Friday, October 12, 2012

Providence Cyclo-cross Festival

If the Gran Prix of Gloucester is all about the North Shore seascape, then the Providence Cyclo-cross Festival finds its mystical center in the trees.

Providence's Roger Williams Park was the setting for this exquisite and exciting two-day festival, centered around the park's neo-classical "Temple to Music".

The familiar faces of the elite racers from Gloucester were here -- Helen Wyman, Tim Johnson, Gabrielle Day, Jeremy Powers, and many others -- not to mention some of the same fans and photographers.  After all, this was the final event of "Holy Week of New England Cyclocross"!  Having had such a wonderful time in Gloucester, I knew I had to be in Providence for at least one day as well.

But which day?  Saturday or Sunday?  So I looked at the weather forecast beforehand.

Saturday: 75 degrees, dry, and sunny. 

Not very interesting.

Then I looked at Sunday:

50's, with rain in the afternoon.

Now that's New England!  I decided Sunday was the day for me.

As you can see in some of the above photos, the weather was actually very pleasant in the early afternoon, although a bit chilly.  The initial races were battled out on dry conditions overall.

But just before the elite women's race began at 2:30 pm, the rain started to fall, hard.  And it lasted for hours, turning this beautiful course into something wickedly magnificent.

Holding my camera steady while also trying to keep it dry was a bit of a challenge!  So some of these shots have focus-issues, but here are my pictures from the elite women's race...

These off-camber sections were particularly treacherous

Helen Wyman wins Day 2
...and from the elite men's race:

How they ascended that steep "flyover" is beyond me!

The rain let up for a few moments towards the end... Zach McDonald crossed the finish line and won the Day 2 elite men's race.

Bronze medalist and local fan favorite Tim Johnson gave a nice post-race interview... the vendors from the food and cycling festival packed up their tents.

And I loved it all.  I loved the fans and their mismatched ensembles of street clothes, retro cycling caps, and team jerseys (looked great!).  I loved the friendly vendors in the festival.  I loved the amazingly-good cup of hot chocolate I hovered over between races.  I loved the sound of the racer's tires cutting through the dirt, careening so gracefully around impossible curves.  I loved the wonderfully over-the-top race announcers.

And I loved those amazing trees of Roger Williams Park, looking down on us from dizzying heights, fascinated by the spectacle of bright colors, good feelings, and fast bicycles.


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