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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Kyle Wamsley won the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic circuit race in 2008 as well as the overall men's title.
Massachusetts race bounces back after 2011 cancellation
After suffering a last-minute cancellation in 2011, Massachusetts' historic Longsjo Classic returns to the race calendar in 2012 and once again will be run as a four-day stage race. Racing begins Thursday, June 28 for Pro/1/2 men, women and juniors and will conclude Sunday, July 1. A three-day event, June 29-July 1, will take place for Masters 40+, Women 3/4, Men 3 and Men 4.
"It's really refreshing to have the race come back with new partners, new sponsors and new cities," the race's Executive Director Ed Collier told Cyclingnews. "After last year's cancellation we received help from places we didn't expect."
For 2012 new venues have been added and the format of the stage race has been revamped as well. The opening stage on June 28 will be the Rollstone Bank and Trust/Downtown Leominster Criterium, a twilight criterium in Leominster on an 0.8 mile flat, four-corner circuit.
In lieu of a time trial, stage 2 will be the Fitchburg State University Hill Climb, a 9.1-mile, mass start hill climb to the summit of Wachusett Mountain.
Stage 3 will be a road race utilizing the traditional, hilly 11.4-mile Princeton Center circuit. The Pro/1/2 and Junior categories, however, will start their races in Worcester, MA in front of the Major Taylor statue at the Worcester Public Library. The racers will make their way 15.9 miles from Worcester to Princeton, including an initial three mile neutral section, where they will join the traditional course.
The Longsjo Classic will conclude on Sunday with the Workers’ Credit Union Downtown Criterium in Fitchburg.
While the race had previously been a part of USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar (NRC), the organisers decided not to seek NRC status this year, but the option is open for future renditions.
"As we move forward through 2012, and look ahead to 2013, we'll certainly take a look at what USA Cycling's goals are for the NRC," said Collier. "We'll factor in what our sponsors hopes are, and what we can do as an organization to make sure that we can not only live up to NRC standards, but that we can benefit from being on the calendar as well.
"We're in an unusual position on the racing calendar. We have a traditional date that we'd like to keep, but with no other NRC, or higher level races in the northeast around our date, we understand the burden it puts on teams for travel. Having our hill climb this year instead of a TT will eliminate the need for two bikes, and hopefully will reduce some of the travel burden."
The Pro/1/2 category will compete for a $20,000 purse and if enough Pro/1/2 women register, they, too, will compete for an equal $20,000 list. The race organisers hope to attract 100 women in the Pro/1/2 field in order to implement the equal prize purse, but a final decision will be made on June 14 regarding the final purse allotment for the elite women.
What began as a single-day criterium in 1960 in downtown Fitchburg, Massachusetts had expanded to a four-day event in the 1990s but budget troubles had forced the organisers to revert to a one-day criterium last year. A serious fire in an apartment complex several weeks before the scheduled July 3, 2011 date resulted in closed roads on the race route and an alternate course was not able to be secured for the NRC event, forcing its cancellation.
The Longsjo Classic is a memorial event for Fitchburg native Art Longsjo, who in 1956 became the first American athlete to compete in the Summer Olympics (cycling) and the Winter Olympics (speed skating) in the same year. He was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1958.
For more information go to www.longsjo.com.