This event is always fun and inspirational. Come and enjoy.
Hundreds of top professional and amateur racers from across North America and throughout Europe, including many former national champions, will again converge on Stage Fort Park for the CRAFT Sportswear Gran Prix of Gloucester this weekend. The premier race on the New England cyclocross calendar is set for Oct. 15 and 16.
The two-day competition, now in its 18th year on the coast, is the opening event in the 2016 Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series.
Often called the “steeplechase” of cycling, cyclocross represents “everything that’s good about cycling,” says race promoter Paul Boudreau.
This unique, race-specific discipline is a wild, entertaining mix of road racing, mountain biking and running on an obstacle-laden clover-leaf course that snakes through every corner of the park. The sport requires racers to fight for position while negotiating sharp turns, mud, sand, hills and hurdles, all at full speed for an hour. Cyclocross is demanding, challenging, and humbling for racers of all ages, men and women alike.
“Gloucester is a special race for me. It’s a true New England classic: the big, rowdy crowds always show up, the course is dynamic and challenging, and all the top riders line up,” said Jeremy Powers, a United Stats Cyclocross Champion. “Historic, classic, and epic.”
Again this year, the race’s title sponsor will be CRAFT Sportswear, a Swedish apparel company headquartered in Beverly and presenting sponsor Ipswich Ale Brewing.
“We’re so fortunate to have such an iconic and prestigious race in our backyard, and having partnered with the event for a number of years, it’s frankly about time we took this next step,” said Eric Schenker, CEO of CRAFT Sportswear.
In addition to professional and elite racers, the CRAFT Sportswear Gran Prix of Gloucester is an enormous draw for weekend warriors from throughout the Northeast. Anyone can race (pre-registration is required), with competitors placed in fields of similar ages and ability levels. All racers – even beginners – compete on the same course as the top riders. The result is an event that attracts roughly 1,000 competitors each day.
Cyclocross is also one of the most spectator-friendly bike-racing disciplines. The colonial-era Stage Fort Park, overlooking Gloucester Harbor and its views of the Atlantic Ocean, provides a stunning venue. Fans can eat, shop, and learn more about cyclocross racing in the Expo, or sample craft brews at the Beer Garden. Families can enjoy the picnic area with grills and a playground for youngsters. There will even be a free kids’ bike race for youngsters ages 12 and under.
“There is something about that place. It’s got a soul. I’ve been everywhere in the world that cyclocross races, and little comes close to the aesthetic drama of Gloucester,” Race announcer Chris Zigmont said.
WHEN TO GO
* Races start at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and run for the better part of the day. Both days finish with the showcase Pro (Elite Class) races from 3-5 p.m.
* A free Kids Race will be held Sunday at 1:50 p.m. Registration for the Kids Race will be the day of the race. Up-and-coming racers ages 5 to 12 are invited to compete.
* The Ipswich Ale Brewing Beer Garden will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, where spectators can sample a variety of craft brews. The Expo will also be open both days, featuring a food court, cycling vendors, and local businesses.