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First-ever Red Bluff bike race rolls Saturday

More than 120 bike riders will leave downtown Monticello Saturday morning on a journey — they choose 65 miles or 103 miles —that will allow them to experience the challenging bluffs, hills, roads and weather conditions of South Mississippi in early March.

Online registration for the Red Bluff Grand Fondo (103.1 miles) and the Red Bluff Metric Century (65.1 miles) is available until 11:59 p.m. today at redbluff.racesonline.com. Online registration is $75. Registration will be available on-site Saturday prior to the race start for $85.

Proceeds benefit the Lawrence County Training Center which will be built behind the Monticello Fire Department and will serve as a classroom setting for firefighters, said Lawrence County Fire Coordinator Lyle Berard, who is also the Monticello FD chief.

The start and finish of the two distances will be located at the Lawrence County Courthouse. It is a rain-or-shine event.

The Red Bluff Gran Fondo includes challenging roads through the Red Bluff and St. Stephens regions west and then east of the Pearl River. Cyclists will face approximately 5,000 feet of elevation change over the 17 bluffs and hills.

The Red Bluff Metric Century includes approximately 3,400 feet of elevation change and will roll through the same scenic and challenging first 53.7 miles of the Gran Fondo west of the Pearl River and will include the Red Bluff region in Lawrence, Walthall and Marion counties.

The public is urged to be on the lookout for cyclists that day. Routes will be marked with caution signs.

Volunteers are needed to serve as corner marshals and to help with registration and the accompanying bike expo. To volunteer, sign up online at redbluff.racesonline.com or call Leigh Ann Reeves at the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 601-587-3007.

Berard said more than 120 people have registered already for the event, coming from area states and Texas. A few dozen more are expected to register by Saturday. Berard doesn’t plan to be one of them.

“I’m going to tell them where to turn. That’s my job,” he said.

The race will be larger then organizers initially anticipated for a first-time cycle competition.

“It’s turned into a big event and we hope that everyone who comes enjoys it,” he said. “Some of them are out having a good time and some of them are competing.”

Reeves said the race will bring in cyclists “that may have never stepped foot in Lawrence County.”

She said the entire county has been supportive of the fundraising event, including the Board of Supervisors who made sure to fill in potholes on the roads in Lawrence County the cyclists will be using.

Packet pickup is available today from 4-7 p.m. at the courthouse at 517 East Broad St. Pickup and on-site registration begins at 6 a.m. Saturday. The event begins with the singing of the national anthem and prayer at 8:50 a.m.

Awards for Top 3 Male and Top 3 Female will be announced at noon.

Frankie Andreu, a nine-time Tour de France veteran, will be at the Bike Crossing in Ridgeland tonight from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for a 45-minute presentation followed by questions and answers. Food and drink will be provided.

Andreu will be announcing the race Saturday.