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After finishing second on day one at the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester, Meredith Miller (California Giant/Specialized) and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) each improved one place to finish atop the podium on Sunday in near-perfect race conditions steps from the Atlantic ocean in Gloucester, Massachusetts’ Fort Stage Park. In a reversal of fortune, Saturday’s winners, Laura Van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) and Johnson’s teammate Jeremy Powers took second on Sunday. For Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, it was a podium sweep with Jamey Driscoll taking third.
Unlike day one’s high 70s and sunny skies, a chilly Atlantic breeze buffeted the women’s field as it waited for the start. In the long uphill drag to the holeshot, Van Gilder and Maureen Bruno Roy led the charge, but after half a lap it was Miller establishing control. Having taken second to Van Gilder in the sprint to the line the day before, the tall, powerful Miller seemed eager to right any wrongs to ensure a top podium spot on Sunday. But Van Gilder was not interested in letting her go, and she chased hard to close the early but dangerous gap, with Wendy Simms, Bruno Roy and Natasha Smith trailing close.
After hesitation on Miller’s part at the close of lap one, a lead group of seven formed, but not for long. Natasha Elliot, a former winner in Gloucester, attacked this elite group, but Miller responded easily, then countered.
A lap later it was Simms who caught and passed Miller through the barriers section. But down in the flat straights by the harbor, Miller put in a huge effort, using her massive power to pull away and establish a gap that would not be closed. With two to go Miller’s gap was 15 seconds and growing, with Van Gilder and Simms leading a chase group of a half-dozen riders.
With a lap left, it was all Miller. Behind, the battle for second was playing out in earnest, with Sally Annis attacking the veteran Van Gilder time and again, no doubt fearing the former U.S. criterium champion in the finish.
At the line, a beaming Miller rode in solo with time to spare, while the sprint for second brought roars from the crowd, with Saturday’s winner, Van Gilder, nipping Annis. It was Miller’s first UCI cyclocross win.
“I was feeling really good on the front today,” Miller said. “I’m still pretty new to cyclocross, and it’s a matter of getting more comfortable with the skills and different types of courses, off-camber turns and all that. Every time I’m on my bike I’m learning something new.”
A large field got off to a hotly contested start, sprinting up the long drag across the start-finish to the holeshot, with Saturday’s winner, Powers, taking the early lead ahead of the field. Kona’s Ryan Trebon, Johnson, and Davide Frattini (HUDZ-Subaru) led the charge from behind. A lap later, it was still Powers leading, with Saturday’s third-placed Trebon forced to real in the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com rider along on the windswept course with Powers’ teammate Johnson glued to his wheel.
As the laps ticked away, Trebon suddenly started going backward, and it was now just Johnson and Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder) in pursuit of Powers, whose gap was impressive. Just behind, Frattini, Jamey Driscoll and the Swiss Valentin Sherz tried to bridge. A little later, about mid-race, Johnson dropped Damiani and set out in pursuit of teammate Powers.
Meanwhile, Driscoll was having a better second day in Massachusetts and worked to claw his way up to his teammates. Former Gloucester winner Jesse Anthony (California Giant-Specialized) was also on a good day, and with Damiani he gave chase, but their efforts looked to be in vain as Johnson caught Powers at the end of lap three and the two worked well together to extend their lead, at least at first.
As the laps ticked down, Johnson had clearly found the rhythm that had eluded him Saturday, and began to pull away from Powers, who seemed to be paying for his aggressive start. With the gap between Johnson and Powers opening up, Driscoll continued to fight for third. A half-minute behind, the Italians Frattini and Damiani were trading attacks and trying at once to rid themselves of Anthony and decide fourth and fifth places between them.
With two to go, Powers dug deep to ride back to Johnson, and both continued their blistering pace, trading attacks over and over.
Into the barriers for the last time, it was Johnson leading Powers by about 10 seconds. Driscoll’s third place was now safe. Just behind, Frattini and Damiani kept on the gas, dropping Anthony.
At the finish, it was Johnson in his Captain America national champion colors flying in smiling for first, with Powers just behind in second. Driscoll hung on for third, making it a Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com sweep. Frattini and Damiani sprinted all-out to the line for fourth place, with the latter taking it by a bike length.
After chugging from the winner’s big beer on the podium, Johnson was quick to praise second- and third-placed teammates Powers and Driscoll, saying they’ve already this season proven their speed and skill on a variety of demanding courses and conditions.
“Luckily for me I was able to get away today,” Johnson said. As for battling his own teammates for the podium, he said, “It’s a lot of pain and a lot of agony, but at the same time it’s a blast. We laid it all out there.”
When he was half-jokingly asked what he had to say to any critics who said he could win at Gloucester only when it was muddy, Johnson said: “I would love to have seen it sloppy today. We’ve been really unlucky, or lucky, I guess. We’ve had six inches of snow, we’ve had 75-degree days like this, so you never know what you’re going to get out here.
“But any time you race in front of the home crowd in Gloucester you know it’s going to be a good time.”
Daniel McMahon is editor of cyclingreporter.com, a contributor-based blog devoted to road and cyclocross racing in the New York City area.