Off-road bikers from all over the country will be coming to Greenwood on Saturday for the Greenwood Gravel Grind.
As of Thursday afternoon, 151 people had registered for the third annual event — an increase from the nearly 120 who participated last year. Beth Stevens, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, said she expected more to sign up before Saturday.
“Each year that we’ve had this, we’ve seen this event grow. That’s what we like to see with new events,” Stevens said. “We know that over time, it will continue to grow as people get more and more into off-road cycling. So we’re really excited about this.”
The event features two gravel rides — 50 kilometers, or about 31 miles, and 100 kilometers, which is about 62 miles.
The organizers and participants will still follow COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, including minimal contact with volunteers. There will be hand sanitizing stations and individually packaged food.
Online registration at greenwoodgravelgrind.com closes at 10 a.m. Friday, and in-person registration will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Chamber of Commerce; no entries will be allowed on ride day. The entry fee is $65.
This ride will begin and end at Greenwood-Leflore Airport. In years past, cyclists had to ride down to Humphrey Highway. This new route avoids levees that could become too muddy if it rains.
The ride goes throughout the area, including Carroll County, where riders can see and ride on the hills of Mississippi. It’s a contrast to the chamber’s other popular riding event, Bikes, Blues & Bayous, which is the state’s largest cycling event.
“This one is just a little bit different in terms of the location of it,” Stevens said. “The scenery is completely different. You’re up in the hills, but you get peeks of the land opening up, and you can see the Delta from where the course takes you.”
She said this event brings in mostly out-of-town visitors, including some from Texas, Kentucky, Georgia and other locations.
One visitor who is excited about the ride is Bob Sharpe, a corporate recruiter from Jefferson, Iowa.
Sharpe, 61, who has been gravel racing for the last two years, said he will be visiting Greenwood for the first time.
“I am looking forward to exploring Greenwood and seeing the countryside of the area,” he said.
He also said that the hospitality for the ride is a selling point.
“I was invited by a friend to come down, and I am definitely looking forward to the camaraderie and social aspects of the ride,” he said.
The National Weather Service in Jackson said Thursday that there is a 60% chance of rain and thunderstorms on Friday, but Stevens said that could actually prove beneficial come Saturday.
“Hopefully, it won’t be enough to make most of the roads muddy,” she said. “A little bit of rain is not necessarily bad because it helps pack the roads down. … But if there is a little bit of mud, that’s part of the fun and excitement of off-road cycling because you never know what you’re going to get.”
- Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @AdamBakst_GWCW.