Monday, October 09, 2006

Gran Prix Gloucester Cyclocross 2006

On a perfect autumn day in New England, the 2006 Gran Prix of Gloucester took place at Stage Fort Park, located right on the ocean in Gloucester, MA (of "The Perfect Storm" fame). Last year's Saturday day was witness to a perfect storm of sorts, as snow blanketed the area resulting in challenging race conditions. This year, the difference couldn't have been more drastic as partly sunny skies and a light breeze welcomed cross riders from as far as Portland, OR and the UK.

The setting was absolutely spectacular, with a course that had elements of fast single track, technical switch backs, and challenging run-ups (oh, and the dreaded sand pit). Being only my second cross race, I was just excited to pay only about $20 to ride around a course for 40 minutes. As people parked their cars, you could see them scurrying about with the excitement usually reserved for children on Christmas morning. Everyone wanted to unwrap the present that was the Gloucester course. I set about trying to get things together. It is funny no matter how carefully I pack my car the night before, it always ends up in a shambles as I throw gear around trying to find what I need.

After a good warm-up and getting my race number figured out, I went down to the start line. The race bible said that there was going to be a call up based on UCI points and registration (or race number). I figured I had a little time, and got down to the start with 10 minutes to spare. N0 call-up, no registration line-up, and the Men's C (my race) and B Masters were all thrown together, which meant that I was in the very back.

I decided to take it easy at the start, not wanting to be "that guy" who causes a major pile-up. Being at the back meant I was essentially screwed for any placement. This was doubly secured when going onto the grass off the pavement, there was a crash and we got held up as the front of the field roared ahead. My main concern was getting into a rhythm and riding my race (and having a good time). The course was great, the weather perfect, I was riding the Gran Prix race, and I wasn't doing housework. All in all, a good bargain.

I was basically red-lining the whole way, trying to make my move through the field as much as I could. I had a very solid race for my second race ever, passing a lot of people and not killing myself. I was a little slow in some of the technical sections, but that's to be expected at this point. I was very happy that I could get on and off of my bike without too many problems, and actually was able to use my mounting and dismounting to advantage and pass people on the run-ups.

The race went by way too fast. In fact, I only ended up racing for 38:30. The race is done by calculating approximately how many laps the leaders are going to do in a set time. So, it is not an exact science. The highlight was coming into the finishing area, which involved a fast section across dirt and grass, transitioning into a uphill climb on pavement. I was behind three other people coming onto the pavement into the climb (a short hill). At that moment, no matter where you are in the race overall, it becomes a dogfight to the line. As we wound up our sprints, we might as well been the leaders of the race. Digging furiously to the line, we were all trying to beat each other into the ground. I was able to sprint ahead, screaming out loud, and nip the other three guys at the line for 19th place overall. A small victory, but I'll take it.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out, watching races with the family, who came up later in the day. Both Amelia and Hailey liked the race immensely, although Hailey was more interested in a bottle and Amelia more interested in picking up stones. The men's and women's races were great to watch, and humbling to see the skill that they have. Lots to work on between now and Nationals in December.

There are some great photos out there of the race to see. Mine are at

They are a little small in Yahoo Photos, which is too bad because some of them are nice. Another good source for photos is under the Gloucester Gran Prix section.

Looking forward to the next race, and to next year in Gloucester when I am for sure going to race both days!!

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