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June 25/03 11:20 am - Adopt a Privateer Contest, Fitchburg-Lonsjo Classic Preview


Posted by Editoress on 06/25/03
 

Adopt a Privateer Contest

SnowCovers Sports, in conjunction with Trek Bicycles is proud to announce the 1st annual "Adopt a Privateer" contest. The contest will be open to any independent cross- country racer attending the Canadian Tim Horton's National Mountain Bike Championships July 18th-20th in Whistler, BC.

The winning rider will receive accommodation and food as well as full technical and feed support during the race. SnowCovers and Trek will donate a swag bag to the lucky rider, who will be generally pampered and enjoy living the "Factory Team Lifestyle".

Applicants can submit their entries by e-mail to christine@snowcovers.com or by fax at 604-905-4101 (attn: Christine). Ballots must include name, daytime phone number and/or email address and a short race resume. No phone calls please. The winner will be chosen by a draw and will be announced one week before the race.


Fitchburg-Lonsjo Classic Preview
Courtesy organizer

Fitchburg, Ma - Nearly 900 athletes from across the United States and around the globe are gathering to compete in four days of grueling competition this week, as the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic takes place in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

In these days of big-money 'corporate' races like the Wachovia U.S. PRO Championships and the T-Mobile Invitational, the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic is a throwback to another time - not in terms of professionalism (it's as well-run as any cycling event in the country), but in attitude. First held as a single-day race in 1960, the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic has evolved into one of the top half-dozen stage races in North America, and has done so while remaining true to the spirit of the man for which it is named, the late Art Longsjo.

Back in the mid-1950s, bicycle racing in the United States was a completely different animal than it is today. There were no professional cyclists, no corporate sponsors, no big prize lists; it was sport for the pure love of it. And if ever there was a man who epitomized pure love of sport, it was Art Longsjo. A native of Fitchburg, Longsjo was a champion speed skater (he would go on to represent the U.S. at the 1956 Winter Games) who discovered cycling as a means of cross-training before the phrase even existed. He did his first race in 1953: wearing a t-shirt, cut-off skating tights, and moccasins, Longsjo stunned onlookers by winning all three events he competed in at the Massachusetts State Championships. It was the start of a brilliant career, one that would see him win the 170-mile Quebec-to-Montreal (the longest amateur one-day race in the world), just miss the medals at the National Championships, and qualify for the 1956 U.S. Olympic Cycling Team - becoming the first person of either gender to compete in both the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year. Yet it was the way that he went about pursuing his twin loves of cycling and skating that really sticks in the memory. Without sponsorship of any kind beyond funds raised by his numerous friends in Fitchburg, Longsjo worked several jobs and lived a very frugal existence in order to make ends meet - a fine example for athletes of any era. So it was all the more tragic when, as a friend of his was driving him back from a race in Canada in 1956, the car Longsjo was traveling in crashed into a utility pole; Longsjo suffered a fractured skull and massive internal injuries, and passed away that evening. His death left the town in shock- by 1960, the community had dedicated a memorial to Longsjo in downtown Fitchburg, and his teammate, Guy Morin, founded the race which today bears Longsjo's name.

Since that first edition, some of the greatest champions in the history of the sport have visited Fitchburg, including the likes of Lance Armstrong, Greg LeMond, fellow speed skaters-turned-cycling stars Eric & Beth Heiden, and 1992 Olympic champion Kathy Watt. But the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic, for all its history and prestige, hasn't really changed, according to race promoter Dr. Ray Wolejko: "This classic event is about sport as we wish it could be. Eight hundred and sixty two athletes have signed up for four days to test themselves against their peers. Their results will be determined by their training, preparation and will. Success in this type of racing is not driven by money or glory but by what you have inside of you. Each racer will hopefully leave here a little more connected to all the great cycling champions of years past."

And speaking of champions, both the men's and women's fields are, as always, loaded with talent. Though the majority of America's professional teams are represented in the field, the Pro-Elite Men's event is expected to be a three-horse race: Saturn versus Navigators versus Prime Alliance. Defending champion Chris Horner is leading an 'A-squad' that includes Tour of Langkawi winner Tom Danielson, plus 'locals' Tim Johnson and Mark McCormack (the new U.S. PRO Champion). However, arch-rival Navigators has its own former winner, 2000 champ Henk Vogels, heading up an entry that also includes 2000 Olympic gold medalist Marty Nothstein and New Zealand climber Glenn Mitchell. But it could be the third team, not-so-dark-horse favorite Prime Alliance that ends up on top. Last year's second place finisher Danny Pate returns with a full complement of riders willing to give it their all- and when a racer has domestiques like former Euro-star Jonathan Vaughters and Tour of Connecticut winner David Clinger at his beck and call, anything is possible.

In contrast, the Pro-Elite Women's race looks to be- at least on paper- completely up for grabs. The French-Canadian duo of Lyne Bessette (Saturn) and Genevieve Jeanson (RONA), who have split the past four editions of the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic between them, are not in attendance due to a conflict with the Canadian National Championships, so there isn't a woman in the race who has won it before! However, as is more often than not the case in U.S. women's racing, Saturn looks to have the upper hand with the one-two punch of Nature Valley Grand Prix winner Katie Mactier and 2002 U.S. National Road Champion Jessica Phillips. It won't come easily, though, as stiff competition is expected from the likes of the T-Mobile U.S. National Team, Team Basis (with 2000 U.S. Olympian Nicole Freedman), teenaged star-on-the-rise Magen Long (OBRU/The Bicycle Store) and perennial challenger Tina Mayolo-Pic of Diet Rite. And don't forget about TDS Women's Cycling, which has among its ranks guest rider Sarah Ulmer of New Zealand, who was a stage winner and third overall in the 2000 Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic.

The 2003 Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic begins on Thursday, June 26 with the Royal Plaza Time Trial. The racing shifts Fitchburg-area venues on Friday with the Aubuchon Hardware Circuit Race, then visits one of Art Longsjo's favorite places to ride- the summit of Wachusset Mountain- on Saturday, June 28. The race concludes on Sunday, June 29, with the Workers' Credit Union Criterium, which runs right past Longsjo's memorial in downtown Fitchburg. For more information on the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic, please visit our website at www.longsjo.com.

 


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