Photo courtesy of Paul Boudreau
As a teenager growing up in Beverly, Jesse Anthony was not only digging deep into the city’s rich cycling culture. He was hanging with bikers twice his age while riding with the Essex
County Velo cycling club.
“I remember Jesse when he came on rides with us when he was 14,” said Paul Boudreau, the race director for the Beverly Gran Prix and Gran Prix of Gloucester and Essex County Velo president. “He was a tenacious little bugger. He hung on. I remember one instance I was in a group of riders and a group of riders was ahead in the distance and I told Jesse 'Get out in front.'
“I said Jesse ‘Go chase them down.’ I was in back yelling at him to go close the gap. He got there. He did it with pure guts. I always remember that. That’s when I knew he was something special.”
Seven years later Anthony signed his first pro contract and now the 26-year-old is gearing up to ride in this weekend’s Mayor’s Cup in Boston before riding the Gran Prix of Gloucester on Oct. 1 and 2.
“I’m excited about that,” Anthony said of the Mayor’s Cup. “It should be cool. I’ve heard great things about the event too. Mostly I’m just excited to race in downtown Boston and enjoy the atmosphere. The Mayor’s Cup isn’t an event that suits my ability. I’m more of a stage race and climber type. That’s a criterium race that comes down to a field sprint.
“I figured I’ll have a good time. I’ll race aggressive and have fund and hopefully help one of my teammates win. I have a lot of friends down there so that will be cool as well.”
After the Boston and Gloucester events, Anthony is going to regroup and prepare for the next stage of his career in cycling, setting his sights on the Tour de France.
In 2008 suffered from a few injuries and then was nearly taken out of the sport by mononucleosis before using 2010 as his rebuilding year with his current team, Kelly Benefit Strategies – OptumHealth. Now he is focused on making the transition from being a road and cyclocross racer to just a road racer.
“Often called the 'steeplechase of bicycle racing' cyclocross races are fast-paced and are dramatic for spectators,” according to the website of the Gran Prix of Gloucester, the regions premier cyclocross race. “Riders compete on a twisting course comprised of grass, asphalt and dirt. At several parts of the course, riders are forced to dismount their bikes and run up steep terrain or jump over obstacles.”
In fact the Gloucester race, which Anthony won in 2007, will be his last cyclocross race before he takes a break from racing. Then he will gear up for a fulltime road racing career.
“It’s really cool for me to have my last race be my home area event,” he said. “Gloucester is always a special race for me being near my hometown and all my friends and family who’ve seen me grow up in the sport and its one of my favorite events all year in road or cyclocross. So it’s really cool that it worked out that I get to finish this off.”
His decision to hit the road racing scene fulltime was helped by the fact that he’s been performing so well in road races this year. He just won in the overall classification at the highest ranked stage race on the National Racing Calendar, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, and a stage win at the internationally accredited UCI 2.1 ranked Tour of Utah.
“I kind of came to a point where I had felt it was time to make a choice between one or the other,” he said of choosing road racing over cyclocross. “It just kind of happened that way. I’ve seen a lot of potential in road racing the last few years and I’ve always wanted to race fulltime in Europe on the road. In order to really do it right I had to quit racing cyclocross.”
But before he hangs up his cyclocross bike for good, Anthony is trying to use his last race in Gloucester to raise money for World Bicycle Relief, which provides bikes to for poverty relief and disaster recovery initiatives.
“After 13 years of fun in the mud I have decided to take a step back from cyclocross and focus solely on road racing for 2012 and beyond,” Anthony said on his World Bicycle Relief pledge page. “Before I hang up my ‘cross bikes I have one more goal before retiring from the discipline: to raise $6,700 for World Bicycle Relief and give young people in Zambia the life-changing gift of the power of the bicycle.”
Fortunately for Beverly racing fans, Anthony’s switch to fulltime road racing doesn’t mean that he has to give up his hometown road race, the Beverly Gran Prix, which he missed this year but finished second in last year.
“Hopefully it will fit into my schedule next year,” he said. “Unfortunately I had to miss it this year to prepare for the Tour of Utah, which is one of the biggest events in the U.S. But I’ll absolutely make it a priority to stay for the Beverly Grand Prix. If I can I will be looking to do something there.
“It’s probably my favorite thing, just racing in my own town with all my friends and family there, right near my house. I travel all over the world and go to cool places but there’s no place like home. To do a race here and chill with friends and family so people can actually see what I do is kind of a special occasion.
But even if fans can’t catch Anthony in the Beverly Gran Prix, they for sure can catch him on local roads training with fellow local pro riders (Tim Johnson and Sean Milne). They might even catch him passing riders from the Essex County Velo again.
“It’s really cool, I think it’s one of the reasons I enjoy coming back here,” Anthony said of racing and living in Beverly. “There are a lot of like-minded people in the area. There’s great training around here.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.