Luke Keough, Justin Lindine, and Derek St. John on the podium at Providence Day 2.

Luke Keough, Justin Lindine, and Derek St. John on the podium at Providence Day 2 in 2011.

UCI Clears Calendar for Opening Week of Shimano Pro Series

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND –The Providence Cyclo-cross Festival, as part of the Shimano New England Professional Cyclo-cross Series, will anchor the premier week of racing in the country. Starting a week earlier with the Great Brewers’ Gran Prix of Gloucester and culminating in Providence, riders from around the world have dubbed this to be the “Holy Week” of cyclocross in America.

Due to the high grades both events received by the Union Cycliste International (UCI), both events were given exclusive international sanctions for their dates with the highest status. This is the only region in the country with two Category 1 events, and they are only one week and 100 miles apart.

“The international ’cross scene takes us all over the place,” said Tim Johnson of Massachusetts, a superstar with six national titles. “Gloucester and Providence are the races that helped to put cyclocross on the map. Being able to race such high-level events so close to home is amazing. To win them makes a career great!”

Johnson knows. The international celebrity has scored wins at both. But this year will be hard for Johnson as riders from Denmark, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Great Britain, France, Canada and other countries converge on New England for this week.

Held at the picturesque Stage Fort Park along the ocean, Gloucester has climbed in prestige over the past 14 years, having hosted world champions.

Providence is an upstart event. Having been used for the 2005 national championships, the course at Roger Williams Park became a UCI event in 2009. This will be just be the fourth edition of the race.

“I have to confess to being initially naive,” said Richard Fries, the event’s promoter. “I did not care about UCI status or whether other races were on the calendar. I only wanted to be one week after Gloucester.”

For the first three editions of the event, Providence faced competition with other international events. But after considerable diplomacy on the part of the UCI and USA Cycling, Providence will be the only international event in North America on that date.

“We believed from day one that of all the races in North America, we had the best course, the best venue, the best host city, and the best market,” said Fries. “But until this year we never got ALL the best riders. This will be the year we finally see a truly international field. Providence will indeed be divine.”

Adding to the prestige of Providence is its inclusion, along with Gloucester, in the Shimano New England Professional Cyclo-cross Series. The industry leader in cycling components, Shimano has made a sizable investment in New England. The series enables riders to compete for the largest overall purse of any series in America without having to travel. After Providence the series resumes in Northampton, Mass., and returns to its finale in Warwick, R.I.

Shimano Corporation with its continuing support of the series has shown the explosive growth of this sport. In addition to making a tangible financial commitment Shimano has provided all racers on opportunity to stay in the race through its neutral race service program.

The fourth annual Providence Cyclo-cross Festival will be held Oct. 6 & 7, 2012. Held in Roger Williams Park on a course used for the 2005 and 2006 U.S. National Cyclo-cross Championships, the Providence Cyclo-cross Festival returns as a UCI sanctioned Category 1 event . Organized by Providence Cross Fest LLC, the event is also part of the Shimano New England Cyclocross series. For more information, visit www.providencecrossfest.com