National race draws cyclists to Natchez

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 22, 2000

The 120-mile United States Cycling Federation Elite National Road Race, held Sunday in and around Natchez, pitted 165 top cyclists against one another for the U.S. championship title.

In the end, Steve Cate of Norman, Okla., finished a second ahead of six other cyclists to capture the race.

And in at least one case, it pitted brother against brother — though Hugh MacEachran said it’s nothing personal.

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&uot;This is the biggest race of the year,&uot; said Hugh MacEachran of Fort Collins, Colo., who finished 57th, while did not finish the race.

&uot;Everybody wants the chance to be recognized as the best,&uot;&160;he added, taking a sip of a sports drink before taking off to warm up for the race himself.

In fact, MacEachran, who has been racing for 14 years and participates in 30 to 60 races a year, took the race so seriously that he quit his job in December to train two to five hours a day for the event.

Even earlier than 11 a.m., Commerce, Pearl, Jefferson and surrounding streets were lined with racers from West Virginia and Texas, Alabama and New York, readying their bikes and themselves for the event.

&uot;People don’t realize the level of … training that goes into an event like this,&uot;&160;said Curtis Moroney, who helped organize the event along with USCF officials. &uot;These people are serious athletes.&uot;

By 4:30 p.m., a crowd had gathered outside the former Britton & Koontz First National Bank building and others waited on either side of the Main Street barricades to watch the cyclists come back through town.

Joe Fortenberry of Natchez was among a small group that gathered to watch the race. &uot;These are world-class athletes,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;Besides, I&160;usually come out to see the other bike races we have in town, but is something different.&uot;