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Gran Prix bike race starts Friday

Photo by Daniel Chanin

Photo by Daniel Chanin

One of the Southeast's biggest bicycle races is coming to town.

The 5th Annual Georgia Cycling Gran Prix sponsored by TopView Sports will roll into town Friday. The event takes place from Wednesday through Sunday and will be in Covington, Oxford and south Newton four of those six days.

About 500 riders from all over the Southeast and beyond are expected to participate over the course of the four days. The highlight and most spectator-friendly event of the Gran Prix is the Downtown Covington Criterium, which takes place from 2:30 p.m. until about 8 p.m. in and around downtown Covington on Saturday. About 300 racers will take part, zipping along city streets at speeds of up to 35 mph. There will be some street closings, though the Square will remain partially open. The Covington Police Department will be on hand to assist with traffic. The race will start and finish at the Newton County Historic Courthouse.

Race Director Pete Sherrard said the event will be a lot of fun for spectators.

"First, people can come and enjoy what historic downtown Covington has to offer. There are great shops and restaurants and putting the bike races right here with it, it's pretty cool. If you haven't seen a bike race in person, they get up to 30 to 35 miles per hour and it's pretty unique when you're watching it live," Sherrard said.

Other races will include the Oxford Hills Road Race, which will take place from 10 a.m. until around 5 p.m. Friday. The start and finish will be located at Providence Christian School on Byrd Road and the race will be a 10-mile loop through Oxford. There will also be a time trial on Saturday at Alcovy Trestle Road beginning at 8 a.m. The final Newton Circuit Race will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at an abandoned subdivision at Bates and McDonald roads.

For more information about the races, including maps, visit www.GeorgiaCycling.net.

Racers will pay a fee to participate and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Oxford College Athletic Department.

The local economy should also benefit, Sherrard said, noting that the local Hampton Inn is the host hotel. "We're trying to keep the riders here, centralized, and they'll be spending money for gas and eating and stuff like that. We've been emphasizing on our Facebook page downtown Covington," he said.