(photo credit: todd prekaski)
I won a hard-fought battle for third place today and rode myself onto my first podium of the season. Helen Wyman (Kona) dominated the first day of the Gran Prix of Gloucester and handily took the win. Gabby Day (Rapha-Focus) rode a strong ride for second. I came across the line in third to round out the podium. After knocking on the door in Vegas and Madison, I was super happy to turn oh-so-close into a true podium spot. It’s a relief to get that first one out of the way – now I need to make sure they keep coming.
This is my second time racing in Gloucester. I won the day two of racing here in 2010 against a field that isn’t as deep as the one here this weekend. I wasn’t able to work the race into my schedule last year, and I’m happy to be back for what is often called the New England World Championships.
Until today, it’s pretty much been raining in Gloucester since I flew in on Thursday night. Today it was more mist than true rain. In most other places, with the amount of rain we’ve seen here, the course would have been under water. Because the venue is situated on the beach, the course drained well.
By the time I raced this afternoon, the rain had stopped. When I got to the course, I was surprised at the lack of mud. I knew the course drained well, but I still expected sloppier conditions than what I saw. The morning races had churned up mud in certain places, so there were ruts in select sections of the course. Beyond that, the course was in amazingly good shape considering the weather.
(photo credit: todd prekaski)
I took the hole shot.
(Yes, you read that right. True story. I swear.)
It’s an uphill start, so I’m at an advantage right there – and I was motivated to put in extra effort off the line because there were a few technical sections that came up pretty quickly in each lap. I wanted to have a clear line through those sections. So, hole shot.
Gabby and Helen came around me as we entered the technical sections that inspired my speedy start. I felt okay about that because I know they’re both strong technical riders. I wasn’t worried about them fumbling and causing gaps behind them. I was happy to follow their wheels through those sections. I didn’t have a chance to follow for long because Helen shot off the front with Gabby quick to jump in her wake. I didn’t respond quickly enough, and I was forced to watch them open up a gap.
A group immediately formed behind them. Elle Anderson (LadiesFirst), Crystal Anthony (Cyclocrossworld.com) and I became a three-rider chase, and by the time we had completed the first lap, we had opened up a sizeable advantage over the rest of the field. I don’t think Gabby ever managed to close the gap Helen had opened when she attacked, so by the time we started lap two, it was Helen followed by Gabby followed by my group of three.
My trio shuffled positions as the laps ticked down. Eventually, we rode up to Gabby, and three became four. The reshuffling continued until Gabby managed to break away from us again and solidify second place.
In the penultimate lap, we somehow lost Elle. I suspect she had some sort of mechanical because she was there, and she wasn’t struggling – and then suddenly she was gone. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her after the race today. All I know is that she was there before the run-up, and over the top of the run-up, she was gone. That left Crystal and I to duke it out for third.
(photo credit: todd prekaski)
Heading into the final lap, I could see Julie Krasniak (Rapha-Focus) closing in on us pretty quickly. I had wanted to force Crystal to do a little bit more work in the last lap, but at that rate at which Julie was making up ground, I knew getting caught was a possibility. So, I stepped on the gas a little bit to come around Crystal and keep the pace high. In doing that, I opened up a gap on Crystal, so I kept my head down and chipped away at my advantage. I played it smart and safe to make it though the final lap without any mishaps to cross the line solo for third place.
I did relatively okay with the technical elements we faced today. There was one section that made me a little nervous in the middle of the course. It was an off-camber section that was a little slippery and rutted. I ended up having no problem with it, though – I didn’t ride it super fast or anything like that but I did get through it without any issues on every lap.
We face course changes tomorrow – one of which is especially challenging – so it will be interesting to see how everyone handles the new elements. The most notable change will be the addition of the High Moon Beach run-up that was introduced during day two of racing last year. It’s a long sand section on the beach followed by a stair-step section off the beach and back onto the course.
You’re likely familiar with the foreigners I mention in this report. Julie rode for Rapha last year and had a strong presence in the US. Both Gabby and Helen are well-known at the World Cup level, and it’s exciting to race against them here in the States – it elevates the level of competition for all us. You may not know who Elle and Crystal are, though, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about them.
I first encountered Elle this season in California. She beat me in our warm-up race in Fort Ord so I knew she’d be a tough competitor. When I raced her earlier this month, it was hot and dry, and I wasn’t sure how she would handle the wet conditions. She clearly proved right away that she can ride when it’s wet and muddy just as well as she can on a dry course. I still don’t know what happened to her on that second to last lap, but I do know that if she had stayed with us, it would have been a much more difficult battle for third.
Crystal’s last name should ring a bell. She’s Jesse Anthony’s little sister. The Anthony family has deep roots in cyclocross, so it’s not entirely surprising that she’s riding as well as she is – but it’s still a little unexpected because she’s so new. She’s only done a handful of ‘cross races over the last few years, and it’s great to see her come out flying at the start of the season. I’m excited to watch her develop into a really good ‘cross racer.
Confidential to my British competitors: Should we ever share the podium together again, please make sure I get the memo about the attire and secret handshake. I have jeans and purple shoes, too – and I’m a quick study when it comes to handshakes.
Strava file from today’s race. Check it out.