Inaugural Tour de Gulfport brings community together - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Inaugural Tour de Gulfport brings community together

14-year-old Jacob Waters was born with a condition that caused him to lose his left leg. He now races in one of the adult categories. 14-year-old Jacob Waters was born with a condition that caused him to lose his left leg. He now races in one of the adult categories.
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A unique event got rolling Saturday through the streets of Gulfport. The inaugural Tour de Gulfport Criterium bike race was held in the streets of downtown. It wasn't just the race that made the event special.

The city of Gulfport sacrificed a few city blocks to the races that brought hundreds from around the southeast to our area. And according to Economic Development Director, David Parker, getting the Tour de Gulfport up and rolling was no small task.

"Without our volunteers and sponsors, this wouldn't be possible and here in Gulfport, everybody likes to put on a party so it's not hard to get help to do that," said Parker.

It's been about a decade since the last semi professional bike races were held in the city. This race was a championship in the form of a criterium. "It's roughly a one mile course and they will race for a certain amount of time," said Parker.

The racers took to the course in seven different categories including a masters class, women, and youth. At 14, Jacob Waters was one of the youngest racing in one of the adult categories. "It's fun because it's everything you have and you're just trying to beat the other guys," he said.

Waters is originally from Louisiana and was born with a condition that caused him to lose his left leg, but not his spirit. "It was always easier for me than swimming or running but I liked to be active. So I started riding. Then I decided to try a race. Ever since then I loved it," said Waters.

But it wasn't just the cyclists who made the event special. There was a street festival with music and food, as well as several community outreach programs. 

Carol Davis, who has watched her husband race in countless events throughout the country says this kind of set up is unusual. "This is the first event I've seen that actually has gone through for the family and the little ones. I wish I'd see more of this," said Davis.

Memorial Hospital gave away free helmets to children ages 3-12. Lauren SantaCruz, says this was a great opportunity to promote safety. "We're really excited that kids can come out and see that professional bikers wear helmets," she said.

James Bates was also on hand accepting donated bikes for the homeless. He loved seeing the citywide effort to do good in the community "It makes me proud to be a resident of this city," he said.

According to city officials, plans are already in the works to bring the tour back to Gulfport next year.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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