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Fitchburg Longsjo Classic celebrates 50th year

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Catherine Cheatley, the 2008 Fitchburg Longsjo Classic women's champion, won the Wachusett Mountain road race last year.

Catherine Cheatley, the 2008 Fitchburg Longsjo Classic women's champion, won the Wachusett Mountain road race last year. (Image credit: Kurt Jambretz)
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Kyle Wamsley won the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic circuit race in 2008 as well as the overall men's title.

Kyle Wamsley won the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic circuit race in 2008 as well as the overall men's title. (Image credit: Kurt Jambretz)

The Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, celebrating its 50th anniversary this Independence Day holiday weekend, is set to kick off Thursday, July 2 and concludes Sunday, July 5 in downtown Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Colavita-Sutter Home returns with a pair of defending champions, Kyle Wamsley and Catherine Cheatley. However, according to race director Ed Collier, this year's large and stellar field combined with several key course changes will make for an excitingly unpredictable outcome.

Since its inception in 1960, organizers of the esteemed East coast event continued to expand the visibility of the race in memory of Arthur M. Longsjo, the first American athlete (cyclist/speed skater) to compete in both summer and winter Olympics in the same year (1956) - an athlete who was killed in a 1958 automobile accident at the prime of his career.

The who's who of American racing is back to celebrate 50 years with the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic

The non-profit, memorial event is back on the NRC (National Race Calendar) and has attracted a strong field, including the series' highest ranked team, Colavita-Sutter Home, bringing the event's defending champion Wamsley and NRC leader Sebastian Haedo. Returning champions include 2005 winner Jonathan Page (Battley-Harley Davidson), 2006 winner Shawn Milne (Team Type 1) and 2007 winner Jake Rytlewski (Kenda Pro Cycling).

Other notable riders include the NRC's second place rider Rory Sutherland (OUCH p/b Maxxis) and third place Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling Team), Mike Friedman (Garmin-Slipstream), Ben Day (Fly V Australia), Tony Cruz (BMC Racing), Thomas Soladay (Team Mountain Khakis), David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) along with Massachusetts' home-grown brothers and former winners Mark and Frank McCormack (Team Fuji fueled by Clif Bar).

On the women's side, it is only fitting that at 50 years of age the French cycling legend Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli will line up to compete in the gold anniversary of the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic. Recently crowned with her 57th French national title, Longo-Ciprelli is noted as one of the greatest cyclist of all time for her drum-roll list of achievements that include five road world championships, four time trial world championships, four track world championships - topped off by four Olympic medals.

"She has had such an amazing impact on cycling as a whole and on women's cycling so we are so excited that she has chosen to come and race in our event," said Collier regarding Longo-Ciprelli's more than 1000 career victories. Collier was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from her husband and long-time coach Patrice Ciprelli regarding their arrival to the US. "I was monitoring my email and I got an email from Patrice saying they wanted to come from France to compete. I later realized who he was and who he would likely be bringing. She just won her national time trial title so it will be great to see her wearing the French skinsuit in our time trial this year."

Longo will be up against the likes of defending champion Catherine Cheatley (Colavita-Sutter Home) and NRC leader Alison Powers (Team Type 1) along with a cameo appearance from the Canadian legend and two-time winner Lyne Bessette (October Factory Team). Other notable mentions include Erica Allar (BMW-Bianchi), Anna McCloon (Altarum), Sally Annis (Hub Racing), Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci), Robin Farina (Value Act Capital), Ann Samplonius (Lip Smackers) and Olivia Dillon (Touchstone Climbing).

In an effort to raise awareness amongst the children residing in the cities surrounding Fitchburg, the event will host a picnic and autograph signing after the stage one time trial. The community dinner will cost $5.00 for all you can eat along with an opportunity for the children to meet their favorite professional male and female cyclists.

Sporting a new look after 50 years

Now, 50 years later, the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic's current incarnation as a four-day stage race will take place in and around the town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. On July 2 the first stage will introduce a brand new time trial course. The 14.3-kilometre predominately flat individual effort will cater to the most powerful cyclist.

On July 3, the riders will continue to power over the Fitchburg State College circuit race, a two-kilometre course. The race will wear down the riders with 100 feet of climbing per lap, through the start-finish line. The men will contest 24 laps totaling 120 kilometres and the women will take on 11 laps totaling 54 kilometres.

The race will continue on July 4 for the event's 'queen stage' three. The road race was forced to eliminate the grueling hill-top finish at the Wachusett Mountain ski resort due to construction. However, the challenging road race will finish at the top of the notable feed-zone climb outside of Princeton center. The men will race 10 laps totaling 176 kilometres and the women will complete 6 laps totaling 102 kilometres.

"The winter ice storm crippled our region for two weeks and as a result we lost many tree limbs and the power lines were taken down. The project to fix the area [Wachusett Mountain] has taken longer than we thought," said Collier.

The July 5 finale will present the riders with the exciting downtown Fitchburg criterium. The 1.5-kilometre course is flat and fast where riders will negotiate three technical corners. The men will finish with a high-speed 80-kilometre criterium and the women will contest 40 kilometres where the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic champions will be crowned.

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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