Cyclists take over Natchez streets today

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2000

You don’t have to be a fan of cycling to appreciate what will be hitting the streets of Natchez today. The United States Cycling Federation Elite National Road Race Championship begins on Main Street at 1 p.m.

&uot;This is going to be something very impressive,&uot;&160;said Curtis Moroney of Natchez, who is helping coordinate the event with national officials. &uot;For those who see the race go by and don’t know anything about racing, they will be impressed by the number of riders, the caravan that goes along with the race and the speed. It is so much different from our race (Natchez Bicycle Classic) where we have a field of about 50. This is 204 guys going better than anything we’ve ever seen.&uot;

The race will head out to Kingston from downtown for a 17-mile circuit.

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When the cyclists return downtown, they will race six laps, including riding up and down Natchez Under-The-Hill over a 4.5-mile circuit. The first racer is expected to cross the finish line on Main Street between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., depending on the conditions. The total distance for the race is about 120 miles.

&uot;It’s really going to be quite an event,&uot; Moroney said. &uot;I think a lot of people don’t understand what’s being presented. This is without question the finest collection of athletes this city has ever seen. To have 204 guys of this caliber coming in here is quite a feat. As far as physical capability and the ability to go hard for a long time, nothing has ever come close to that here. They are human machines. Their heart rates will be at 150 or 200 for five hours. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to see.&uot;

But cycling won’t be the only attraction downtown. The band Maggie Brown will be playing on the steps of the old Britton & Koontz Bank building on Main Street.

&uot;We’ll have also refreshment stands open and most of the merchants and restaurants will be open,&uot; said Tammi Mullins, director of the Natchez Downtown Development Association.

Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff said streets downtown will be closed during the downtown portion of the race, from about 4 to 5:15 p.m.

Parking will be prohibited downtown along the race route.