Combining two of the most popular cycling events ever held on Boston’s North Shore, promoter Paul Boudreau is introducing a new race – the Goldberg Properties Gran Prix Beverly Cyclocross – on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Lyons Park and Dane Street Beach. The event will highlight the best features of the Gran Prix of Gloucester and the Gran Prix Beverly criterium race in downtown Beverly.
“Early this year, while thinking about Gran Prix Beverly, the pandemic added a lot of uncertainty in the planning process,” said Boudreau, a Beverly resident. “Back in March, I don’t think anyone realized that the vaccination rates would be so high for our region, and that we’d be in stores and restaurants maskless in July. Fall seemed like a more realistic target for ‘normalcy.
“Rather than put off the Gran Prix Beverly until 2022, and with the criterium racing season wrapping up in August, I started to think about a cyclocross race,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to bring a cyclocross event to Beverly and had looked at a couple of potential sites. Looking at Lyons Park and Dane Street Beach, I knew we had the potential for an amazing venue. I asked two friends – one a multiple cyclocross national champion, the other a course designer who has worked on several national championship courses – to look at the venue with a critical eye. Both agreed the venue is spectacular.”
That course designer, Tom Stevens, is a veteran cyclocross racer and race organizer.
“This new venue also has a great oceanside setting,” said Stevens. “The course/park will have a pretty compact layout. Spectators will be able to take in pretty much the whole race from most anywhere.”
Cyclocross, for the uninitiated, is a race-specific cycling discipline that blends road racing, mountain biking, and cross-country running on a twisting, often convoluted course. “All cycling can be fun,” said Stevens. “Cyclocross is at the pointy end where there is real competition and a picnic casual feel at the same time.
“As a spectator you can actually see the event transpire,” he said. “It’s fun and goofy and really hard, all at the same time. It’s the perfect introduction to the cycling affliction. You don’t have to watch someone disappear down a gravel road or into the woods. The whole event is right there in front of you. For participants, the event is hard and challenging.”
For Beverly’s Fiona Land, an amateur racer with Pedal Power Training, cyclocross “is a little bit of everything that I love about riding bikes – a crazy intense workout, an eccentric skill set, a community of friends, and a whole lot of fun.”
“Whether you’re at the front or the back of the pack, there’s always going to be a battle with both your personal goals and the racers around you,” said Land. “Since the races are only 45 to 60 minutes long, you can enjoy it without going to the ends of the earth.
“The laps are contained within a small area, so you get to hear your teammates and family cheering, joking, and belting out some cowbell for you again and again,” she said. “You get to race the same course as the pros, future Olympians and national champions.”
Land, who competed in the Gloucester cyclocross race before starting her family, added “this race coming to Beverly feels like both a return and a fresh start.”
“Paul (Boudreau) brings the experience and pedigree of the nationally renowned Gran Prix of Gloucester with him, a race that attracted world-class competitors,” she said. “To have national champions and future Olympians racing right here on our doorstep is an honor and an inspiration for future generations. For the city, it’s a fun, inclusive, positive sporting experience in a prominent location right near downtown – I think that’s great for our local businesses and an opportunity for our neighbors to come and see what cyclocross is all about.”
Beverly officials agreed. Mayor Michael Cahill is a long-time cycling advocate. City Councilor At-Large Julie Flowers loves “the wholesome fun of the race and the way it invites people of all ages to be outside enjoying the event and enjoying being together.”
“I also love the oceanside venue and the great competition that people will get to enjoy as spectators to the event,” said Flowers, adding the event was “a mix of enjoying the amazing physical beauty of this place we call home and the chance to enjoy watching some incredible athletes, and have a lot of fun doing it.
“The ability to welcome people to come and experience Beverly – and the North Shore area – that I love and that we love was certainly a part of what made me feel excited about the possibility of our welcoming this event,” she said. “To me, Beverly is such a special mix of an increasingly walkable and bikeable community with a rich mix of ways to enjoy to being outside or exploring our art events or restaurants.”
Since the course is laid out in a confined area, cyclocross is considered the most spectator-friendly of all bike racing disciplines, with crowds typically lining the route, often coming within inches of the racers as they charge by.
“Courses are tight and technical, and spectators can get up close to the action,” said Boudreau. “If you’ve been to the Gran Prix Beverly (criterium) and appreciate how close the athletes are to the crowd, you’ll feel even more part of the action watching cyclocross. The course is much tighter, and spectators can see most of the race course.”
Racers, usually pushing their bodies to their limits, count on the support and inspiration that the crowd can provide. “There’s nothing like hearing friends and family ringing cowbells and cheering you on to dig deep,” said Beverly resident Chris McKernan.
“I’ve been around cycling for decades and have lived or visited dozens of popular cycling destinations both here in the States but also internationally,” said McKernan. “And without a doubt, the North Shore rivals every one of them. Over the years I’ve watched the North Shore turn into one of the best places to ride.
“We have some of the best mountain bike trails in the Northeast and the road riding in the area is amazing,” he said. “And the hard work of local bike committees and advocates has made it a safe and inviting area for commuters and casual riders as well. Not only that, I’m blown away by the level of talented cyclists on the North Shore. There is an exceptional pool of very strong and very fast riders here.”
The popularity of the previous races in Gloucester and Beverly encouraged the event’s sponsors to support the new race. Andy Goldberg, CEO of Goldberg Properties, the event’s title sponsor, said he was sold on bike racing after attending his first Gran Prix Beverly criterium six years ago.
“I saw it as a wonderful community event for all ages,” said Goldberg. “A few years back when we saw that this event may not be able to continue for financial reasons, we decided to reach out to the organizers and have a conversation about how we could possibly help keep it going.
“Beverly is such a special place that has tremendous meaning for our family,” he said. “The downtown was a great place for the road race, and now the beach on Lothrop Street helps display what Beverly has to offer and the beauty of Beverly’s coastline.”
Likewise, Ben Garry, owner of Old Planters Brewing Company, sponsor of the event’s beer tent, was captivated by the original Gran Prix Beverly criterium race.
“Throughout the years, we’ve watched the Gran Prix race on Cabot Street and couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement that it brought to the city,” said Garry. “We also just love the competitive aspect of racing. Even though we don’t consider ourselves cyclists, we always love to be spectators and get caught up in the action.
“Shining a light on the Beverly community and the small business scene could not be more important than right now,” he said. “We’re only a few months out of all the COVID restrictions and our small business community is working hard to get back on its feet.
“I also think it’s great for the entire community of Beverly to have this event,” said Garry. “It’s a strong statement that we’re back. It’s time to have fun as a community again.”
The Gran Prix Beverly Cyclocross will consist of four categories, including Amateur Men (2 p.m.), Masters Men (3 p.m.), Women (4 p.m.), Elite Men (5 p.m.). A special Kids Parade will be held just before the Women’s race (3:45 p.m.). For more information, including photographs, please contact Gran Prix race director Paul Boudreau at email@example.com.
The event’s web site is www.gpb-cx.com.