This weekend marks, to many, the official start of the Cyclo-cross season in New England with the Gran Prix of Gloucester's UCI C1 and C2 events on September 29th and 30th at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The area is set to offer up "true 'cross conditions" with rain in the forecast.
The races are the first two in the eight-race Shimano NEPCX series.
Both the UCI Men's and UCI Women's fields are stacked with both domestic and international talent, promising some of the best racing America will see until the imminent World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky this coming January.
In the men's events, both of the domestic power houses, Rapha – Focus and Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld.com, will be fully represented this weekend. The Rapha-Focus team brings current US National Champion Jeremy Powers, current U23 National Champion Zach McDonald, and Chris Jones. The Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld.com team brings recent acquisition Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, and Jamey Driscoll.
According to Powers, "It's been said Gloucester's the New England World Championships and I'd have to agree with that statement. If there's one race I look forward to every year, it's Gloucester. No one leaves anything in the tank there."
Trebon said, "I'm stoked to be back in New England for Gloucester. I've been fortunate enough to win this race a few times in the past and I'm really hoping to add a few more to my tally this weekend."
Looking to spoil any chances of victory for the two aforementioned teams are Green Mountain and Charm City winner Nicolas Bazin (Team Auber – 93), recent Gateway Cross Cup winner, Ben Berden (Raleigh/Clement), Ian Field (Hargrove Cycles – Specialized), and Jonathan Page.
In the women's events, many familiar faces, both domestic and international, will be returning to Gloucester this weekend.
Last year's winner on both days, Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing), is back to defend her titles. "Gloucester is a great race with some great features for the racers and spectators, like the beach and the run-up."
Looking to push Wyman off the top step of the podium this year will be a number of strong riders, including the two recent Rapha-Focus European additions, Gabby Day and Julie Krasniak, both Raleigh/Clement riders, Caroline Mani and Nicole Duke, Cal Giant/Specialized rider Meredith Miller, Kaitie Antonneau (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld.com), Mo Bruno Roy (Bob's Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles), and local amateur talent Crystal Anthony (CyclocrossWorld.com).
Gabby Day (Rapha-Focus) who finished third to Wyman on the day two event last year said, "I am riding so much stronger than I was last year. Helen is riding great and starting her season strong so she will be someone to watch, for sure, but if I ride a perfect race I might see myself on the top step."
Day one, the UCI C1 event, will draw on a course design from more recent years, with two run-ups and a set of high-speed barriers. Day two, the UCI C2 event, will share a few features from day one, but will be distinguished by last year's addition, the Half Moon Beach run-up.
Foul weather can often play a big role in the Gloucester races. The Gloucester Harbor that provides riders and spectators with such magnificent views throughout the weekend can also provide them with terrible weather, often at the drop of a hat. With news of inclement weather in the forecast, certain riders are already getting excited.
"Last year, Sunday was drizzle all day and the course became a bit tougher and more slippery which made it even more fun," said Wyman.
Tim Johnson has seen almost every condition Gloucester has had to offer and seems to enjoy racing in it all. "We've had dry and fast, sloppy mud, and even snow over the last 14 years of the event, but it's these variable conditions that make for the sketchiest lines at speed."