Natchez Classic, 1997

(recovered from archived email)

This is just a brief report on the Natchez Classic of last weekend.  I'll try and put together a more detailed write-up once I get the full results.

The Natchez Classic was fully back on track this year after a 2-year lull. Lots of very serious talent was on hand early Saturday morning for the brutal 2-mile time trial that featured a gut-wrenching climb up the bluff from the Mississippi River.  While the fastest riders completed this test in under 4 and a half minutes, most riders were happy to anywhere near 5:10.

The NOBC was represented by a large contingent of riders spread out among all of the race classes.  Because of the unusually short time trial, General Classification following the time trials was very tight in most classes, with lots of riders seperated by one or two seconds.  Riders then waited impatiently through the day for the 4:30 start of the road races.  Starting in the middle of town, the road races headed 5 miles out to a beautiful and moderately hilly loop in the country.  Shortly after the start, an afternoon rainstorm drenched everyone, making for some nervous riding and resulting in a few crashes and numerous flat tires.  NOBC rider Ken Digerinomo crashed heavily when he got a tire caught in a crack, and was then passed by the following car causing him to wait, bleeding, on the side of the road until the next group's follow car arrived.  Mauricio Topini, who flatted in the 1/2/3 race, found the following car missing entirely (they were attending a crash) and luckily was able to ride back to the feed zone to retrieve a spare wheel from his family's car.  The Master's road race ended in a big field sprint, with Joe Otero of Shreveport outsprinting Randy Legeai.  The 1/2/3 race likewise finished in a huge and very fast  field sprint, with local rider Rob Konrad cleanly outsprinting the field.  Sunday's Criteriums on the famous Natchez course were extremely aggressive, resulting in extensive re-ordering of the General Classification lists in most classes.

Master's riders went in to the Crit with the top five riders seperated by only one second on GC.  Richardson Bike Mart rider Tom Bain and teammate Micky Allen exploded from the start line resulting in a long lung-searing chase that split the pack and created an opportunity for two riders to launch a successful counterattack to which two additional riders, including Ricky Tenney of Cajun Cyclists, were able to bridge.  The 4-man group stayed away despite a determined chase by the exhausted pack, and eventually lapped the remnant of the field on the bell lap.  On GC, Randy Legeai ended up 5th, with Robin Robert 7th and Brian Magendie 11th.  The Senior 1-2-3 race started off in similar fashion with Herring's Kenney Bellau off the front at warp speed for the first few laps.  Coming through the start/finish area on the first lap, Kenny looked like a man possessed!  The super-fast and strung-out pack was subjected to numerous attacks until a  break containing Russ Walker and his Wal-Mart teammate solidified off the front.  After Russ repeatedly gapped hapless riders off from the break by opening large gaps and then attacking, he finally burst from the break like the third stage of a Saturn booster and put at least 20 seconds on his former breakaway companions in a single lap.  The Natchez folks put on a fine race and attracted some major competition this year, and everyone had a good, even if humbling, weekend.