let’s review

Jul 10, 2006

OK, so what’s been going on since that memorable new year’s in El Paso? I think we can summarize the high points as:

first week of March – went to China
first weekend in May – went to NYC
first weekend in June – went to Philadelphia
first Sunday in July – went to Fitchburg

The gradual downward progression will be apparent to the most casual observer. So let’s start with the most recent.

The first weekend in July is always the Fitchburg Longsjo bike race, which I think claims to be the oldest stage race in the US. I’ve been to days 3 and 4 a couple of times, but never the first two (since they’re during the week). This year it was just day 4, the 55 mile criterium around beautiful downtown Fitchburg. There’s basically no other reason to ever go to Fitchburg, so if you’re not a cycling fan you can safely ignore the city your entire life and not feel as though you’re missing anything.

Jee and his family met up with us at our house and we carpooled together, takes less than an hour to get there, the trick is trying to get around the closed roads to find parking, but a few twists and turns later we could park on the street about 100 yards from the race. The women’s pro race was already going on when we got there, so we caught the last half of that, immediately followed by the men’s pro race, won by some guy I’d never heard of from some team I’m not familiar with. American cycling without Saturn just isn’t the same. Plus now there are more opportunities for US riders in Europe, but these guys are still pretty good.

For being the oldest stage race in the US, the Longsjo classic gives the impression of being run like a small sf convention. There were no programs (unless they were all out), they had copies of the supplement to the local paper that gave some background, but the list of riders in there was alphabetical with no team affiliation or bib numbers, which made it a little hard to follow who was winning as they zipped by 60 times. I recognized a few names, Ivan Dominguez, the Macormack brothers, but most were unknowns, and other than Navigators, most of the teams were unknowns too. These guys must do it for love, since they can’t be making much money at it. The race is not well attended (since who would want to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Fitchburg?), and is officated by two guys who sound exactly the same yelling into microphones non-stop, one from the booth at the finish line and one walking up and down the street. Chloe got a free t-shirt from him. Mostly he was trying to collect donations from the spectators so they could offer a “preme” at 5 laps to go, and they managed to rack up over $1000. There’s real prize money, too, like 50 grand total for the four days among all the races (several amateur categories are also included).

The weather was great, not too hot or humid, the clouds got a little darker towards the very end, but we managed to get out of the city without being trapped by a monsoon like we were a few years ago. We regaled Jee and Donna with our story of trying to leave the city one year in the middle of a biblical deluge as bags of garbage washed down the steep hillside streets. For all we knew, in Fitchburg that was how the trash got picked up all the time.

The kids were bored most of the time, Justin managed to entertain himself coloring with markers. Jee, who’s a bike geek and has lived here for several years, had never heard of Longsjo. It’s not exactly the Tour de France, which has a rest day today, but there’s hardly any other races of note around here these days, Arlington came and went, even the New York race only lasted a couple of years. They could stand to have more publicity and better information, but it’s worth checking out. One of these years I’ll take the days off and see all 4 stages.

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