Moroney vows to win next Hammond duel

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Only 100 yards separated Chas Moroney and his nemesis as they headed into the final mile of the Louisiana Mississippi District Road Race Championships Saturday at the Natchez State Park.

&8220;I thought I could catch him,&8221; Moroney said. &8220;All I know is that guy is fast.&8221;

Moroney, 16 of Natchez, had hoped that he could close the distance between he and Andrew Hammond, 16, of Jackson, in the junior men&8217;s&8217; 15-16- year-old bracket, but for the second time this year Hammond scorched across the finish line seconds ahead of Moroney and the rest of the competition.

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Earlier this year when the two met at the Mississippi Grand Prix Stage Race in Brookhaven, Moroney finished third and Hammond took home yet another title.

This year&8217;s course at the state park played out just as it was billed &8212; a grueling tester of wills, that would bring the true contenders to the head of the pack early. It did, as after the first lap the 15-16 year-old bracket turned into essentially a two-man race.

&8220;Well, guys started falling out pretty quickly,&8221; Moroney said. &8220;After the first lap, I saw one guy pull off to the side and lose his lunch. Another rider came in too fast on one of the turns, hit some gravel, and started losing speed fast.&8221;

At that point the race tightened as Moroney and Hammond settled in, drafting and keeping pace with cyclists from the 17-18- year-old bracket.

&8220;It was interesting because there were essentially two races going on at once,&8221; Moroney said. &8220;You had the two of us racing against each other, and then you had the older guys who were going at it really hard. We were using them to draft off of and keep pace.&8221;

Not much changed over the three laps that followed, as Hammond and Moroney came across the finish line one behind the other. But at the end of the fourth lap, things took a turn for the worse for Moroney, as the pack broke up and Hammond surged ahead.

&8220;One of the 17-year-olds broke took off and Andrew attacked using his pace to launch out ahead,&8221; Moroney said.

For Hammond finishing second was bittersweet. It was good to finish second in only his third race ever, but the youngster had the look of someone, who would have liked to do better.

&8220;I feel like I&8217;m getting better every race,&8221; said Moroney of Saturday&8217;s second-place finish. &8220;This is best I&8217;ve finished thus far, and I know that I can do better.&8221;

As for future races Moroney knows that it is only a matter of time before he gets his first win, but as long as he has to square off against Hammond, it will not be easy.

&8220;I know I can win the next one&8230;if Andrew Hammond isn&8217;t in the race,&8221; Moroney said.