GLOUCESTER, Mass. (VN) — “The New England Worlds” — a designation the racing community dubbed the annual event here, with little or no apparent help from marketing professionals — wrapped up Sunday in classic wet cyclocross conditions. And like Saturday, the second day of the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester featured a showdown between Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and his former employer, the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team.
This time the win went to Powers, who enjoys turning a phrase nearly as much as a sloppy dirt corner. Toweling off minutes after his win, J-Pow declared the friendly New England rivalry “a ‘cross clash.”
On Saturday, Powers had battled Swiss champion Christian Heule, who took Powers’ spot on the Cannondale team when Powers jumped to his new squad this season. Powers came up a few yards short on day one as Heule decisively outkicked him up Gloucester’s steep paved finish ramp.
On Sunday, Powers again battled with Heule, but this time they were fighting to be the first to bridge to Heule’s teammate Tim Johnson.
Johnson’s not dead yet
Johnson had a disappointing effort Saturday as he faded to tenth after being an animator on the front in the opening laps. On day 2, the multi-time national champion rode a smarter race.
“I tried to do everything right after yesterday’s failure,” he told VeloNews. “I had to pull myself together so I had a fighting chance … yesterday I tried to do something I didn’t have the legs to do. Today I tried to do exactly what I could do.”
What Johnson could do was let his teammate Heule take the holeshot and then bridge to and pass the Swissman on the first lap. Alone off the front, Johnson used his technical expertise in the wet conditions to slowly increase his advantage.
After five laps, Johnson had carved out a nearly 30-second lead ahead of a disorganized chase group that included Heule, Powers, Jamie Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), Belgian Ben Berden (Ops Ale-Stoemper) and Saturday’s bronze medalist, Englishman Ian Fields (Hargroves).
Powers was betting that Johnson would fade in the last laps, and began to chase hard with three to go. Heule, playing a good teammate, sat in, imbibing a few gallons of spray off Powers’ rear wheel. Driscoll, Fields and Berden quickly lost contact as Saturday’s one-two finishers resumed their battle.
As Johnson’s gap came down rapidly with two laps to go, Heule had thoughts of dumping Powers and bridging to his teammate. And Johnson even thought that Heule was on his way up and eased off a bit to rest before he got company.
It wasn’t to be, though, as Powers threw it into overdrive and Heule made a mistake in a corner, giving Powers a clear shot at his former teammate.
He snapped up to Johnson quickly on the paved start-finish stretch and a tiring Johnson had all he could do to stay with Powers for a half lap.
Powers was flawless on the last lap as the course got increasingly sloppy. Johnson gritted his teeth and hung on to the second spot.
Behind, Heule’s troubles continued in the final laps as he crashed in the oceanside sand section (AKA, the beach) and lost time. He had to take a new bike as his shifters filled with sand and he gave up the third podium spot to Berden. Driscoll rolled in for fifth.