninth Annual MS Gran Prix. The four races beginFriday night with the Bank of Brookhaven Criterium in downtownBrookhaven.

For the unknowing reader, the criterium race, featuring bike speedsin excess of 35 miles per hour, has been compared to NASCAR on twowheels. The criterium starts at 7 p.m. at the corner of WestCherokee and South Church St. and lasts approximately onehour.

Most important: Don’t cross the street during the race. You couldbe injured!

The downtown criterium is restricted to riders in Category 1-2-3.In other words, these men are at or near the professional status.Their high tech bikes cost a few thousand dollars apiece.

The slumping national economy hasn’t discouraged the bike racers.According to race founder Frank Moak of Brookhaven, registration isahead of last year. A lot of the top riders won’t register untilFriday.

“We have plans to expand (the race) as the economy grows,” saidMoak. “We have a good system and it works.”

Still recovering from a bout with pneumonia, Moak will skipFriday’s criterium for the first time. He’ll compete at the Masterslevel in Saturday morning’s road race that will start and end atHeucks Retreat Baptist Church.

Sponsored by the Human Performance Center, the road race features a25-mile course. The top riders will go 75 miles or three laps.Masters 35-plus, Senior Cat 4 and women will tackle a 50-mile test.Juniors, Cat 5 and public will travel one lap or 25 miles.

Saturday afternoon, the Just Kiddin’ Time Trial will be held atCalvary Baptist Church in rural Bogue Chitto, starting at 5 p.m.The course is two miles out and two miles back.

Sunday’s mega criterium, a.k.a. the Physiotherapy AssociatesCircuit Race, will circle the Copiah-Lincoln Community Collegecampus in Wesson and start at 7 a.m.

Looking for a local favorite?

Pull for the Herring Gas race team. Moak founded the team in 1987and serves as its captain. Ken Bellau of New Orleans has been ateam member since 1989.

Also on the Herring Gas team are Scott Kuppersmith and Jacob Brewerof Mobile, Ala., Chris Alexander of Baton Rouge, Tim Regan of NewOrleans, Rayn Boudreaux of Westwego, La., and three newcomers:22-year-old Jeff Falgout of Lafayette, La., 18-year-old AndrewHammond of Jackson and 17-year-old Ben Gabardi of Madison.

Call it new blood. The 49-year-old Moak and his veteran teammatesare excited about the newcomers who are young, strong and ridefast. In fact, Gabardi is destined for international stardom if hemaintains his dedication to racing.

Gabardi is a national junior champion in road racing and timetrials. Moak said, “He has quite a future ahead of him.”

Recently, Gabardi competed in a pro Cat 1-2 in North Carolina. Hewon the overall omnium, a stage race based on points.

Foote and Gabardi are the team leaders this weekend. Falgout isfresh from a month’s high altitude training in Colorado.

Brewer, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and based in Mobile, iswearing the colors of Herring Gas and the United States military inthis weekend’s races. He will compete in the World Games thissummer in Europe.

Moak is increasing his endurance as he recovers from pneumonia.His normal training routine saw him riding 300 miles per week onthe roads of Lincoln County. Currently, he’s averaging around 150miles weekly.

“I still love training and I love racing,” Moak admitted. Hislong-range goal in to compete in the Masters Nationals Aug. 1-8, inLouisville, Ky.

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