By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – At long last, Josh Westmoreland has an answer to the question, “When are you going to bring Riding with the King back?”
The last major cycling event in downtown Tupelo was held in June 2003 as part of that summer’s Elvis Festival. It was announced on Monday that Riding with the King will be part of the 2011 Elvis Festival on June 4 and 5.
“It’s been about a 12-month process to get to this stage,” said Westmoreland, who will serve as race coordinator. “It’s a question, about bringing it back, that’s been revisited often since 2003. Seems like a month hasn’t gone by that somebody hasn’t asked, ‘Hey, when are you going to come back?’”
The return of Riding with the King will include three races with a total purse of about $15,000 in cash and prizes. All proceeds will go to local charities, including Sanctuary Hospice House and All Saints’ Brew Mission.
Westmoreland said he expected about 250 cyclists from the Southeast in the field.
As local cyclists worked to organize the revived event, Westmoreland said they found “city officials much more open, much easier to deal with” than during the first iteration of the event. “We began to test the waters at the beginning of this year, and it was clear there was support for bringing it back,” he said.
Westmoreland also praised the support of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, the presenter of the Elvis Festival, along with the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau and the local community of cycling enthusiasts.
“There’s a much broader-based cycling community in Tupelo today than eight years ago,” he said. “That strong community of recreational and competitive cyclists helps us to feel confident we have the manpower and support to make this work.”
The event will begin on the morning of Saturday, June 4, with a circuit race through Tupelo’s historic residential neighborhoods, followed by a time trial in the afternoon. “We’re really looking forward to the chance to show off our downtown neighborhoods,” Westmoreland said.
On Sunday, a fast six-corner course in the Main Street business district will be the venue for a timed criterium event.
The circuit race and criterium will each have total purses of $5,000 in cash and prizes. The time trial will have a $1,500 purse.
In addition to the individual races, competitors can enter a concurrent omnium with a $2,500 prize list.
Riders can enter any event individually but must complete all events to qualify for the omnium. Entry fee is $35 per race or $75 for the omnium. Riders wishing to compete in multiple categories may pay $100 and compete in any event for which they qualify.
The event is seeking a title sponsor for $3,000, Westmoreland said, as well as additional sponsorships at lower levels. “An event like this does require a substantial amount of community support,” he said.
For information regarding sponsorships or participation, contact Westmoreland at (662) 401-8939.
Contact John L. Pitts at 678-1522