In its domestic beginnings cyclo-cross barely carved out a cult niche, a bunch of crazy guys and girls running around in the mud, but now America hosts more than 50 cyclo-cross events annually that are sanctioned under the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).
As the latest feather in America’s ’cross cap it is scheduled to host the UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships for the first time in Louisville, Kentucky in 2013. As part of the agreement for hosting Worlds, the Louisville venue will also be used for the Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships in 2012 and 2013.
BikeRadar reporter, Kirsten Frattini took a snapshot of some of the nation's most prominent 'cross events that scheduled to take place from September to December this year. It is a mix of races that range from the oldest to the newest, the wackiest to the most epic and everything in between. We’ll look at one per day — of this 7 part series — for the following week.
Yesterday we focused on CrossVegas and today we head to the New England seaside in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the locals take the event more seriously than the world championships.
Gran Prix of Gloucester: the New England worlds
The 12th annual Gran Prix of Gloucester, affectionately known as "the New England worlds", is never lacking in competition and attracts cyclo-cross racers from around the world who dare to take on New England's natives in a battle on their own turf.
The weekend is made up of a pair of UCI C2 level events that mark rounds three and four of the NACT series held on October 2 and 3.
"I have to say that as a pillar of the season race, it would have to be Gloucester," said Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), 2009's NACT series champion. "The crowd (is biased), the fields are filled to the brim with riders that are excited to be out on their bikes and it's close to home.
“In Gloucester we’ve seen 6 inches of snow; we’ve seen 4 inches of mud and we’ve seen dry as a bone and dusty like a highway in Nevada all on the same course and I’ll take any one of the three.”
New England has produced some of the most revered cyclo-cross specialists in the country that include brothers Frank and Mark McCormack, 2007 World Championship silver medalist Jonathan Page, US National Champion Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, Adam Myerson, Jamey Driscoll and Maureen Bruno-Roy, among many others.
The races are held on a breathtaking venue along the eastern seaboard's Atlantic shoreline at the Stage Fort Park. The course offers an array of obstacles with a lengthy sand pit, a steep ride-up (that often turns into a run-up in muddy conditions), off-camber twists and turns and strong winds along the shoreline.
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) and Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy) won their respective events in the Gran Prix of Gloucester's first round last year. The following day Elliot repeated her win in the women's race and Johnson topped the podium in the men's race.