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Helen Wyman takes day 1 at 2011 GP of Gloucester

2011 Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester, day 1
British National Cyclocross Champion Helen Wyman (Kona/FSA) soloed to a clear win after a race-long contest with Nicole Duke (Cannondale/cyclcrossworld.com.) Photo: Wil Matthews

GLOUCESTER, Mass. (VN) — Helen Wyman (Kona) won day one of the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester here on Saturday.

The five-time British national champion was an animator from the first lap, but had scare with two laps to go when she tried to pass Nicole Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), tangled with a fence and lost a few seconds and a spot to a surging Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing).

“I tried to take a gap that wasn’t a gap,” Wyman joked after the race. “It just made me ride more aggressively after that.”

Indeed, the bobble seemed to inspire Wyman to a new level, as she soon blew by Smith and Duke and opened a substantial gap with two laps to go. “Nicole was starting to fade anyway, so I knew I could open a good margin,” she said. “And if I got caught I figured I could outsprint Andrea on the hill. I’m a climber on the road, after all.”

Duke nukes ’em

Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) shot out to what is soon becoming her trademark holeshot, and, as is also becoming her style, held the lead for the first few laps before fading a bit in the final 15 minutes.

The conditions were damp with some cake-batter mud that had been stamped down by the earlier categories. The course was laid out quite differently from prior editions of Gloucester, although it included most of the same elements: many grassy turns, some gravelly sideslopes, a turn through a sand volleyball pit and a stiff run up from a beachside bike path. New this year was a steep flyover adding further complication to the spaghetti bowl of criss-crossing paths behind the Stage Fort Park’s visitor center.

The race soon boiled down to a three-way battle among Duke, Wyman and Smith, with veteran Laura Van Gilder and youngster Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) fighting it out behind for fourth place.

After her run-in with the fencing, Wyman looked indomitable in her smooth style, and Duke briefly looked shattered as Smith chugged by. Duke recovered a bit by the final lap to retain her third spot on the podium, followed in by her teammate Antonneau.

She owes it all to TV

Wyman is wrapping up her three-week race trip to the U.S. on Sunday and headed back to Europe and the World Cups. She’s been traveling with her husband and with Canadian racer Mike Garrigan and British racer Ian Field, racing in Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Vermont, New York and Massachusetts, grabbing some critical UCI points and showing the colors of Kona, her Canadian-American sponsor.

The cheerful Brit says she’s enjoyed every minute of it and plans to be back next year. “People have been so nice to us, everyone is so friendly and the crowds are great at the races,” she said.

As for her success on the race course in recent years, Wyman said a light went off last year when she was watching a women’s World Cup on TV.

“I always thought (women’s racers) looked just like the men, powerful and strong — but we didn’t. We looked slow. And I figured that if I could look like the men, I could beat these other women,” she said.

With that realization, Wyman’s results — which already included her national championships and a podium appearance at a World Cup — went up another notch. Her results last season included wins at the GVA Trophy Koppenberg and the Fidea Jaarmarktcross, as well as a third place at the European championships.

With the UCI points she has garnered in the U.S. so far, she should be starting the upcoming races in the first rows, where she hopes to show the cameras her new style of womens racing.

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