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The Happy Couple: Bessette/Johnson take Gloucester `cross

Every stereotype is grounded in at least a little bit of reality. And the tired old stereotype about the variable nature of New England weather proved all too true in Saturday’s Michelob ULTRA Gran Prix in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the third stop of the Crank Brothers US Gran Prix of Cyclocross.

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By Chris Milliman, Special to VeloNews

If you look at his record, you can tell that Johnson loves these conditions

If you look at his record, you can tell that Johnson loves these conditions

Photo: Chris Milliman

Every stereotype is grounded in at least a little bit of reality. And the tired old stereotype about the variable nature of New England weather proved all too true in Saturday’s Michelob ULTRA Gran Prix in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the third stop of the Crank Brothers US Gran Prix of Cyclocross.

A slightly amusing morning flurry turned into a full-on blizzard by the end of the Elite Men’s race, one dominated by hometown boy Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau). Johnson followed in the muddy footsteps of his wife, Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau), who won the Elite Women’s event in deteriorating conditions.

The unseasonable weather, which left nearly three inches of snow on the ground by day’s end, sent all pre-race prognostications out the window. USGP series leader Ryan Trebon (Kona-Les Gets) struggled in the bad conditions and withdrew early after some bad luck; USGP Tacoma winner Mark McCormack (Team Clif Bar) went through a bad day; and, Troy Wells (TIAA-CREF), younger brother of Todd Wells, rode a sterling race to finish third.

But the day belonged to Johnson, who went off the front midway through the first lap and never looked back. Cheered on by a partisan crowd looking for a big win in Johnson’s comeback campaign, the 28-year-old former National Champion rode a flawless 60 minutes, never coming to grief on a course made treacherous with ever replenishing snow over soggy ground.

“I was able to pick good lines and I was getting a new bike every other lap,” said Johnson. “I feel good in these conditions, but I thought it was too much to hope for to have a snowy course. Maybe later in the year, but not this early.”

Johnson has excelled his entire career in adverse conditions, getting a bronze medal in the 1999 World Championships on the frozen tundra of Poprad, Slovakia, and then winning the 2000 U.S. Nationals in Overland Park, Kansas, in similarly arctic conditions. But, according to Johnson, this win, less than six weeks into his comeback from a three-year cyclo-cross hiatus, crowned the comeback a success.

Johnson never looked back

Johnson never looked back

Photo: Chris Milliman

“If the season ended right now, I’d think of it as being successful,” said Johnson. “”I felt good and I had a clean race, so when you can do that and win you’ve achieved a lot.”

Johnson was followed in by Adam Craig (Giant), who came from a mid-pack start to charge through a tiring field. While many riders made brief appearances in the top-five, most suffered from the elements and dropped back. Craig caught and passed riders by the handful, plowing into the top-10 with less than four laps to go and cementing second on the last lap.

“I got caught behind a crash in the opening 100 meters,” said Craig, “and basically came to a complete stop. I had to ride off the side of the road to get back into it, but even then I was way far back. My legs felt incredible, which is probably a good thing considering.”

Bessette is unstoppable this year

Bessette is unstoppable this year

Photo: Chris Milliman

Bessette’s race got off to a rough start, with the USGP series leader crashing on the first big off camber corner. But within a lap she was back at the front and hammering a menacing pace, the same pace that’s brought the Canadian champion seven-straight wins so far in 2005.

A chase duo of Wendy Simms (Kona) and Barbara Howe (Velo Bella) formed off the front of the shelled remains of the main field, but with Bessette making no mistakes after her early detour into the sod, win number eight was all but certain. The back and forth between Simms and Howe provided the main suspense, as a nearly hypothermic Bessette cruised in for another dominating win. Howe outsprinted Simms for second.

“Before the race I was wondering on what part of the course I was going to be able to make an attack and make it hard,” said Bessette. “But the weather and the snow made the course hard, so there was no place you could take it easy or you’d crash. Once I was out front I could choose all the best lines and didn’t need to take any chances. But it was really hard.”

With 60 degree temperatures forecast for Sunday’s Day Two in Gloucester, the New England weather stereotype may set records for coming close to the truth.

Results
Elite Men
1. Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau)
2. Adam Craig (Giant)
3. Troy Wells (TIAA-CREF)Elite Women
1. Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau)
2. Barbara Howe (Velo Bella)
3. Wendy Simms (Kona)Under-23 Men
1. Troy Wells (TIAA-CREF)
2. Jesse Anthony (Team Clif Bar)
3. Jamie DriscollJunior Men
1. Danny Summerhill (TIAA-CREF)
2. Bjorn Selander (Alan Factory)
3. Alex Howes (TIAA-CREF)Masters Men
1. Chris Peck (Fior di Frutta)
2. Roger Aspholm (Westwood Velo)
3. Dale Knapp (Kona)The Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross Series schedule for2005:Race 4: October 30 -Michelob ULTRA Grand Prix of Gloucester #2, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA. Race 5: November 19 – Surf City Cyclocross (30th Anniversary), Watsonville Fairgrounds, Watsonville, CA. Race 6: November 20 – Clark Natwick Grand Prix, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

Photo Gallery

Results

Results
Elite Men
1. Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau)
2. Adam Craig (Giant)
3. Troy Wells (TIAA-CREF)Elite Women
1. Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau)
2. Barbara Howe (Velo Bella)
3. Wendy Simms (Kona)Under-23 Men
1. Troy Wells (TIAA-CREF)
2. Jesse Anthony (Team Clif Bar)
3. Jamie DriscollJunior Men
1. Danny Summerhill (TIAA-CREF)
2. Bjorn Selander (Alan Factory)
3. Alex Howes (TIAA-CREF)Masters Men
1. Chris Peck (Fior di Frutta)
2. Roger Aspholm (Westwood Velo)
3. Dale Knapp (Kona)The Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross Series schedule for2005:Race 4: October 30 -Michelob ULTRA Grand Prix of Gloucester #2, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA. Race 5: November 19 – Surf City Cyclocross (30th Anniversary), Watsonville Fairgrounds, Watsonville, CA. Race 6: November 20 – Clark Natwick Grand Prix, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA