GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 22, 2012

Letter: Standing up for the 'Gran Prix'


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

I am writing this letter to voice my support for the annual Gran Prix of Gloucester cyclocross race held in Stage Fort Park each autumn.

Our three children, my husband and I have been attending this event since 2001. We have spent entire weekends racing, cheering and partying with our ‘cross friends. Racers from different parts of the country (Oregon, Colorado, New York) have stayed with us, and we have been privileged to get to know national and international champions of the sport. Gloucester Cross has been called “New England Nationals” and for good reason. It is a queen among cross courses for its natural beauty and challenging characteristics.

The recent editorial (the Times, Wednesday, Oct. 10) and Mr. MacMillian’s letter (Friday, Oct. 12) posited that this is an event that “makes money only for outsiders” and that it “destroys part of the soul of this beautiful place we live in.”

To address the first quote: there are numerous hotels, restaurants and bars that benefit financially from the race. People travel from all over the country (and world!) to race here, and spend their money within the community. Additionally, at the race venue, local vendors (including Amby’s Sausage, The Happy Taco, and Cape Ann Coffees) provide hearty fare for racers and specators alike. I would also suggest that racers have such a positive experience in Gloucester that they return during other seasons to enjoy our scenic beauty as tourists.

I understand that not everyone is interested in cycling, or cyclocross, or spectator sports in general. But to suggest that the worn-in track “destroys part of the soul” of the park is somewhat presumptive.

We live in a community with lots of people who have lots of ideas of what is beautiful. We don’t all agree, nor should we. I personally believe in the beauty of strong, athletic people of all ages running, riding, and participating at their own level and ability.

Cyclocross is a democratic sport in that men, women and children alike race the same course; amateur and pro races only vary in the number of laps raced. Also, as a family of cross aficionados, we can afford a day at the race. Spectating is free, and you can come and go as you wish.

I am not asking Mr. MacMillan to take up cycling, or even come to the races (although he may be pleasantly surprised how fun it is!). I am asking that we consider the greatest good for the greatest number.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Does a muddy track interfere with the view of the outer harbor? What additional steps do race organizers need to take to satisfy their critics?

Communities are not just about geography: they are about common interests and passions. As Mr. MacMillan lives in Rockport and comes to Stage Fort to walk year-round, there is a vibrant group of people who come to race once a year. Let’s not cast aside all of the benefits of a nationally acclaimed race to satisfy the wishes of a few concerned citizens.

HEIDI WAKEMAN

Wise Place, Gloucester