The 51st annual Fitchburg Longsjo Classic will once again coincide with the festive celebrations of Independence Day weekend. The four-stage race will kick off on Friday, July 2 and conclude on the national holiday on Monday, July 5 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
This year's field is jam packed with five former title holders that include defending champion, Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies). The race will be highly contested by 2008 winner Kyle Wamsley (Bissell), 2007 winner Jacob Rytlewski (Kenda p/b Geargrinder), 2006 winner Shawn Milne (Team Type 1) and 2005 winner Jonathan Page (Team Planet Bike).
"This is my comeback," said Wamsley who broke his collarbone six weeks ago. "I wasn't able to do anything for a few weeks. I've had reasonable training and I'll be able to mix it up in the racing this weekend. There is no point in racing if you can't get in there and mix it up. I feel well enough to race and Fitchburg has always been a good race for me."
National Racing Calendar (NRC) individual leader Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home) will no doubt want to further his lead as the top ranked rider in the country by winning the four-day race. Recent Tour de Beauce winner Ben Day (Fly V Australia) will be a key player to watch for the overall win especially during the time trial. Other notable contenders include Nathan O'Neill (Bahati Foundation), Derrick St-John (Garneau Club Chaussures), Matt Cooke (Mountain Khakis p/b Jittery Joes) and Floyd Landis, who is registered as racing unattached.
Notably missing from the registration on the women's side is defending champion Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia) and NRC leader Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation). However, 2008 winner Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci p/b Cooking Light) will lead a strong squad that includes Kate Bates and Kelly Benjamin. Other strong overall contenders include Leigh Hobson and Audrey Lemieux (Nanoblur-Gears), Anna McLoon (Kenda) and Kacey Manderfield (NEBC-CycleLoft-Devonshire Dental).
"The field, to some extent, is different from normal because the women's US nationals was last weekend and logistics were difficult," said Colavita-Baci's Directeur Sportif, Rachel Heal. "I think some of the other big teams opted not to race. But there is still a big field of about 90 riders and it will be a good race. We are going into this with ambitions to win."
This year's race will start with the Fitchburg State College circuit race held on a 2-kilometre course. The Pro-Elite men and women will complete 24 and 11 laps, respectively. Each lap includes a steep 300-metre climb to the finish line which typically makes for a decisive finale.
The racing will continue with the stage two Wachusett Mountain Road Race, minus the mountain. The event was traditionally considered the ‘queen' stage because it finished on a five-kilometre ascent to the top of Wachusett. Last year, construction on the mountaintop forced the race to finish at the base outside the Princeton Centre. The men will race nine laps, cut short by one lap compared to the previous years, totaling 156 kilometres and the women will complete 6 laps totaling 102 kilometres on rolling terrain.
"The race is still really hard even without the mountain top," Wamsley said. "Guys that can't beat Ben Day in a time trial will be attacking all day. I think the race will be aggressive and interesting but without the final climb and no radios you can't afford to let a big breakaway gain too much time. I think some teams will want to wait for the time trial, too."
Stage three will offer the decisive 14 km Courtyard by Marriott Fitchburg-South St Time Trial. The event will likely shake apart the overall classification and could decide the winner of the race before the fourth and final stage.
The Fitchburg Longsjo Classic will conclude at the Workers' Credit Union Downtown Criterium. The Pro-Elite men and women will compete 80 km and 40 km respectively on a 1.5-kilometre course. The circuit traditionally ends in a bunch sprint because it is flat and fast with three technical corners. "There are time bonuses in the crit and that was how Zach Bell won it last year," Wamsley said. "Those time bonuses will come into a huge amount of play on the last day."