Even though the race is hurting for money, the 51st Fitchburg Longsjo Classic is back in its traditional spot, the Fourth of July weekend. In a break from tradition, the second oldest race on the NRC has changed the sequence of racing in the four-day stage race, which now gets under way with the challenging circuit race today instead of the time trial.
“The reordering of the stages is very exciting, because it places much more importance on the time trial. A moderately bad day at the road race no longer means that your GC fight is over,” said Executive Director Ed Collier. “We are also very pleased to announce that, for the first time ever, the Women Pro 1/2 and the Men Pro/1 will have a full rolling enclosure during the road race.”
Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit) is back to defend his win with a strong team including Scott Zwizanski who finished 4th overall last year. But he won’t be the only previous winner at the race. Also present are the winners from the 5 previous years: 2008 winner Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL), 2007 winner Jake Rytlewski (Kenda p/b Geargrinder), 2006 winner Shawn Milne (Team Type 1) and 2005 winner Jonathan Page (Team Planet Bike). Also present are current NRC leader Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) and Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia) who finished second overall and won two stages last year.
It is the first race back Wamsley who crashed hard in the dangerous corner on the final stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race. He’s not the only one returning to racing after an injury, Tim Johnson (UnitedHealthcare) is also back after his broken ankle suffered at the TT of Dana Point Grand Prix.
Other riders to watch include Bell’s teammates Scott Zwzanski and David Veilleux, Dionne’s teammate Phil Zajicek and Derrick St John (Garneau Club Chaussures) who has been showing great form both at Tour de Beauce and the Canadian National Championships. Note that Floyd Landis (unattached) was pre-registered but the race organizer announced yesterday that he would not be starting. (See men’s roster)
Last year’s winner Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia) is not returning but all eyes will be on 2008 winner Cath Cheatley and her strong Colavita/Baci squad. With USA Road Nationals held last week across the country, many riders and teams are skipping the race for a break including NRC leader Alison Powers (Team VBF). Riders to watch include Karol Ann Canuel (Specialized Mazda Samson G Conseil), Joanie Caron and Leigh Hobson (Team Nanoblur-Gears) and Jessie MacLean (Verducci-Breakaway). (See women’s roster)
The stages. The race now starts with the Fitchburg State College Circuit Race, a 3.1-mile loop through the hilly streets of Fitchburg with approximately 100 ft. of climbing per lap. Starting at 2pm, the women pro/1/2 do 11 laps for 34 miles and the men pro/1 do 24 laps for 74 miles at 3:30pm EST.
On Saturday, July 3, riders tackle the challenging Wachusett Mountain Road Race, a grueling 11-mile course through the town of Princeton. The pro riders will start shortly after noon at the base of Wachusett Mountain, with the pro men racing 98 miles and pro women, 64 miles.
The Courtyard by Marriott Fitchburg South Street Time Trial, an 8.7-mile race against the clock, takes place Sunday, July 4, near the Westminster Town Hall on South Street. The riders will start at 30 second-intervals with the women at 12:45pm andmen at 2pm.
Racing concludes on Monday, July 5, with the Workers’ Credit Union Criterium around a 0.9-mile loop with 3 corners through historic downtown Fitchburg. This fast-paced, exciting race runs right past the Longsjo Memorial. The women start at 2:30pm for 28 laps/25 miles and the men at 3:50pm for 55 laps/50 miles.