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Hometown favorite Shawn Milne looks to win Gran Prix of Beverly

Posted by Justin Rice  August 2, 2011 10:43 AM

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By Justin A. Rice, Town Correspondent

For the second straight year one of Beverly’s elite bikers could take home tomorrow’s third annual Fidelity Investments Gran Prix of Beverly.

“That’s the hope, that’s the goal,” said Shawn Milne, who finished third in the inaugural race but missed last year’s race when the event’s founder, Tim Johnson, won the title. 

The Gloucester native and Gordon College alum bought a condo in Beverly in 2008, three years after he turned pro.

“Honestly the biggest edge I’m going to get is having a whole bunch of friends and family coming out,” the 29-year-old said. “I’m the hometown favorite, just the hometown crowd cheering you one gets you psyched up.

“But with the course being lap after lap any knowledge of the course I have will soon even out because everyone will have knowledge of the course.”

Milne and Johnson have also been teammates off and on for the last decade.

“I’ve been training with Shawn Milne and he’s going to be a handful,” Johnson said. Johnson — who edged out another Beverly racer, Jesse Anthony, last year — founded the race three years ago while living across from the Beverly Common because he wanted to bring big-time cycling closer to Beverly citizens.

Johnson also wanted to bring a race to his backyard since he travels to far-flung destinations for all his other races.

“I get on a plane for every other race I compete in,” said the 33-year-old who recently moved to Topsfield. “At the time I was living 100 yards from the start/finish line. … This race is about people getting excited about bike riding and bike races. It's inclusive.

“Our kids’ race is full and we are going to have a great time with people who normally don't get to see a race like this."

This year’s race, however, will exclude Category 5 riders. The least experienced competitors according to the USA Cycling five category ranking system were banned for several reasons, including the fact that a rider broke his pelvis during a crash in a Category 4/Category 5 race last year.

"It has some tough parts that challenge guys that don't get to race stuff like this that often," Johnson said. "That was an unfortunate thing that happened. Races are dangerous but that's not something to really worry about.

"I've probably crashed 20 times in my career or more. More often than not you get road rashes and get up and keep riding the next day.”

The event only has a four-hour window to complete several races, so the Category 5 racers were also excluded this year so race organizers could expand the kids’ race. But race director Paul Boudreau also noted that it’s not uncommon for races to exclude Category 5 racers for safety, especially since a biker only needs to buy a $60 license from USA Cycling to earn the distinction. By contrast, Category 4 racers have competed in at least 10 USA Cycling events.  

Boudreau couldn’t confirm if the injured racer from last year was a Category 4 or 5.
“Last year we had a couple of people that shouldn’t have been in the race, they didn’t have the experience to handle the speed of a challenging course like that,” Boudreau said. “We decided a few months ago that it’s best to keep the race to the category four levels and up.

“I have people who are Category 4 or Category 3 who do say to me ‘I feel better if less inexperienced riders are not around.’ When you are in a pack that is tight you can tell when someone can’t handle a bike, they don’t hold their line or they swerve. You have to have confidence to be able to handle your bike, you can’t be wigged out.”

Boudreau said his Beverly-based cycling club, Essex County Velo, does a good job at teaching novice riders the ropes so they can begin to compete in races with confidence.  
“There’s a lot of new people in the sport and that’s a great thing but I’m the president of a local cycling club and one of the things we pride ourselves in is being able to teach people who are brand new to the sport. 

“There are a lot of people who want to ride for the health of it and that’s fine but if you do it for performance reasons there’s are few things you have to know.”

Essex County Velo helped Milne learn the sport after he had a successful track career at Gloucester High, where he was a member of the 2000 national champion and national record-setting indoor track distance medley relay team.

“[The transition to cycling] was easy for me because I had a great foundation with my high school coaches for hard work. I understood the idea of training hard and resting and peaking. Even though I had to transfer over to a new sport it transfers pretty smoothly.

“I definitely benefited from the local club and the local bike shops.”

For the second year in a row, the Gran Prix is serving as the state’s criterium cycling championship, which is sanctioned by the sport’s national governing body, USA Cycling. The Elite Men’s race is slated to start at 6:35 p.m. after the Amateur Men’s race at 4:30 p.m. and the Masters 35-plus Men’s race at 5:20 p.m.

Some restaurants have obtained permits to sell beer and wine on the sidewalk and there will be a free bike valet for anyone who rides their bike to the race. Race organizers will also raffle off two new bikes, including one adult and one kids’ bike.

The kids’ parade will once again give children the opportunity to ride on a portion of the racetrack used by the adult riders. Starting at 5:30 p.m., the kids’ races and parade are free but registration is required.

The races, which start in front of St. Mary Star of the Sea Church on Cabot Street, are also part of Beverly Homecoming for the second straight year.

“Our intent was always to be a showcase to the city and also to show the citizens of Beverly what a bike race is all about,” Boudreau said. “Being part of a nice mainstream event like homecoming is a great way to do that.”

Justin A. Rice can be reached at

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