Mississippi Gran Prix
It was a really tough weekend of racing. The field included a light sprinkling of Pro's or close-to-pro racers as well as the Puerto Rico National Team coached by our former 40K record holder Eddie Padilla. Memphis Motor Werks had 8 riders in the P/1/2 field, Herring Gas had 8 and so did Puerto Rico. Brice Jones of Health Net, Eric Murphy of AeroSpace Engineering and 3 riders from the Fuji Men's team spearheaded the high level of horse power going after a share of the $8000 offered. Saturday's 77 mile Brookhaven Road Race ended up in a questionable field sprint where there may or may not have been a hand sling involved. The field, or what was left of it was scattered down the road for several minutes after the lead group sprinted. The Average speed for this hilly RR was an amazing 25MPH!
You would think that a criterium that starts 4 hours after the finish of a 77 mile road race would be a bit tame. You would think. The police, mayor and several Brookhaven bigwigs were blown away by the apparent speed of the Brookhaven Crit. So impressed by the speed of the crit, that sponsorship and support for next year's race has apparently been secured from Brookhaven's finest. But I can tell you, the speed was not just appearance... it was oh-too-real!. Most of the course was smooth, down wind and slightly downhill. The finishing straight was really rough and silghtly uphill with the wind in your face. The smooth stuff included 5 rapid fire corners, forcing the racers into a somewhat violent transition from sharp left to sharp right. An early break formed including Eric Murphy, Brice Jones, Wamsley of Fuji, Frank Moak of Herring Gas, Rob Conrad of Adam's Bike Shop and Rory McAdams from Texas. However, the speed of the break eventually proved too much for Moak and Conrad. The now 4 strong break kept about a 40 second lead for the rest of the race which was won by Kyle Wamsley. Now look at the results : Wamsley is the guy that happened to win the 77 mile RR that morning!
Sunday. The Famed and feared Downtown Natchez Criterium. Why feared? Just ask some of the local emergency room doctors. Most everyone knows this course. This figure 8 includes a sharp, narrow, downhill right turn with a slight bump in the apex and a little gravel sprinkled down a lip of the edge of the road, waiting for you if you over-cook the exit. Too fast, and you meet black top. Too slow and you are off the back just in time for a stinging 1 block uphill. Play this one wrong and you'll be watching the race from the sidewalk, possibly while being bandaged up by people way too familiar with road rash. Anyway, the race started off with scorching speeds. The field immediately split in two. I was off the front for the first 3 laps only to be caught and countered by several ferocious attacks. I wiped the vomit off my face fast enough to latch on the the rear end of the front group. But the break that stuck was gone for good by about lap 5! . The escapees included just 4: Eric Murphy, the ever present Frank Breure from Southern Fire, Chirs Alexander and Tim Regan, both with Herring Gas. The gap grew gradually as the Fuji team and Brice Jones did everything they could to get across or just close the deficit. 5 laps to go and most of the big guns were out of ammo for a serious attempt to bridge. This allowed numerous attacks from others. Troy Porter of Herring had the only success from these attempts to finish in 5th place. However, it was Tim Regan that slipped away in the last lap to finish first in his biggest win to date. In the back, it was again Kyle Wamsley to take the field sprint for 6th place. The Puerto Rico team was just a bit shell shocked by the crit courses, as there appears to be no such things outside the main land USA.
No doubt, this was some of the fastest racing to ever take place in Natchez and Brookhaven. I was quite happy to see how many local riders and teams were represented, and even more impressive was how competitive most of the locals were. Eddie Cocoran finished 5th overall in the 35+, Shontelle Gauthier 2nd over all in the womens and Brandon Morvant won the overall in the Cat 4's!
Thanks to Aaron Tiffee , Frank Moak , The Human Perfo rmance Center, The Bank of Brookhaven, Cellular South, United Mississippi Bank and all the vo lunteers and workers that put this race to gether . It was a g reat weekend.