Cyclocross is a fickle sport and so is Mother Nature. However, the weather gods have shined on weekends this fall and we’ve had some spectacular weather to race cyclocross. The last weekend of September at the Grand Prix of Gloucester was no different. The Grand Prix of Gloucester is smack dab in the middle of “Holy Week”, an 11 day period of time where seven top flight CX races take place within an hour of Boston. Gloucester also happens to be a stone’s throw from the Fit Werx location in Peabody, MA so essentially, the VT based Fit Werx racers were racing on home turf. At least that is what we told ourselves!
Just getting into the Gloucester race can be race in and of itself. Fields routinely fill up within an hour of registration opening in August. I, and my faithful Independent Fabrication Planet Cross, was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky 100 racers to get into the Masters 45+ field. Bruce Bell on his Seven Mud Honey and Bob Dillion on his Felt F2X flew the Fit Werx colors in the 55+ field. We’d all be on the course at the same time both days as fields race simultaneously. Race day dawned and temperatures in the mid 70’s certainly didn’t make it feel like late September. Bone dry racing surfaces didn’t either. The Masters 45/55+ fields took to the track as the fourth race of the day and I staged on the fifth row. I knew a good start would be crucial or it could be a long day of sprinting and braking. When the whistle blew, I engaged my pedals quickly and was able to weave through the field; by the top of the first hill I had slotted into the top 25. I would stay here largely the entire race, moving up a few places on the paved climb each lap and then giving a few back along the obscenely dusty sea wall on the back side of the course. Towards the end of the race, with a lap to go, a rider from the Expo/Wheelman squad and I jockeyed for position into the sand trap for the final time and I thought I had him lined up for the pass. However, he slammed the door on my line and I was left to fight for position up the pavement with Aaron Millett, who was not having his best day. While I lost the sprint on the line, to a much quicker sprinter, I was happy to cross the line inside of the top 25 overall (24th to be exact) to score my first ever Verge Series points.
Sunday was more of the same, except the course was a little shorter, it was also set up a bit tighter to put more of a premium on bike handling. Again I staged on the fifth row, having hoped for call ups on Verge points and being denied. By the top of the hill, I was happy to again find myself in the top 25, after starting from about 40th start position. With some luck and aggressive riding through the first set of stairs I found myself just outside of the top 15. At one point I found myself with Don Seib (4th the previous day) on my wheel and still in view of the front of the race. This would be a good day if I didn’t screw it up. A rider from Horst Engineering and I went back and forth for the next four laps, even including my rival from the day before, Aaron Millett, for a short while. I was still inside the top 20 after five laps and driving hard, but I was also weaving and dodging the tail end of the 55+ field; I wasn’t sure who was who as the two fields mixed. Coming into the last set of stairs I was passed by what I was sure was another 45+ rider and hoped to grasp his wheel and see what my sprint had as we came up the pavement for the last time. When the racers around you have calf muscles that are as big as your quads, odds are you are not going to win the three up sprint. Low and behold, I was right. Regardless I was really pleased with coming home in 19th – a nice improvement on Saturday’s result. I couldn’t be happier with the weekend, well maybe if I sprinted better… Gloucester rolled out the red carpet and ran an amazing event and the weather gods played nice. Looking forward to a little reset for the second half of the season and to carry some form into November.