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Natchez Bicycle Classic returning

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Bicycle Classic will be revived on May 23, except this time it’s not a race and is all about the ride on the Natchez Trace.

Organizers of the inaugural YP Natchez Bicycle Classic, which is hosted by the Natchez Young Professionals and Natchez Adams-County Chamber of Commerce, said it has been 20 years since the Natchez Bicycle Classic Race.

The event was unlike any other hosted in Natchez, said Sarah Lindsey Laukhuff, Natchez Young Professionals marketing and advertising chair.

“It was different,” she said. “… It was pretty cool to watch when it was an actual race and you’d see hundreds of bicyclists speeding through downtown.

During its peak in the early 1990s, Laukhuff said the classic brought more than 400 cyclists to Natchez from coast to coast and was only advertised through print and by word of mouth.

Instead of shutting down downtown streets, as the original classic did, Laukhuff said it made more sense to offer a leisurely ride along the “mecca of all bike trails” — the Natchez Trace.

Chamber president, Debbie Hudson said the new classic could also be a new way to persuade visitors to spend their Memorial Day Weekend in Natchez.

“Not only will it benefit the chamber but it is also an economic development and tourism tool,” Chamber president, Debbie Hudson said. “We’re encouraging those who come to shop in our stores, eat in our local restaurants, stay in our hotels and enjoy themselves while they’re here.”

The idea to revive the bicycle classic was conceived as a replacement fundraiser for the annual Color Natchez 5K, which primarily catered to the locals and after four years had run its course, Laukhuff said.

We were looking for something new, and Debbie was just doing a little research and saw that Greenwood had done a bicycle ride. …  They wound up with 1,100 participants in the middle of August.”

A committee of 12 to 13 people in the Natchez Young Professionals and a group of Natchez cyclists are working together to bring the event back and perhaps make it into something as well anticipated as the annual Natchez Balloon Festival, Laukhuff said.

“Our catchphrase is ‘come for the ride, stay for the party.’ We’re going to have events all throughout the weekend and we’re encouraging other groups to collaborate with us and put on other events to make this a fun weekend for people to come and stay two or three days.”

Director Curtis Moroney said cyclists would travel a long way to ride on a new turf with people they haven’t met before.

“We’ve already had a good bit of out of town interest in this event almost immediately, from Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” Moroney said.

The route utilizing what cyclists call the “Church Hill Loop,” is comprised of Highway 533 and the Natchez Trace, Moroney said.

Riders would have the option to choose either a paved road route or multi-surface with distances ranging from just over 15 miles to 57 miles, he said.

The entry fee per rider is $50 and includes participation in a welcome party, post-ride party and a goody bag packed with a commemorative T-shirt, cycling socks and a finisher medal.

Online registration is open now and ends noon Thursday, May 21. The last chance to sign up will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 22, at 100 Main Spirits and Eatery, where participants can pickup their registration package.

Participants may also pick up their registration packages at 7 a.m. on the day of the ride at the line-up spot on Broadway Street between Main and High streets.

Riders will take off at 8 a.m. and finish back at the starting point at a post-ride lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that includes food, drinks and live music.

Registration and more information can be found online at natchezbicycleclassic.com.