• 72°

Criterium most fan-friendly event

It is about that time when two wheels powered by strength andendurance rule the streets in downtown Brookhaven Friday beforespinning off to dominate the Lincoln County roads Saturday andSunday.

Officials are making final preparations and cyclists of all talentsare gearing up for the 10th Annual Mississippi Gran Prix,benefiting the Alabama-Mississippi Chapter of the National MultipleSclerosis Society, which will kick off with a criterium Friday at 7p.m. in Downtown.

“It’s fast, it’s dangerous and it’s definitely the most attractiverace there is in all of cycling,” said race organizer RichardBarker of the criterium.

For the criterium, bikers will be racing around historic downtownat roughly 35 miles per hour beginning underneath the Brookhavensign and passing several well-known buildings. Cyclists willcompete for 60 minutes, jockeying for the best time on themile-long track.

“They’re shoulder to shoulder, pedal to pedal, and wheel to wheel,”said Barker. “It’s really intense.”

Barker expects about 200 cyclists to compete during theweekend-long gran prix. However, most spectators’ eyes will bechasing the blue Herring Gas jersey and the white bike with redtrim of local favorite Frank Moak.

Moak was absent from the Friday criterium last year due to illnessand helping his wife recover from a health issue.

“I’m still fighting back, but it was too hard to sit on thesidelines last year,” said Moak, who is the road captain of theHerring Gas team.

Moak, who was the overall winner for the 2005 event, said he enjoyspedaling in front of a home crowd, despite the pressures toperform.

“People don’t know that you do this every weekend,” said Moak.”Having people see you in your hometown is kind of fun.”

While the fast-paced race of Friday night may be a fan favorite,the cycling action will not hit the brakes after the last bikercrosses the finish line downtown.

A road race will be held Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and a time trialwill take place at 5 p.m. in the Bogue Chitto community. The granprix will end Sunday at Lake Lincoln State Park as racers competein a circuit race beginning at 7 a.m. and ending around 2p.m.

“We’re one of the better races in all of the South,” said Barker.”For this area we’re one of the best races there is.”

The bikers will be separated into various categories based onskill, and while each race will have first-, second- andthird-places, the overall event is a staged race. Whoever has thebest-combined time throughout the competition will be crowned theoverall winner.

Riders will be competing to win their share of the individual prizelist, which will be around $10,000, depending on the number ofparticipants in this year’s event.

“Bottom line, that’s what brings in the riders,” said Barker. “Thatand a good race and good venue.”