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Davis in close criterium win

Matt Davis won a thriller Friday night in the Ninth Annual MSGran Prix. Davis edged Bryan Fawley by half a wheel in a fiercesprint to the finish of the Bank of Brookhaven DowntownCriterium.

Davis, 32, an oil field engineer based in Shreveport, La., ridesfor Team LaS’Port. This is his fifth season of competitive bicycleracing.

“I’ve never had good luck here before,” Davis admitted. “Thoseearly season Texas races helped build me up for this one.”

His main sponsor is Frog Island and it his place of employment,too. Davis also captured the bonus Preme lap, pocketing $120. He isa current road racing national champion.

The 60-minute race featured 49 Category 1-2-3 riders negotiatingthe 0.9-mile course that started and ended at the intersection ofWest Cherokee and South Whitworth. The race began at 7 p.m. ascountry/western music moaned from the festival stage located in thesouth parking lot. It finished under bright floodlights at thefinish line.

Fawley, riding for Dallas Racing, said, “It was a great course withlots of turns. The fans were great, too. I had a 7-hour ride to gethere,” from Dallas.

Fawley won the first Preme lap that awarded a $20 cash prize.

Herring Gas rookie Ben Gabardi was third as the locally sponsoredteam entered 11 riders. Gabardi, a lanky 17-year-old from Madison,said he enjoyed the race and the competition.

“It was fast and it was neat to have it downtown,” said Gabardi.”It was cool racing at night.”

The final lap was completed in a sizzling 1:22.

Gabardi complimented his teammates. “Our team raced well together.We have a lot of great guys on our team and they racedaggressively.”

Herring Gas teammate Scott Kuppersmith led the first lap of therace and teammate Tim Regan set the pace midway through the race.Teammate Nick Brewer led four laps from the finish.

Herring Gas team captain and founder Frank Moak didn’t compete inthe criterium due to a bout with pneumonia during the winter.Instead, he worked in the tire pit, helping entrants with faultyequipment and tire changes.

“I felt horrible being in the pit,” said Moak. “I was nervous andanxious before the race.”

Other top finishers were Darryl Seelhorst of Birmingham Velo whowas fourth. Steen Rose of Cynergy-Tribal Cycling was fifth.

Race officials for the Human Performance Center’s weekend of fourstage races said over 240 riders registered, the second highestnumber on record. After a 75-mile road race Saturday morning, thecontestants participated in a time trail late that afternoon inBogue Chitto, based at Calvary Baptist Church.

On Sunday morning a large circuit race began at 7 a.m. and circledthe Copiah-Lincoln Community College campus in Wesson, lastingnearly two hours.