The stage was set at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts for a showdown between some of the best cylocross racers in the world. The Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester or New England Worlds, as it’s come to be known locally, is one of the cornerstones of America’s cyclocross schedule and, as such, was the perfect venue to debut the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge. Today’s race, a UCI Category 1 event saw a who’s who of racers on this side of the Atlantic. Several former and current national champions toed the lines as well as numerous members of national teams.
The weather for the day started off ominous as the temperature hovered around the mid 50s F and periodic rain was falling. Course designer Tom Stevens changed the layout and added some great new features that had never before been a part of the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester. New for this year included a set of stairs leading right through the beer garden and a flyover.
Back again were some of the favorite features – the sinews across the hillside, the run up and the sand pit. For the earlier races of the day, the course was wet and greasy with some sections of standing water. By the end of the day though, the sun had shown itself and the course firmed up, becoming the extremely fast and technical course for which Gloucester is known.
The Elite Women had an extremely deep and talented field toeing the line, hoping to pull on the first-ever Shimano Series jersey. A torrid pace was set from the gun with British Champion Helen Wyman (Kona/FSA Factory Team) taking the holeshot and her compatriot Gabby Day (Renner Custom Cyclocross) taking over the lead as the women headed towards the sea wall. When they returned to the venue, Nicole Duke (Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com) had taken to the front and put a few bike lengths behind her. Behind, Wyman had taken up the chase ahead of Day, LadiesFirst Racing teammates Andrea Smith and Crystal Anthony, Duke’s teammate and US U-23 women’s champion Kaitlin Antonneau and Laura Van Gilder (C3 p/b Mellow Mushroom).
As this large group began to splinter, Wyman and Smith emerged at the front, chasing down Duke. Wyman was the first to make contact and used her power on the flats to put pressure on Duke, while Duke was able to apply the pressure in the technical sections. While the two battled at the front, Andrea Smith continued to press on in the way that has made her a favorite among the fans in New England. Smith’s tenacious style began to net gains as Wyman found herself briefly tangled in the course tape and Smith made contact with the British Champion. Smith and Wyman continued to press on, putting Duke into difficulty. Duke eventually came off the pace of her companions and, with two to go, Wyman started to attack. Smith, displaying patience and strength, rode within her limits and held as closely as she could to Wyman, stretching her gap behind to Duke. Smith was unable to regain contact with Wyman and the British rider crossed the line first for yet another victory in her American experience. She’s now won eight consecutive races in the US and will hope to make it a perfect trip tomorrow at Gloucester. Smith, for her part, netted a true breakout performance with her second place. Clearly elated at her performance, Smith crossed the line with her hands up as though she had won. Duke held on and crossed the line third ahead of her teammate Antonneau for third. Gabby Day crossed the line fifth on the day.
Said Wyman of Smith after the race, “she was just riding incredible today.” Obviously pleased with picking up such a high profile victory, Wyman was quick to praise the organizers of the race for putting together a course of this quality and the fans of cyclocross in New England for being so friendly, supportive and involved. Wyman’s victory allowed her to don the Shimano Series leader’s jersey.
The Cross Clash came back to its home turf with Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com) and Jeremy Powers (Rapha/Focus) finally making the return to New England racing as members of different teams. Johnson brought with him the Swiss Champion, Christian Huele as well as Vermont’s own Jamey Driscoll. Powers came with U-23 phenom Zach McDonald and the pair was prepared to pick up a big win in front of a close-to-home crowd. Lining up with them were Belgians Ben Berden (Ops Ale – Stoemper) and Tim Van Nuffle (DCM-GB vorselaar), Canadians Mike Garrigan (Lapierre Canada) and Craig Richey (Renner Custom Cylocross), Frenchman Nicolas Bazin (Big Mat/Auber 93), Dane Joachim Parbo (Challenge Tires) and British racer Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles). Also from the US were Barry Wicks (Kona) making his first New England appearance of the season along with Cyclocrossracing.com’s Tristan Schouten and New England’s workingman’s champion, Justin Lindine (bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage).
One of the biggest stories of this year’s edition of the Great Brewers Bran Prix of Gloucester was the presence of Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefits Strategies). Anthony, who grew up only a few minutes from Gloucester is retiring from racing cyclocross this year and was using Gloucester to go out with a bang. His racing is to benefit World Bicycle Relief and he’s using his stature as a leader among the local cycling community to enact a greater change in the world.
Canadian Mike Garrigan came off the start line on a mission, despite a third row start, he not only took the holeshot, but put a few bike length onto the rest of the field through the first few corners. “He’s one of the fastest off the line,” said countryman Craig Richey, “at World Cup races where he’s starting in the middle or the back, he’ll always be in the first twenty wheels through the holeshot.” Ian Field, Barry Wicks and Tim Johnson joined Garrigan while Jeremy Powers was nowhere to be seen as a poor start had left him languishing in the third group on course. Anthony came to the group at the front for a couple of laps but was quickly dropped and replaced by the Swiss Champion, Christian Heule. Not long after Heule joined the group, a third Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld rider came forward in the person of Jamey Driscoll. With the full team represented, gamesmanship began and Tim Johnson launched an attack with four to go, covered by Powers while Heule slowed the chase. Johnson, while still on the attack, fell victim to a flat tire, which, in the wake of his injury from last week, took a bit of the wind out of his sails. Johnson having fallen back and with Driscoll falling from the pace, it became a race of four men – Heule, Powers, Field and Belgian Ben Berden. The group of four shuffled and reshuffled itself and Powers and Heule found some space. The two came through the bell lap only a few seconds ahead of Field and Berden, but it was a gap that couldn’t be closed as Powers had the throttle fully open. Powers kept the pressure high through the last lap while Heule, clearly going full out, clung to his wheel. Coming through the sand just before the final turn, Powers’s wheels got a little squirrely and he was forced to lighten up for only a couple pedal strokes. This slim advantage was all Heule needed, the Swiss rider came around Powers in the final meters to take victory. A few seconds behind, Field, who had led Berden for the bulk of the race, held on for third. Driscoll came across the line for fifth ahead of Schouten and Bazin. Zach McDonald beat out Wicks for eighth and victory in the U23 group. Heule and McDonald will both have the honor of wearing the Shimano Series jerseys provided by Verge Sport.
Verge NECCS Fields
Once again the Amateur Men’s field was dominated by the Junior 15-18 subset with the victory going to Peter Goguen (Team CF). Curtis White (Clif Bar Development Cross Team) came from an extremely poor starting position to narrowly edge Chandler Delinks (cyclocrossworld.com/CYCLOWHAT?) and Chase Dickens for second. Of these four, only Delinks was not a junior.
The Amateur Women’s field also saw the domination of Juniors as Ellen Noble and Emma White took the first two steps on the podium. Christina Birch from MIT took third. Kathy Sarvary of Blue Steel Cyclery picked up the victory in the Masters 35+ division.
Kevin Goguen (Team CF) beat out Donnie Seib (bikeman.com) and Jimmy Maurer (Charm City Cycling LLC) in the Junior 10-14 race.
Brian Wilichoski (cyclocrossworld.com) continued his domination of the Masters 35+ field with another win today. Second place went to cyclocrossracing.com’s Curtis Boivin. Todd Bowden (Expo Wheelmen) came across third ahead of Jonny Bold (Corner Cycle), Mike Magur (Verge Sport) and Kevin Hines (Corner Cycle).
Tim Groesbeck (CCB) picked up a Gloucester win by beating Bill Sawyer (Mid State Cycling Club) and Barry Doubleday (Cycle Lodge) in the 55+ field.
Racing continues Sunday morning with the Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series fifth round events taking place in the morning and round two of the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge.
About the Shimano New England Pro Cyclocross Series Presented by Verge: The 2011 Shimano Series includes eight races in four venues: The Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester, Oct. 1 & 2 at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Mass.; The Providence Cyclocross Festival Presented by Interbike, Oct. 8 & 9 at Roger Williams Park in Providence, R.I.; The Cycle-Smart International, Nov. 5 & 6 at Look Park in Northampton, Mass.; and The NBX Grand Prix of Cyclocross Dec. 3 & 4 in Goddard Park in Warwick, R.I. For more information visit www.NEPCX.com.
About the Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series: The Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series includes fifteen races in eight venues. The opening weekend is in Williston, Vermont on September 17th and 18th with the Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend. The following Saturday, September 24th brings Nor’Easter Cross at the Nor’easter Festival in Burlington, Vermont. The Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester comes next on the 1st and 2nd of October followed by the Providence Cyclocross Festival presented by Interbike on October 8th and 9th. Rounds 8 and 9 bring the series back to New Gloucester, Maine for the Downeast Cyclocross weekend on the 22nd and 23rd of October. The series hits the home stretch on November 5th and 6th in Northampton, Massachusetts for the Cycle-Smart International. After a two-week break, the series pays its annual visit to Sterling, Massachusetts for Tom Stevens’s Bay State Cyclocross on November 26th and 27th. The series finale comes the next weekend with the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross. For more information, visit http://www.cycle-smart.com/neccs