The Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester closed out the first weekend in the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge in style with two barnburners. The Elite Women’s race was once again dominated by Helen Wyman (Kona/FSA Factory Team) while Jeremy Powers (Rapha/Focus) made a late move to shake Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com).
The grounds were dry for most of the day at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester. The temperatures were lower – only reaching the upper-50s with high winds coming in off the ocean. The prior day’s mud had largely dried out and the Sunday course offered racers a unique set of challenges, including a never-before seen sand section along the shore of Cape Ann with a 33 stair climb back to the main venue. In years past, Gloucester has been praised for its beautiful venue; this year’s edition took advantage of every inch of it.
As usual, Gabby Day (Renner Custom Cyclocross) came off the line with a huge burst of speed, shortly before the first bend, she was overtaken by Andrea Smith (LadiestFirst Racing). Smith, coming off her best career result as the runner-up in Saturday’s edition, aimed to come a step higher on Sunday. Smith’s high pace strung the field out in the first couple of minutes of racing, leading into the runup. Once the women emerged from the lower level, Wyman had taken up her preferred position – on the front.
A self-described “reformed road racer,” Wyman was able to put her skills to use on the longer straightaways and fast corners. Behind Wyman, a group of three emerged as the main chasing group – Smith, Day and Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com’s Nicole Duke. Duke, in a replay of Saturday, made contact and rode with Wyman through the middle laps of the race. Wyman, who seems to only get stronger as the race pushes on, was able to shake free of Duke and soloed in for victory. Duke was, by this point, well clear of all challengers and cruised in for another second on the weekend.
Behind, the fight for third was between Duke’s teammate, Kaitlin Antonneau, Smith and Day. Smith had been riding with Day for much of the race, but began to come unglued as the British racer held the pace high in hopes of a podium before her return to Europe. Antonneau recovered yet again from a poor start to move towards the front group. She made contact with Smith, but was never able to reach Day who held on for third. On the final lap, Smith and Antonneau traded leads repeatedly with Antonneau edging the local hero for fourth. Smith’s fifth place following her second place on Saturday sets her up well in the quest for victory in the Shimano series. Appropriately though, on her final race in the US, Wyman was able to do her sponsors at Shimano proud by pulling on the Shimano series jersey. Wyman makes her return to Europe by the time this makes press, but she gave her strongest indication that she would be back in 2012 – New England cyclocross would love to have her back.
Jeremy Powers came into Sunday looking for revenge on the weekend. He had led Swiss Chanp Christian Heule (Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com) for most of Saturday’s race but couldn’t keep the Swiss racer in check in the finale. He knew Tim Johnson would be hoping to turn around his fortunes from Saturday in hopes of winning yet another Gloucester. He knew the Cannondale men outnumbered him with Johnson, Heule and Jamey Driscoll, all of whom are capable of a Gloucester victory. But he didn’t care. He was determined to get back to the top step.
After Heule, wearing the white Shimano Series leader’s jersey instead of his Swiss red and white, was the first off the pavement, it was Johnson who would set the pace. Johnson has always been a strong starter and today was no different, he was racing like a new man after yesterday’s disappointment. Behind him a group quickly formed of Powers, Nicolas Bazin (Big Mat/Auber93), Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) and Ben Berden (Stoemper/Ops Ale). The pace set by this group was so high that it seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to make contact.
Field made a solo attempt to catch Johnson with five laps to go. He was about halfway through the twenty-second gap when a child crossed the course tape and collided with the British racer. Field wound up on the ground, mildly injured but afraid of potential damage. After a cursory check of self and bike, Field found it best to pull the plug, a truly sad end for such a successful campaign in the US.
With Field out of the picture and Bazin falling off the pace, it was Powers, Heule and Berden as the chase. Driscoll was dangling only a few seconds down, but was never able to make contact with the group. As it became clear that Johnson had every intention of going solo for the final five laps, Powers and Berden began to try to close the 25-second gap. Heule, playing the role of teammate to a T, sat comfortably on Powers’s wheel.The gap slowly came down under Powers’s force and once it was down to just over ten seconds, Powers attacked the chase group with all he had. Hitting the pavement with two to go, Powers caught and attacked Johnson.
“I knew Tim was going really well. I had to go full gas and not look back if I was going to win,” said Powers following the race.
With Johnson on the ropes, Powers had to ride on the rivet and cleanly for the final two laps. Coming into the final lap, Powers had an advantage of ten seconds on his former teammate, with Johnson closing in fits and starts, hanging on the rubber band. Powers would not relinquish the lead, despite some heckling from the pit area, and triumphantly came across the finish line to wild cheers from the crowd.
Johnson crossed the line second to a similar fanfare of the winner. The third slot went to Berden who gutted his way past Heule in the final few turns.
Zach McDonald (Rapha/Focus) came across 7th as the winning U23. Manny Goguen (bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage) was second U23 ahead of Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross).
By virtue of a second and a first on the weekend, Powers was able to pull on the Shimano Series leader’s jersey from our friends at Verge. McDonald also picked up a new shirt by leading the U23 division.
Top 10 Elite Women
1. Helen Wyman (KONA/FSA Factory Team)
2. Nicole Duke (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld)
3. Gabby Day (Renner Custom cyclo cross team)
4. Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld)
5. Andrea Smith (Ladies First)
6. Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA cycles)
7. Caroline Mani (BH-SuntourVienne Futuroscope)
8. Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill)
9. Nicole Thiemann (Team CF-Elite)
10. Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers)
Top 10 Elite Men
1. Jeremy Powers (Rapha/Focus)
2. Timothy Johnson (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld)
3. Ben Berden (Ops Ale – Stoemper)
4. Christian Heule (Cannondale/cyclocrossworld.com)
5. James Driscoll (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld)
6. Nicolas Bazin (Big Mat)
7. Zach McDonald (Rapha/Focus)
8. Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage)
9. Tristan Schouten (Cyclocrossracing.com)
10. Dylan Mcnicholas (NorEast Cycling)