For the last time this season, the throngs of New England cyclocross gathered for a race in the inaugural Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge. The season’s battles for the Shimano Series has been hard fought for both the men and women. Heading into the final day, Laura Van Gilder (C3 p/b Mellow Mushroom) and Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross) had built up sizable leads, but both being the competitors they are, wanted to honor the jersey with victory in the final day.
Today’s second daty of racing at the NBX Gran Prix of Cross was a bit more technically demanding than Saturday’s, with tight and loose corners on the upper woods section and a second sand section, ending in a steep runup. The hurdles had been moved from a flat approach to an uphill and caused problems for racers throughout the day.
In a move uncharacteristic of Elite Women’s racing, the first half of the race saw an extremely large group on the front of thirteen riders. Yesterday’s victor, Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing) was patrolling the front, joined by Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles), Laura Van Gilder and Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles). The demands of the course, as usual, created a selection late in the race, reducing the front group to five with only a lap and a half remaining. Smith, Bruno Roy, Annis, Van Gilder and Smith’s teammate Crystal Anthony had made the lead, but unlike yesterday, it seemed like there were no team tactics to be found. The high pace kept all riders under pressure, continually creating small gaps which each burned matches to close. Bruno Roy began to stretch off the back on the final lap and, as the group entered the sand with little more than half a lap remaining, Anthony also started to lose the pace. On the exit from the sand, Smith was the first wheel and Van Gilder slipped on a tight, rooted corner and hit the ground. This was Smith’s opportunity and she seized it with both hands, building a lead of ten bike lengths in an instant. Van Gilder turned herself inside out to close the gap but was unable to make contact. Smith was able to raise her hands alone in victory. Behind, Van Gilder was unable to match an acceleration by Annis on the pavement and came across the line third.
Van Gilder’s third place today was enough to hold on for the Shimano Series victory. “I’m so happy to have won this,” said Van Gilder, who races on Dura-Ace. “Shimano has done so much and the Series is such a fantastic event. I wanted to support it and am so proud of winning.” By virtue of her great weekend of racing, Andrea Smith was able to pick up second overall in the Shimano Series, which boasts a $10,000 prize purse split evenly between the men and women. Sally Annis’s third overall was a fantastic result for the young crossresults.com team.
Coming off Luke Keough’s surprise victory yesterday, the Cannondale/cyclocrossworld.com duo of Jamey Driscoll and Christian Heule came into the final day of the Shimano Series looking for revenge. Knowing that the crafty racer from Cape Cod packs a world-class sprint, coupled with his ability to maintain himself in difficulty, the two knew they would have to isolate Keough.
The early group was extremely large and, following Adam Myerson (SmartStop/MOB p/b Ridley) driving the pace into the sand pit, the pace was taken over by Texan Bryan Fawley (Orbea USA), who came to NBX looking for his first taste of cyclocross in New England. Last year’s winner, Nick Keough, followed by his teammate and brother Luke, then headed the group of fifteen. At six laps to go, Driscoll, Keough and Heule found themselves off the front, in a repeat of yesterday’s racing, ahead of a driving group led by Jerome Townsend (SmartStop/MOB p/b Ridley) and Dylan McNicholas (cyclocrossworld.com). McNicholas bridged up, only to attack immediately.
At five to go, with McNicholas back in, Heule attacked. Keough attempted to cover, but was left dangling and returned to the group. The next move came when Heule was up to ten seconds and Driscoll took a dig. Keough attempted to cover this move as well, but went down hard in a soft corner. Driscoll was then clear to reach his teammate at the front.
With Driscoll and Heule working at the front, the chase behind was left with McNicholas, Keough, Justin Lindine (bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage) and Mike Garrigan (Lapierre Canada). Garrigan, who is best known for his blisteringly fast first two laps, had remained within himself and launched an attack inside three to go. The Canadian’s attack didn’t amount to much and McNicholas began to pull the chase as the leaders got the bell. The high pace put Garrigan into difficulty and Lindine misjudged a corner, hit the ground and got up with a mechanical problem with his bike.
The leaders hit the pavement together with Heule able to hold off a charging Driscoll for his second Shimano Series victory of the season. Twenty seconds behind, elbows were wide in the battle for third between McNicholas and Keough, with Keough pulling off another impressive sprint, leaving McNicholas fourth, with Garrigan fifth and Lindine sixth.
Thanks to his impressive weekend of racing, Luke Keough was able to pull on the final Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series leader’s jersey and payout for both the Elite and the U23 competition. A great weekend’s racing for Heule meant the Swiss Champion moved into second overall with Justin Lindine, the one-time series leader third. On his win, Keough was quick to point out the advantage of racing regionally. “It’s a great series. I’ve grown up with the Verge Series and to see the new Shimano sponsorship means great things for New England racing.” Heule echoed Keough’s response, pointing to the quality of courses and ease of travel as reasons the Shimano Series should be a priority for elite racers.
The 2011 Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge has come to a close. We’ve been lucky to have some of the most generous sponsors, the finest courses, the most dedicated racers and the absolute best races of the year, right here in New England. Next year’s edition is sure to raise the bar once again. Stay tuned.
About the Shimano New England Pro Cyclocross Series Presented by Verge: The 2011 Shimano Series includes eight races in four venues: The Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester, Oct. 1 & 2 at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Mass.; The Providence Cyclocross Festival Presented by Interbike, Oct. 8 & 9 at Roger Williams Park in Providence, R.I.; The Cycle-Smart International, Nov. 5 & 6 at Look Park in Northampton, Mass.; and The NBX Grand Prix of Cyclocross Dec. 3 & 4 in Goddard Park in Warwick, R.I. For more information visit www.NEPCX.com.
About the Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series: The Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series includes fifteen races in eight venues. The opening weekend is in Williston, Vermont on September 17th and 18th with the Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend. The following Saturday, September 24th brings Nor’Easter Cross at the Nor’easter Festival in Burlington, Vermont. The Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester comes next on the 1st and 2nd of October followed by the Providence Cyclocross Festival presented by Interbike on October 8th and 9th. Rounds 8 and 9 bring the series back to New Gloucester, Maine for the Downeast Cyclocross weekend on the 22nd and 23rd of October. The series hits the home stretch on November 5th and 6th in Northampton, Massachusetts for the Cycle-Smart International. After a two-week break, the series pays its annual visit to Sterling, Massachusetts for Tom Stevens’s Bay State Cyclocross on November 26th and 27th. The series finale comes the next weekend with the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross. For more information, visit http://www.cycle-smart.com/