Gloucester CX 55+ Race Report
By Keith Honda
Gloucester CX was easily my favorite 'cross event, last year. I wasn't sure how well I could race this year (suffering from a week of mysterious back pain and low energy), but I was still excited to be there to start New England's "Holy Week" of cyclocross. Stage Fort Park has to be the best CX venue in the US, with classic North Shore waterfront views and challenging terrain. Add the top pro teams, competitive racing, great organization, manufacturer's expo/schwag, food trucks like "The Happy Taco", and you have a recipe for fun. Of course there is a top-notch beer tent, since Great Brewers is one of the sponsors. Located on a hill next to a wooden step run-up on the course, the beer tent offers great spectating and a selection of craft beers from brewers like Ommegang and Lagunitas.
As I lined up on the 4th row for the start of Saturday's M55+ race, with 55 other riders, I was feeling nervous. We started, and a rider in the middle of the 2nd row fell onto the asphalt in front of me. I tried to go left, but riders behind me were already starting to crash into the domino-pile of bikes and bodies forming all around. I somehow stayed on my feet, but saw no way through the tangled mess and fencing. A path eventually cleared and I sprinted up the road section in an adrenaline rush, having no idea what position I was in. My wife and Expo teammates provided some much-needed encouragement. I passed a few riders on the first lap, but probably expended too much effort in the process. Things went backward from there, with the unusual heat and dust taking their toll, and I ultimately ended up 34th. It was time to refuel the old carcass with a burrito and a recovery drink, and to do a little spectating.
Day 2 would be better. The course was changed to include more technical turns, and the wear and tear from the previous day made everything else a little more challenging. I told myself to focus on the course and to find every possible opportunity to put the power down. The start featured a longer paved section with more turns, and I was able to use some crit skills to get near the front, going into the first run-up. Other than some near-washouts in loose, dry turns, my ride was relatively free of mistakes, and I felt much stronger than on Day 1. I was happy to hang on for 22nd place, even scoring some Verge Series points that will help with start staging at the next races.
A "Big Thanks!" to Bob at Manchester Cycle Shop for setting me up with a new front rim to replace the one I stepped on at Silk City CX. The Bontrager tubeless wheels worked perfectly for me, and probably avoided some pinch flats, while many other riders fell victim to rocks that popped up out of the dust on both days. It was a great weekend in Gloucester. I'm already looking forward to next year!