Regan wins Gran Prix title

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; The streets of downtown Natchez provided a wide canvas for a thrilling finish to the 2004 Mississippi Gran Prix.

The multi-colored jerseys with sponsors’ names printed across the back were the easels. The symmetry that the riders snaked around the asphalt of an .8-mile course cautioned spectators of the importance of coloring inside the lines. The aerodynamic helmets and the light bikes offered a touch of sleekness to the painting.

However, when the final work was finished, only one artist could claim his race a masterpiece.

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Herring Gas once again dominated the Category 1,2,3 Criterium event, placing six of its seven entrants in the top 17, but it was recent addition Tim Regan who rode hands-free across the finish line on Main Street in front of D. Short Ltd.

Regan, of New Orleans, was a steady presence among the lead pack of four riders all day, but it was his move to the front on the final lap past teammate Chris Alexander and Aerospace rider Eric Murphy, a former winner in Natchez that won it for him.

&uot;It came down to that last lap,&uot; said Regan, a mountain biker by nature. &uot;On the back stretch, I attacked and Chris sat on Eric so he couldn’t catch up.&uot;

The riders competed for a full hour before the race was determined with an additional five laps. Regan, Alexander, Murphy and Frank Breure of Lafayette, La.’s, Southern Fire broke free from the congested pack early and never looked back.

From the beginning on, it became a chess match of drafting and strategic moves to the lead between the four. Last year’s winner Frank Moak, also of Herring, finished 10th Sunday, but sixth overall for the two-day event, which began with a road race in Brookhaven Saturday.

&uot;It wasn’t as well as we did last year, but there were basically two professional teams that were here hanging out&uot; in between larger races, Moak said. &uot;It was a little different flavor with the Puerto Rican National Team. Fast corners are not quite their cup of tea.&uot;

In addition to Herring (sponsored by the Natchez Bicycle Center) and the Puerto Rican contingent, other teams competing included groups from Memphis, Tenn., New Orleans, Tyler, Texas, and Florida.

Alexander made the first move down the stretch with four laps to go, as he put the hammer down and put a comfortable cushion between himself and the other three leaders.

&uot;We kind of tried to break it up at that point,&uot; Regan said. &uot;Eric and I sat on back, and tried to let Frank Breure run himself down. Murphy and I got up to Chris, and we got a two-on-one situation. That’s ideally what you’d like to have.&uot;

With three laps left, Murphy made a move away from Regan and closed fast on Alexander. Heading into the first turn at the common corner at Pearl and Main Streets, Murphy trailed by several lengths.

But by the time the foursome had completed the circle off Market and Wall Streets back up Main, Murphy was nearly brushing rubber with Alexander.

However, it was not Murphy’s day to lay claim to victory, as Regan drafted off his Herring teammate on the last lap to sling to the front.

&uot;I knew that was a great combo up there&uot; in Reagan and Alexander, Moak said. &uot;I was in the top three or four of the (congested) pack to slow the rest of them down. It was a team effort all the way.&uot;

&uot;We know each other pretty well,&uot; Regan said of himself and Alexander. &uot;There’s not too much talking usually because we’re gasping for air. Luckily my legs felt good. Yesterday, they felt all right, but today they were great.&uot;

Regan has been riding with Herring for a couple of seasons not, but it wasn’t until recently that a vacated spot opened the door for him to ride with the group that logs more than 1,000 miles a month.

The promotion has forced Regan to all but abandon his mountain biking days, in order to be better prepared for sprints, such as Sunday’s.

&uot;These type of races break pretty fast off the start,&uot; Regan said. &uot;We were working together to build the gap up. We had the right guys up there.&uot;