After a month’s break, the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge is back in action, this time at beautiful Look Park in Northampton, Massachusetts. The 21st edition of the Cycle-Smart International is already the biggest the race has ever been with nearly 1400 racers pre-registered as well as a new-for-2011 expo and kids races both days.
Last weekend’s freak snowstorm knocked out power in Western Massachusetts for most of the past week, but the Cycle-Smart International team have worked closely with the staff of Look Park to ensure that this year’s race will once again be one of the jewels in New England racing’s crown. With the courses cleared and no damage to the race venue, racers will once again be treated to two of the best courses in America. Saturday will feature the infamous run-up and the always-exciting railroad track crossings, while Sunday’s course is marked by a steep, off-camber descent. In the eyes of many racers, the flow of the Cycle-Smart International courses is unparalleled, with series of fast, but technical turns that separate riders with finesse from their competition.
Saturday and Sunday will feature Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series races for Amateur, Junior and Masters racers, while giving the Pro field their latest crack at taking over the coveted Shimano Series leadership. In the driver’s seat right now for the men is Justin Lindine (bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage). The man from Western Mass is looking to extend his lead and put yet another stamp on his dominant season thus far. A recent recipient of the nickname Honey Badger for his relentless racing style, he’s picked up an impressive number of UCI victories this season – and is looking for two more. The challengers are led by Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross), a man who is no stranger to victory in Northampton. Luke swept last year’s 20th edition in dominating fashion. Dylan McNicholas (cyclocrossworld.com) is going to come into the weekend with both guns blazing. He picked up a big win at Downeast Cyclocross two weeks ago and is ready to take his first UCI victory of the season. Big things can also come from the Philadelphia Cyclocross School’s Lukas Winterberg – most recently the winner at both HPCX and DCCX. Winterberg placed fifth at Providence and second at Beacon, so he’s clearly found his form and will be looking for victory.
Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom p/b C3) holds on to the lead in the women’s series. The racer from the mid-Atlantic has performed well at both the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester and the Providence Cyclocross Festival – where she picked up a win and a second place. Van Gilder has a history of top performances at Cycle-Smart International, winning both races last year, as well as one day in 2008. Van Gilder has her sights set on the Shimano Series title, so she’ll be coming on strong. With Van Gilder comes C3-Athletes Serving Athletes’s next big talent, Arley Kemmerer. For much of last season, Kemmerer was just behind the leading group in these races – this year, she’s right in the thick of things and poised for a breakout podium placing. Chasing women of the mid-Atlantic will be the armada from LadiesFirst Racing. Led by Andrea Smith, these women are strong racers and each coming onto form as the season progresses. The last race they all attended, Smith, along with Crystal Anthony and Elle Anderson swept the podium. Doubtless, that’s the target for every race they enter, but Smith needs her teammates to do well if she’s to catch Van Gilder in the chase for the overall. Local hero Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles) is making her return to racing in the States following a successful trip to Europe where she placed in the top-20 in the World Cup in the Czech Republic.
Speaking of the Czech Republic, one of the premier cyclocross racers in the world, male or female, will be racing this weekend – Czech champion, Katerina Nash (LUNA Pro Team) will be the odds-on favorite for victory this weekend. Nash, though, is not just coming out to race, but is leading a weekend-long cyclocross clinic for a group of women. The LUNA program is built on participating in the community and Nash’s weekend will show that commitment to a T.
Before racing kicks off, Northampton Coffee will host the third annual Cycle-Smart International Pick-Up Party. This is an opportunity to hang out with fellow racers across the ranks, from beginners to the pros, pick up your race numbers for the weekend and enjoy a coffee, beer or snacks before getting too involved in the weekend’s racing. The event kicks off at 7:30 and runs til 9. Northampton Coffee is located at 269 Pleasant Street in Northampton.