2021 Gran Prix of Beverly Cyclocross

Yesterday was the inaugural Goldberg Properties GP Beverly Cyclocross p/b Old Planters Brewing Co. That’s a mouthful, and you can refer to it as the Gran Prix of Beverly, the GP of Beverly or simply, Beverly. This race may be new, but racing on the North Shore of Massachusetts is not. There is a long history of marquis events in the communities Beverly, Salem, and Gloucester.

This race rose from the ashes of the Gran Prix of Gloucester, which has a storied past and was last held in 2018. For 20 years, it was one of New England’s premier cyclocross races and one of the best in the country. Sadly, for a variety of a reasons, including a lack of community support, the race was canceled. The iconic seaside course set Gloucester apart from other races, so it’s amazing that Race Director Paul Boudreau, the Essex County Velo Club (ECV), key sponsors, and a cadre of volunteers created this new and even better version of the event.

Beverly also has a sister race, a criterium, also called the Gran Prix of Beverly, that I’ve never done. It’s also been a few years since the criterium has been hosted on the streets of this city north of Boston. I know Beverly quite well. It’s only 20 minutes north of Lynn, where HORST Engineering’s Sterling Machine operation has been located since 1966. We recently closed that factory, but that’s another story for another time. In an attempt to keep our operation on the North Shore, over a five year period, I looked at a lot of buildings in Beverly and even drove past a few on my way to/from yesterday’s venue. Alas, it was not to be, so I’ll only be visiting Beverly for bike races.

This new course made use of Dane Street Beach, Lyons Park, and Lothrop Street. It was a fantastic layout. The course was technical with lots of twists and turns packed into a small area. It made ample use of the beach and there were multiple sand sections. Some were rideable (for me) and some I had to run. I was dismounting about five times a lap, which really jacks your heart rate. My heart rate averaged 181 and maxed out at 191 which is a very positive sign for my fitness and proves that I really pushed. My right shoulder and right arm are sore, so I know that it was a hard course with extra bike carrying sections. I read that the course was a Tom Stevens design, which gives the race even more credibility because Tom has created some of the best cross courses ever.

The race was built around the late-summer vibe of the beach and Lothrop Street. There was a large beer tent and there were more spectators at this race than I’ve seen at a cross race since the last time I was at the national championships (in Reno). The party was hopping! The race schedule was compact with events at 2:00 P.M. 3:00 P.M, 4:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M. The Masters races (50+, 60+) were in the three o’clock time slot.

This format was fun and interesting as it allowed for the excitement to build through the afternoon and the day culminated with the Elite Women and Elite Men as “happy hour” was kicking off. It helped that we had incredible weather with the temperature in the high 70’s, brilliant sunshine, and a deep blue sky. Between the beach, the beer tent, the ocean, the spectators, and the athletes, this made for an awesome atmosphere.

I traveled to the race solo, but several other Team HORST Sports mates also competed. Keith Enderle and Wade Summers joined me in the Masters race and Justin Scott did the Elite Men’s race. A fair number of other friends from Connecticut also made the 2+ hour drive. I went to work for a few hours in the morning and then headed north around 11:00 A.M. Unfortunately, my family couldn’t join me. Debbie and Dahlia went to Simsbury to watch Shepard and the rest of the Bolton High School Cross Country Team compete at the Stratton Brook Invitational. Shepard’s race started at 11:20 A.M., so there was no way to make both events. He will join me a the cyclocross races in November and December, but for now his focus is on running. I was sad to miss him at yesterday’s, which was his first high school competition. The good news is that it was a good start for him.

This weekend, there are races galore. I have friends doing 100 milers (Virgil Crest), running half marathons (Surftown), racing XC, riding MTB’s, running even longer (Tour des Geants), and doing a host of other events. Many of them got to compete on a solemn day (9/11) with awesome weather.

As for my race, it was stellar. I had fun, felt good, and had a high placing (5th) in a strong field of veteran riders. It met my expectations which are always very (too) high, and came close to beating my expectations. I definitely didn’t execute as well as I could have, but strong legs helped me overcome some mistakes. Those mistakes included a poor start when I missed my pedal. I had a second row call up, but just botched the start and had to make up about 15 spots that I lost the first quarter lap as the race strung out.

I chose to ride without a bottle, but could have used a sip of water half way through the event. Without hydration, I had to suck it up and get through. The middle of September is early for a race of this caliber and high 70’s is definitely up there for cyclocross temperatures. We are more used to racing in harsh, cool, and wet fall conditions.

A summer full of off-road triathlon helped prepare me for yesterday and I was able to manage the heat fairly well. The race ended up being six laps. With three to go, I had moved up nicely, erasing my first lap deficit, but realized that if I kept pushing to make up ground, that I could blow up. Some of the guys I caught had clearly gone out too hard and were fading in the heat. So, I eased off the gas slightly, and managed that fourth lap, saving a little for laps five and six.

I was a little surprised when I was able to keep making up ground. By the last half of the last lap, I had worked my way all the way up to 4th place. I didn’t know this at the time. I knew I was moving up, but with some lapped riders from the 60+ race on a tight course, I couldn’t determine my exact position, but I knew it was good. My second major mistake came on one of the beach sections on the last lap. I rode three quarters of the way through that sand stretch, but had to dismount for a final push (of the bike) for the last 30 feet like in prior laps. However, this time, my bike got tangled up on a course stake, which forced an abrupt halt. It took a few seconds to get going again and that was costly.

I pushed hard to keep the gap that I had to the rider behind and my legs were really burning as we approached the final few turns, I could sense pressure from behind. I figured that the “sprint before the sprint” was important, so I buried myself on the final few straightaways after a series of tight turns. As it turned out, Bart Lipinski, who had traded spots with me a few times earlier in the race, made his own surge and was closing the gap to me.

Coming into the last sharp right hand corner off of a five inch curb, I opted to cut it sharp on the inside and that was a big mistake. I lost some momentum, he swung wide, carried his speed, and launched a strong sprint on my left. I rallied and pulled even, but he had more speed, pipping me on the line for 4th. I didn’t know it was 4th, but I was still disappointed at losing a spot at the end like that.

Bart and I had closed down our own gap to David Hildebrand, who finished third. Dave was having some tire issues and new we were coming, but was in no real danger of getting caught. It’s frustrating that I made a bad call on that final corner/curb. The rider in the front always has the advantage and shouldn’t have left the outside open for Bart to pass. Kudos to him for staying close enough to strike at the end. We had a good battle. Ahead of the three of us, but not within striking distance were Sam Morse and winner Paul Richard who rounded out the podium with David.

Regardless of the results, it was a lot of fun and the race was a good test. I’m pumped to be the “young guy” in my new age group as it has refreshed my motivation for the sport. It’s going to be a good season. I hope that Beverly returns in 2022 because I loved everything about this race. I cooled down and then watched the Elite Women and Men. A big shout out to three junior riders who lined up with the top men. Miles Mattern, Ben Stokes, and Nathaniel Gervez were all flying out there. Expect big things from these “kids.”

I stopped at the new Whole Foods on Brimbal Ave. and then drove home. I called Debbie to get the Stratton Brook race results and hear about the day. It was a picture perfect end-of-summer evening. I cranked the tunes and drove towards the sunset.

Race Results

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