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Helen Wyman sweeps 2011 GP of Gloucester

2011 Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester, day 2
By the time Helen Wyman (Kona-FSA) came to the deep sand along the beach in the first lap, she already had established a sizable gap over her chasers. Photo: Wil Matthews

GLOUCESTER, Mass. (VN) — British ‘cross champion Helen Wyman (Kona) made it two for two on Sunday, winning the second day of the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester.

She also made it nine for nine, as she won every race she started during her three-week U.S. tour, which ended Sunday as she returned to Europe.

Wyman, who declared her U.S. trip “an obvious success,” said she felt some pressure to continue her unexpected streak.

“I was laying in bed last night thinking, ‘I have to win tomorrow, I can’t just get second. I’ve done this so far, it would be weird if I didn’t finish it off,” she told VeloNews.

Nicole Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) finished second, one of her best elite results ever. The former mountain downhiller reigned in her trademark fast start in an effort to improve on back-to-back third places, at the Wisconsin USGP event last week and Saturday in Gloucester.

“I relaxed a little,” Duke said, noting that in the later laps she felt “100 percent better” than she had on Saturday, when she took the holeshot and then faded. “Yesterday I was just doomed. Today I was actually moving forward on the last lap.”

‘Now you see the sea, now you don’t’
Sunday dawned cooler and windier than Saturday at Stage Fort Park on the Atlantic coast. During the morning a large cruise ship loomed just a few hundred meters off the race course. But as the women’s elite race start approached, a light mist started to dampen the course, and the ships were soon obscured in the clouds. By the end of the women’s race, the sea was nearly invisible from the course.

Course designer Tom Stevens brought out a surprise for day 2: He routed the course directly onto a sandy beach. The sand ride ended abruptly with a 42-step granite and wood staircase up from the water. High tide peaked during the women’s race and cool salty water soaked a corner of the route, despite efforts to hold back the tide with hay bales.

Stevens made a few other changes overnight, making the course more friendly to power riders than Sunday. The route still contained many of Gloucester’s trademark tight grassy corners (which grew increasingly slippery as the mist became a rain), but unlike Saturday’s layout, there were more long straights where power riders could make up ground on the technicians.

Wyman took a strong start and Duke held back, riding in third and fourth position for the first lap. Laura Van Gilder led the chase, but Wyman quickly had a ten-bike length gap.

When Wyman’s gap began to increase, Duke couldn’t resist taking off after her, although she resisted trying to make a quick catch.

“I tried to be calm, I didn’t try to bridge the gap. I made a few mistakes in the last couple of laps and I saw the gap widen. But at that point I just wanted to keep second place; I was happy with where I was.”

Duke did try to accelerate a few times in the last lap and she made up some ground on her English rival. But Wyman had enough time to high-five fans on her last romp up the paved finish hill.

“This course was more to my strengths today,” Wyman said before heading to the airport. She could see Duke making up ground on her in some of the turns, but Wyman more than took it back on the straights.

Behind, another Englishwoman, Gabby Day (Renner Custom Cyclo Cross Team) rolled in for third, her best result of a three-week U.S. trip that included all the same races that Wyman started.

“I wanted to end my trip here with a really good results,” said Day, who will return to Europe this week to race the upcoming World Cups.

Like Wyman, Day said she thoroughly enjoyed her U.S. racing adventure. “I don’t want to go home,” she said. “It was nice to start some different events and it’s just a different scene here. I’ll come back next year for sure.”

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