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A wet Gran Prix of Gloucester made for exciting racing, with constant lead changes, attacks and regroups. At the end, two mean on rival teams emerged, from Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld and Rapha Focus, leading into the last lap. But it wasn’t the New England Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers throw-down many spectators had hoped for, it was Swiss National Champion Christian Heule marking Powers in the final lap. Up the final climb, Heule powered away from the Rapha-Focus rider, with Ian Field, Ben Berden and Jamey Driscoll following behind.
The stage was set at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts for a showdown between some of the best cyclocross 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 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.
View Cyclocross Magazine’s Gran Prix of Gloucester live coverage page here to see how it went down and watch tomorrow’s racing.
2011 Gloucester Day 1 Elite Men
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