Bikers gear up for Gran Prix

Published 11:07 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The largest amateur cycling race in the South begins this weekend in downtown Brookhaven.

Around 200 cyclists will travel from all over to attend the 13th annual MS Gran Prix Race Weekend, including Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and possibly, Haiti.

Race Director Richard Barker said he received a request for an invitation to the race weekend from the Haiti national team.

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“[They] were interested and making an effort to get here,” Barker said. “Definitely there are other countries looking for some of the better races in the U.S., usually a lot of professional races. But we’re one of the best amateur races there is and getting an invitation on that level speaks to that.”

Barker said the race has continued to grow over the last 13 years, in part because of the unique format. The MS Gran Prix is a “stage race,” similar to the Tour de France, where riders finish one stage before racing the next and get timed for each.

Racers will pursue $10,000 in prize money during the three-day event, beginning with the Bank of Brookhaven Downtown Criterium. The downtown criterium is reserved for the category 1, 2 and 3 riders – attracting some of the best riders in the region.

“The race downtown on Friday night is really something,” Barker said. “They’re doing 38, 40 miles an hour in the curves. Shoulder to shoulder, pedal to pedal. Those guys are so good rarely do they crash. If you come and watch it, you’ll wonder how in the world they don’t.”

This weekend’s racing events are presented by the Bike Crossing, a Ridgeland-based bicycle shop, and MS Gran Prix creator Frank Moak and his Palmer Cycling team.

The 60-minute, downtown criterium starts Friday at 7 p.m. in front of the Haven Theatre on West Cherokee Street. The one-mile course then continues right toward the Chamber of Commerce, right at the corner, left on South Jackson Street and then to include a little residential ride time.

Saturday’s road race will start at 8:30 a.m. and includes six different categories racing varying distances anywhere from 80 miles to 20 miles, Barker said, depending on the category. Every rider will race on Saturday, which concludes with a 5 p.m. time trial, where riders race as fast as possible.

Sunday morning’s race will be similar to Friday’s criterium, Barker said, and is a little bit of a bigger course starting at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. All six categories will race Sunday from 10 a.m. to around noon.

For a complete list of race times and for more information, visit