BEVERLY (July 18) – Boasting a new title sponsor, the 2nd annual Soall Viet Kitchen
Gran Prix Beverly Cyclocross returns to Lyons Park and Dane Street Beach on Saturday,
Sept. 10, drawing hundreds of racers, including members of the US national team.
“While we have over two decades of experience in putting on over 30 bike racing events,
last year's Gran Prix Beverly Cyclocross was sort of a test event,” said promoter Paul
Boudreau of Beverly. “Now that we know a quality event can be held at the venue, we'll
make some changes to improve the experience.”
Among those changes will be tweaks to the seaside course “to improve the flow,” said
Boudreau. “While amazing, last year's course really packed a lot of features into the first
half of the course. This year's course will spread features like sand and hills so these
features are better distributed.”
“I've always wanted to bring a cyclocross event to Beverly and had looked at a couple of
potential sites. When looking at Lyons Park and Dane Street Beach, I knew we had an
amazing venue,” he said. “I asked two friends – one a cyclocross national champion, the
other a designer who has worked on several national championship courses – to look at
the venue with a critical eye. Both agreed that the venue is spectacular.”
Another change is the event’s new title sponsor, with Beverly’s Soall Viet Kitchen taking
top billing. Soall co-owner Sa Nguyen said she was introduced to bike racing “a few
years ago and I just fell in love with the community behind it. I was more impressed with
the hard work and dedication that goes behind every race.”
“There’s so much heart that goes into putting one on and to race in one,” said Nguyen, a
Beverly resident. “As a spectator, I felt the love, the spirit and the community behind it
and thought, ‘we need to do more to support this.’”
Nguyen and Soall Viet Kitchen took the first step toward supporting the event at last
year’s inaugural Gran Prix Beverly Cyclocross event, signing on as a food vendor.
“When Paul shared his long-term vision for the Gran Prix Beverly, it couldn’t be more
perfect. It was as if the stars were aligned,” she said. “I told Paul then that I would love to
be a part that vision and felt our values were in line with building community and
nourishing the body and mind.”
“We just started a SVK Cycling team for the cyclocross season,” said Nguyen.
“Cyclocross races are the embodiment of the cycling community where competitors
cheer for one another. Families come to support their dads, moms, children, or all of the
above. There’s lot of community behind those races.”
The Gran Prix Beverly and its predecessor – the Gran Prix of Gloucester – have always
attracted a strong field of racers, including numerous national champions. This year, the
event will offer another bonus for spectators, with USA Cycling’s Cyclocross National
Team members competing. Beverly native Jesse Anthony, a 7-time national cyclocross
champion and currently the mountain bike and cyclocross director for USA Cycling, said
Beverly and the North Shore always will have a special place in his cycling soul.
“Every time I get the chance to ride back at home, I'm reminded how fortunate I was to
grow up in a place with so many fun, quiet and beautiful places to ride,” said Anthony.
“Additionally, there is such a strong cycling culture in that area, and the local clubs and
riders were incredibly supportive to me in my development years.
“We're bringing the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Team athletes to the Beverly
Grand Prix in order to immerse them in the passionate, energetic environment of New
England cyclocross,” he said. “This event takes place during our National Team training
camp just a few hours away in western Mass, and the opportunity for these athletes to
engage with the New England cyclocross community will be a great learning experience
for them to understand more about the heritage of the sport that they compete in.”
Cyclocross, for the uninitiated, is a race-specific cycling discipline that blends road
racing, mountain biking, and cross-country running on a twisting, convoluted course.
“All cycling can be fun,” said Beverly course designer Tom 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 added that “this race coming to Beverly feels like both a return and a fresh start.”
“To have national champions and future Olympians racing right here on our doorstep is
an honor and an inspiration for future generations,” she said. “For the city, it’s a fun,
inclusive, positive sporting experience in a prominent location right near down town – I
think that's great for our local businesses and an opportunity for our neighbors to come
and see what cyclocross is all about.”
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 of Beverly 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, often pushing their bodies to their limits, count on the extra encouragement that
the crowd can provide. “There's nothing like hearing friends and family ringing cowbells
and cheering you on to dig deep,” said Chris McKernan of Beverly.
“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, the event’s
operations director. “And without a doubt, the North Shore rivals every one of them.
Over the years I have watched the North Shore turn into one of the best places to ride.”
Interested in racing yourself? This year, the Gran Prix Beverly Cyclocross is adding
several new race categories, including a junior, single-speed, and citizen events.
“The citizen's category race is for anyone who has never raced before,” said Boudreau.
“It will be a shorter race to give people a taste of what cyclocross is all about. We're
looking for all types of people to try this race. If you only ride indoors on a Peloton, or
only ride around town, the citizen’s race is for you.”
Old Planters Brewing Company returns to sponsor the event's beer tent, producing a
special brew for the event, Gran Prix Pils, available in the tap room and on site on race
day. “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 Ben
Garry, owner of Old Planters. “We also just love the competitive aspect of racing.
“Shining a light on the Beverly community and the small business scene could not be
more important than right now,” he said, noting that the pandemic took a toll on local
businesses and “our small business community is working hard to get back on its feet.”
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