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Bicycle racers in Lincoln County

It’s baaaack!

     The 11th Annual Mississippi Gran Prix bicycle series returns to Lincoln County this weekend. Over 200 peddlers…make that riders…make that racers, are expected to participate in the four events.

     Race director Richard Barker said he expects another large turnout, starting with Friday night’s Bank of Brookhaven Downtown Criterium. This fast-paced race over a .9- mile course has been compared to NASCAR on two wheels.

     It starts at 7 p.m. in front of Trustmark Bank, on the corner of West Cherokee and South Whitworth. Only Category 1-2-3 racers will participate in the 45-lap event. It’s a spectator-pleasing event, too.

     Mathew Davis of Shreveport, La., is the 2-time defending champion.

     Saturday morning’s road race, sponsored by the Mississippi Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center, has a new location: West Lincoln School. It will be a challenging course starting at 8:30 a.m. and covering over 70 miles through the rural countryside. Male and female riders in several race categories will compete.

     Barker, a devoted bike rider, said the 6-mile course is a challenge for amateurs and professionals alike. “It’s an incredible venue out at West Lincoln.”

     Barker described the 27-mile loop. Riders depart West Lincoln and go south on Jackson-Liberty Road to Bogue Chitto Road. They take a right and head west for Granny’s Corner. Then they take a right on Burt Jordan Road and go all the way to Bill Lofton Road, which turns into Ramah and then West Lincoln Road.

     “It’s challenging,” said Barker. “My dad and I have ridden it. One thing that makes this race so good are the changes in terrain.”

     Barker said West Lincoln principal Jason Case and the Lincoln County School Board “have worked with us. We appreciate their support.

     “We hope the store at West Lincoln gets a lot of business,” Barker added. Pause a moment and consider the number of thirsty and hungry riders, plus their associates and fans who will be present for the race.

     In the afternoon, the DPlot Time Trial takes place at Calvary Baptist Church in Bogue Chitto, starting a 5 p.m. It’s strictly a speed race, testing riders against the clock.

     Riders can rest up Saturday night for the final challenge, the Physiotherapy Associates Circuit Race at Lake Lincoln.

     “It’s a phenomenal circuit race,” said Barker. “You start and finish at the top of the hill overlooking the lake. It has a European flavor because of the narrow road that runs through a dairy farm.

     “It was a great environment last year,” Barker pointed out. “People had their cars parked along side the road. They were really cheering us.”

     The 30-mile race features 5 laps.

     On the financial side, riders will compete for around $8,000 in prize money. Points leaders from each event will take home the most cash. Race teams share the rewards.

     Another race benefit is charity. Barker said  the weekend events  would benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society. “We have a close working relationship with them.”

     The weather report is promising.

    

     Naturally, there are numerous volunteers required to make the weekend successful. Barker said, “We have the volunteer fire department helping us, plus the City of Brookhaven Police Department for the criterium.

     He said volunteers from the McCall Creek Volunteer Fire Department in Franklin County would assist with Saturday morning’s road race. Barker expressed gratitude for cooperation with the Lincoln and Franklin County Sheriff Departments.

     Race sponsorship is critical to the weekend’s financial success. Barker said the main sponsor this year is the Bike Crossing in Ridgeland. “They are helping with the payout and the donation to MS.”

     A young, local female, Anna Gardner, is competing in the road race, the circuit race, and the time trial.

 

     Local race veteran Frank Moak and his Herring Gas team will be one of favorites. Moak, entered in the age 52 classification, made a strong showing last year and placed sixth in the criterium.

     Herring Gas teammates Bain Foote and Timothy Regan finished fourth and fifth respectively in the criterium. Runner-up Patrick Allison of Birmingham, Ala. and third place Brian Toone of Team Birmingham Velo have registered for the criterium.

     Moak, captain and founder of the Herring Gas team, said he anticipates a great weekend of racing. “I have had no major calamity in my life. It’s been a better spring. My wife is healthy, my dad is healthy and so am I.”

     Herring Gas will have seven riders on hand.     “As a rider, the road race will be more challenging,” Moak predicted. “There are some big hills in Franklin County. I doubt if we will finish in a group.”

     For sure, competition will be intense.

     Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tgoetz@dailyleader.com