Mississippi Beauty Pageants, Pave, and Crits
Report of the Mississippi GP (RR & Crit), Men’s Cat. 4
Natchez, MS
April 3rd and 4th

by John Fillyaw, Realitybikes.com

Drove down to Natchez, MS with the aim of a weekend getaway, touring some historic homes with my wife, and, of course, some bike racing. First, let me say that they sure have lots of beauty pageants down there, and they’re very proud of them as they even have signs on the interstate directing you there. We saw signs for “Miss Highway Patrol,” “Miss River Bridge,” and “Miss Juvenile Rehab Facility” (there’s a take-home-to-momma girl if there ever was one).

Anyway, the races, Saturday started out with a road race in Brookhaven over an 18.75 mile loop over narrow and very rough roads (no true pave, just lots of chip and seal pavement). The course was mostly flat with some rollers, and a modest ¾ mile climb that started with about 3 miles to go in the loop. The cat. 4 field had 40 to 50 starters and would do 2 laps. We started out hard from the gun (oops, I was too late to get much of a warm-up so I’m hurting), and one guy got off the front and stayed 15 to 30 seconds up for most of the lap. I rode near the back for most of the lap trying to get caught up on my warm-up. I managed to move up on the hill near the end of the lap as the field caught the solo break. The field actually split on the hill, but calls that “we gotta gap” and “let’s work together” went unheeded. The entire field reformed, and I took the lead with the idea that I might be able “to incite something” or otherwise get a break going. Nothing doing, and the field rode at a very modest pace the rest of the lap. Hoping to avoid a sprint finish, I gave it a go to move up the last time up the climb but was not able to hold the position near the front over the flat terrain that followed for the last two miles. The sprint wound up with about 500 meters to go; no pay day for me, but I did manage to pass a few folks (the ones not sprinting) in the last 200.

Sunday was a crit in downtown Natchez over a very technical 0.8 mile course with eight, count ‘em, eight 90 degree corners. Cat. 4’s would do 30 minutes plus 5 laps. The race started at the highest point on the home straight and immediately down through a downhill left and then two right hand turns over 2 ½ blocks…definitely start this one in the big ring. Well, Saturday’s start was hard, but this one was much harder; there was an all out attack from the gun with everybody just trying to hang on. Splits formed immediately in the field of 30 or so with a group of about 8 off the front and 2 chase groups plus a few who didn’t grab either group. I started out at the back of the second chase group and bridged up to the first chase group of three riders. The four of us stayed together the rest of the race. While we could make no ground on the leaders, we did hold everyone else at bay. The wind picked up throughout the race so none of us felt much like attacking each other on the uphill back straight. A few guys did fall off the lead group but were apparently so blown that they didn’t even try to stay with us. With 4 laps to go, someone yelled at us that we would be sprinting for 5th through 8th. We spent the last two laps setting up and wound up the sprint over the last home straight (about 4 blocks). Thought I picked a good wheel to follow, but I wound up 8th anyway. Or, maybe it was the fact that I left both of my fast twitch muscle fibers in the car with my warm-up clothes. Still, 8th out of 30 or so is a good result for me.

Summary, it’s a pretty part of the country, and we had beautiful weather all weekend. I thought the crit course was especially fun because it was hard and technical. Race organization was exceptional except both days of racing ran late beginning with the first event and EMS took about 20 minutes to show up to attend to the cat. 5 crash victim. Still I’d go again…gotta see what Miss Juvenile Delinquent looks like in a swimsuit…want to see her in the talents contest too!!

John Fillyaw
Reality Bikes.com