Written by Darcey Moore
The Grand Prix of Gloucester is always held in high regard in cyclocross, it's called "New England Worlds" up here and it's always spoken of with a mix of awe and revere. The race is held at Stage Fort Park, a park with huge boulders, a sandy beach, stone steps, sweeping turns and a gorgeous view of the harbor. Classic New England. Local racers, retired racers and fans post throwback Gloucester photos leading up to the race and the hype is strong. The venue is beautiful, there is consistently a great turnout and the race is always well-run. The organizers truly commit to making the race competitive and enjoyable for every category. As part of the Vittoria series, they led the way in offering equal prize lists for women's fields, and the women's fields in Gloucester are stacked! For all categories! And just look at the Women's Masters field this year:
Photo by Jon Nable
That being said, Gloucester has always been a kick in the face for me. It was my first cx race ever a few years ago! I had just got a cx bike earlier that year, but I had no idea what I was doing. I was really nervous. There were 68 Cat 4 women in the field that day. I had no idea that was a big field, I thought that was normal. During my first race, I remember trying to remount my bike in front of a crowd of friends, falling spectacularly and hearing a kind spectator yell "It's okay! Get back up, you'll be alright!". I finished the race, and I was hooked.
Flash forward a year, at Gloucester, I first met my future teammate Krys. I said I was nervous about the race, she said she felt like she was going to throw up. "Okay, I'm not the only one," I thought. After having some races under my belt, I knew that while the race is a lot of fun, it was not exactly aligned with my strengths. But in the race that year, I did make some good passes and pushed myself to do my best. The long, uphill finish hurt. A lot. I lost a few places on the finish straight. The dry, dusty, fast conditions had me coughing up dirt after the finish. But I had fun, and I went for a swim in the cool water on Half Moon Beach at the venue before cleaning up to cheer for my friends at their races.
Fast forward a few years later to this year. My This Team Saves Lives teammates Jess, Holly and Heather came up from Philly and Brooklyn to race with Brooke, myself, and a lot of other women. It felt amazing to line up with my squad of teammates and make each other laugh in the start grid. It was also my birthday, and my family was there from Pennsylvania to spectate the race, so there was a lot of excitement in the air. And nerves. During pre-ride, my legs felt heavy and tired. My routine for the week leading up to Gloucester was thrown off. I was working hard on a big project at work. I didn't get a good warm up on Friday like I usually do. I wasn't sleeping well. All of those little negative excuses were bubbling up during my warm up Saturday morning. But I tired to not indulge those thoughts too much, and I lined up for the start. The course was different this year, with more turns and technical bits, which I was excited about.
As it started to rain, I had a great start! I passed some friends I normally don't pass. I tried to keep a good position, and felt confident in my turning. But in the power sections, my legs just felt heavy and tired and I just could not put enough power down. I lost a few spots and lost contact with the group with Brooke and Jess in it. Okay, I thought, I'll need to race smart today. I passed someone on the stone stairs on the back of the course. I passed someone on the stairs by club row as Andy Huff sang/shouted Happy Birthday at me. My teammate Heather caught up with me at the start of the last lap and I was happy to see her. "Let's just hold off the group behind us" I said, and we worked together to power through the straights. Heather and I finished together, and I was happy to be done. My bike was full of mud and grass, so I took my bike to the Pedro's tent to give it a good, loving clean so it would be ready for Day 2. That night I had some Key Lime pie after a big dinner with my family to celebrate.
Photo by Team Monster Truck
Photos by Scott Myers, Dan Cariolo
On Sunday, after a good night sleep, my head was in a much better place. A blanket of fog covered the park, and I pre-rode with Brooke while listening to the fog horns and the seagulls in the harbor. The ground was slick and I was happy to feel the cooler weather and tacky dirt on the course. My start wasn't spectacular and I got caught behind someone bobbling the first chicane. The B-line I had practiced to get around a pileup had dried up in the last hour and was now a pile of dust. Oops. I couldn't get traction and I had to get off and run to the barriers. On my remount, I made contact with a fellow rider coming up behind me on the inside. Double oops. On the uphill stairs, I mis-timed my dismount and tipped over into the fencing. Triple oops. I was more than a little mad at myself for making silly mistakes like this.
I saw Brooke crash ahead of me and yelled some supportive words and I hoped she was okay. At some point, I realized that I should be more assertive in positioning through the turns. I made some good passes, or at least put some pressure on riders in front of me to take tricky features faster. I rode the chicanes fast and clean every subsequent lap, which was a small victory after the disaster of Lap 1. In the last lap, I was riding with someone whom I knew was strong on the road. I figured I should build up a lead because she'll probably surge past me on the uphill finish. I tried taking each section as fast as I safely could, and I saw her over my shoulder behind me, but I couldn't tell how far behind. I emptied the tank up the finish straight and held my position. Small victories!
Thanks to Dan Cariolo and Sean Curran for these photos
I cleaned myself up, met my teammates and found out that Jess won our race!! Amazing! After her podium and some much needed food, we all gathered (even Baby Juniper!) to cheer for Holly for her race.
Overall, this was a great weekend for the team as a whole. My teammates achieved some incredible results and we all had fun. I was happy to welcome our out-of-town teammates to Massachusetts and show them how wonderful New England Cyclocross (NECX) can be. I was a little disappointed in my own results, but racing in New England (where the fields are big and the talent is aplenty), I try not to base my goals too much on results. I see the progress I've made over this year, and I'm excited to keep racing. Oh, and watching Ellen Noble win on Day 2 was pretty inspiring too!
Until next year, Gloucester! You are always a highlight to the season, and a good excuse to see teammates, friends and family in our little cyclocross community.