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Hilbey flies to cycling victory

By Staff
MAKING A MOVE Cyclers make their way around the course along Lizelia Road and Old Highway 39 during the road race competition on Saturday in the State Games of Mississippi. PHOTO BY ANNA WRIGHT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Jimmy Boone / special to the Star
June 29, 2003
As a Naval pilot instructor, Josh Hilbey is used to flying fast in the air.
At the State Games of Mississippi Road Racing event, Hilbey showed that he can go pretty fast on the ground as well.
Hilbey and Butch Sims both finished with a time of 1:26.50 with Hilbey finishing less than a bike length ahead.
"We had a sprint finish today, with seven guys in a big pack that finished together," Hilbey said. "I am part of a team and we had three of our guys together for the finish."
Both men took home gold medals as the 30-year-old Hilbey claimed the 30-39 age group title while the 50-year-old Sims was the 50-59 age group titlist.
Hilbey said his team is composed of several riders from Meridian and is part of the Meridian Athletic Association.
"When we planned for this race, we had a plan to run a different race," Hilbey said. "Our initial plan did not work out as we had planned, so we changed our tactics and it set me up to finish first."
Hilbey said that he started racing when he was in college and raced across the country. When he entered the Navy, however, he had to quit racing.
"I was stationed in Japan and later on an aircraft carrier, " Hilbey said. "You can't ride a bicycle on a carrier, so I started putting on some weight because I was unable to ride."
Now that he is in Meridian, Hilbey has found time to return to his riding.
"Meridian is a good area to ride in, and I have ridden this course many times in training," Hilbey said. "With this course located so close to the Naval base, I am able to ride a lot more."
The commissioner of the Cycling Road Race event said that the number of riders was up from last year.
"We had 25 riders last year and this year we had 37," Gray said. "Every rider was in an age group category."
Gray said that male riders from 15 years to 59 all rode 30 miles while everybody else rode 20 miles.
"The course was a ten mile circular route, so they either rode around it twice or three times," Gray said. "It is a pretty demanding course with some good elevations on it."
The first woman to cross the finish line was Lena Yarbrough, who won by less than a second over Claire LaGarll.
The 30-year-old Yarbrough finished in a time of 1:06.49 while 28-year-old LaGarll completed the ride at 1:06.50.
"We were very close, and I think my tire was the only thing ahead of her," Yarbrough said. "This was my very first road race ever, so I am very excited that I got the win."
Yarbrough will take home the 30-39 gold medal and LaGarll got the 19-29 age group gold.
"I have been riding in mountain bike competitions, but decided to try a road race after riding with a group back in Natchez," Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough said she also found the hills challenging, but said she remembered a simple rule.
"The hill killed me on the second lap and I was not sure I was going to make it," Yarbrough said. "But then I remember, that for every hill that goes up, there is also a great downhill."
"I sure am glad there is gravity, because it helped me as I went downhill."