Moak shakes past bad luck, wins Gran Prix

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Where’s Al Gore demanding a recount when you need him?

Except Gore or any of his buddies’ efforts were fruitless Sunday when Mississippi Gran Prix organizer Frank Moak captured the his own race in downtown Natchez.

At the intersection of Commerce and Main, Moak lifted both hands from the handlebars and pumped his fists when all that was left to his first win in Natchez was the shouting.

Email newsletter signup

His wife, Terry, standing on the curb in front of Britton and Koontz Bank and his friends let Moak know of their adulation with claps and encouraging words.

Daughter Amanda giddily approached her father and gave him a congratulatory, albeit reluctant, sweaty hug.

&uot;I’ve had a lot of bad luck here. There have been a couple crashes for me, but today was a good day,&uot; said Moak, who wiped out on a turn in the lead group during last year’s first-ever Gran Prix. &uot;A lot of times it’s hard to compete when you put the race on. But I got calmed down late in the week and it turned out well.&uot;

Moak, who owned Natchez Bicycle Center before moving to Brookhaven a few years ago, was happier that four of his Herring Gas teammates finished in the top 10 to earn team points in the United States Cycling Federation (USCF) standings.

After Saturday’s road race in Brookhaven saw Daniel Thompson capture top honors, more than 50 tires lined an orange line on Main Street between D. Short Ltd. and an vacated store, as Gran Prix officials sat on a trailer underneath the old Burns’ Shoe store clover sign for the start Sunday.

Sunglasses hugged bald temples, while blonde, red and brown hair poked through yellow, black, blue and white helmets before competitors blasted off.

&uot;It’s a nice place to ride with its downtown scenery,&uot; said Curtis Moroney, former Natchez Bike Classic head; himself a biker but just a spectator Sunday. &uot;It’s got right-hand turns, left-hand turns and with that shared corner (Main and Pearl Streets), as far as a rider is concerned, you can see how the race is going.&uot;

Fans that lined mostly Main saw a cluster of riders break away from the pack rather quickly, with Moak remaining back.

Moak said the hardest part came early as he tried to bridge &045; i.e. gradually catching up with the lead group without bringing friends along &045; to the front.

&uot;I drove as hard as I could with my legs to get up to the break,&uot; said Moak, who won $175 for capturing Sunday’s race and an additional $200 for finishing first overall. &uot;It was kind of foggy hearing things out there. I was able to here that we had three coming up, but out there with the wind in your ears, it’s pretty hard to understand.&uot;

Once he reached the five-member break, alongside Jason Hurting, Johnathan Kolzekwa Keith Breaux and Herring mate Gary Zyriek, Moak uniformly jockeyed for position for the next hour.

The break group rapidly built their lead on the followers, while as a team Herring methodically started to put on a clinic just past the midway point. Eric Mattei and Tim Regan, both of Herring, maintained the gap for much of the race until Thompson revved it up in the stretch, sprinting to the line to finish sixth Sunday, good enough for second overall.

&uot;To get away from (Thompson) was my major objective today,&uot; Moak said. &uot;He’s a great sprinter and I think I could’ve kept up with them, but I was glad to have some people between us.&uot;

Afterward racers flooded an abandoned store’s window like anxious students awaiting grades to see the final results and where they landed in the money.

Herring Gas, based out of Meadville, has entered a team in Natchez races since 1987.