As the leaves begin to change, it not only signals the change of seasons, but it also marks the pilgrimage to Massachusetts' Cape Ann area and scenic Gloucester for the Erdinger Grand Prix of Gloucester. 1300 riders are expected to make the trip that is the highlight of many New Englanders' cyclo-cross campaigns. Now in its 10th year of existence, this extremely popular New England landmark is continuing its growth with the addition of the North American Cyclo-Cross Trophy (NACT) series to its long-standing affiliation with the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series (NECCS).
The elite men's race will pit some of the top riders in the country together on the same soil to battle for the lead in both the NACT and NECCS series. Middletown native, current NACT leader, and current national champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) will renew his battle with 2007 national champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) over the NACT lead that heated up in Seattle three weeks ago. Both riders are on very familiar ground, and know how to win here and Trebon's four wins and Johnson's three are the most by any elite male in Gloucester history. But expect another native of these parts, Beverly native and 2007 NECCS series winner Jesse Anthony (Jamis), to make a statement as this will be his first campaign of the season after returning from a broken wrist suffered during the summer road campaign. And as the defending champion of Gloucester, he will bear the brunt to defend his title.
All this attention to the "big three" will suit current NECCS leader Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) just fine, as he will quietly compete with the big boys and look to retain his NECCS lead over the weekend. Other riders to watch for will be mid-Atlantic pro Davide Frattini (Colavita/Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light), California veteran Andy Jacques-Maynes (Specialized/KMC p/b Cal Giant), Matt White (BikeReg.com/Joe's Garage), Dan Timmerman (Team RACE Pro), who opened some eyes two weeks ago in Vermont by almost winning Sunday's race after a long solo break, and NECCS U23 leader Will Dugan (Richard Sachs/RGM Watches/Boathouse Inc) will look to hold onto his series lead over Nick Keough (Jittery Joe's/Sonic).
On the women's side, with the co-NACT leaders not expected to compete, it will be a dash to decide who will take over the series lead after this weekend. NECCS leader and two-time under 23 national champion Amy Dombroski (Velo Bella-Kona) has a shot of grabbing two jerseys this weekend, as she is coming off two masterful wins in Vermont and a third in Seattle. But Dombroski will be facing a two-pronged attack, as western competitors Sarah Kerlin (HRS/Rock Lobster), teammate Kathy Sherwin, and Josie Jacques-Maynes (Specialized/KMC p/b Cal Giant) will be seeing a NACT lead in their sights, while New Englanders Rebecca Wellons (Ridley) and Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles) will be hunting down the NECCS lead. Other riders with a shot at the podium will be Anna Milkowski (Velo Bela/Kona), Sally Annis (NEBC/CycleLoft/Devonshire Dental), teammate Cris Rothfuss, and Amy Wallace (Richard Sachs/RGM Watches/Boathouse Inc)
The elite masters will look to continue their fierce battle waged up in Vermont, with Corner Cycles riders Jonny Bold and Kevin Hines in the NECCS series leads in the 35+ and 45+ respectively. But while Hines is expected to continue his dominance of the 45+, Bold will have his hands full as Roger Aspholm (Westwood Velo) and Mark McCormack (Team FUJI) are breathing down his neck for the series lead. With McCormack and Aspholm finishing ahead of Bold on Sunday in Vermont, the 35+ lead will be up for grabs in a very exciting and challenging two days of racing
Current junior national champion Luke Keough (CLNoonan/Coast-to-Coast/KAM) cruised to two wins in Vermont and looks to do the same this weekend over the likes of Manny Goguen (Minuteman Road Club), Conor O'Brien (Ride with Rendell), Karl Hoppner, and teammates Colin Huston and brother Jesse Keough.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage of the Grand Prix of Gloucester this weekend.