Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Longsjo Time Again!

Here's a little known fact about me: many years ago I was a bike racer. Not a great one by any measure (by most measures a pretty terrible one, actually), but I had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people. These days I'm an out-of-shape curmudgeon who drinks too much. Times change.

Anyway, a huge part of the reason I got into cycling in the first place was because of the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic bike race, which I've had at least minor involvement in for the last 18 years; first as a racer, then a volunteer, then a spectator (though I do still try to donate a little prime money during the criterium).

It's really an impressive event, and is perhaps the most famous thing about Fitchburg. It's truly an international affair, and has seen the likes of Lance Armstrong, Greg LeMond, Connie Carpenter, Davis Phinney, George Hincapie (Who I actually raced against here! If you call watching him disappear off into the distance while I felt like my legs were about to burst into flames "racing against."), Kathy Watt, and Eric Heiden, among countless other cycling luminaries, grace the streets of Fitchburg.

Try this some time when you're travelling: If you run into a bike racer (Note: the males of this species are easy to spot by their shaved legs and fondness for Lycra) mention Fitchburg to them. Chances are they'll have heard of it. This will work in most of the US, and probably a number of other places throughout the world (Australia, for instance, seems fond of sending teams here).

Is there any other thing that Fitchburg is so famous for? Certainly not that I can think of. That whole "second hilliest city in the US" thing is just silly, and anyway Seattle claims that too.

On top of that, the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic is a memorial to the incredible Art Longsjo, a Fitchburg native, and the first person to be in both the Summer (cycling) and Winter (speed skating) Olympics in the same year. He's got a pretty awesome story behind him and was a totally dominant cyclist until his untimely death in an auto accident. There's a monument to him right on Main Street, and the guy definitely deserved it.

Going even farther, the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic is the second oldest bike race in the country (behind the Tour of Somerville). And it's expanded from its original one-day criterium into a four-day stage race! That's a huge amount of work for the people running the race, but people step up to do it year after year!

What am I getting at?

It's simple really. People have a lot of negative things to say about Fitchburg. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong. But the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic is one thing about the town that is totally and unabashedly positive. Hell, it's even a totally non-profit event that tries to involve the community and gives money to the Boys & Girls Club!

So get out there and watch the races this weekend. It's free, and they're cool. They start tomorrow, but the best race to watch is the one on Sunday that takes place down on Main Street. The Saturday circuit race is pretty good too if you're on Pearl Street, but it's not quite as fast-paced as Sunday's race.

If you've never gone before, then I guarantee that you'll see more fit and attractive people walking the streets of Fitchburg than you'd ever thought possible. And just for one weekend, don't worry about the library budget or trash fees or any of that other stuff. Just enjoy something that this city does really, really well.

Enjoy the race.


Steve said...

The Longsjo Classic Bike Race is indeed impressive and note worthy.

I was impressed driving up Main Street yesterday to see the DPW out with their week wackers sprucing things up, and today I saw the neat covered seating in front of City Hall with the very big banner banner proclaiming "Fitchburg" "Lisa Wong Mayor". How impressive that was. I thought, wow, she is really into self-aggrandizement, or someone is a really over the top butt kisser.

Fitchburg's Longsjo bike race has a life of it's own, Kudo's to all who put it together and raise the money to fund it.

The Unicow said...

I haven't seen that banner, but I doubt the mayor had anything to do with it. That stuff is usually put together by the people who organize the race.

I remember back in maybe 2000 or 2001 there was a flash thunderstorm during the final race on Main St. They actually had to cut the race short because it was just way too dangerous (smart move, because a streetlamp near city hall actually came crashing down).

Mylott was mayor at the time, and I remember probably 50-75 of us who had been near City Hall took refuge inside while he walked around with paper towels helping people to dry off, letting people use his mayoral toilet (which is really not that nice), and so forth. For all his flaws as a mayor, that was a classy move.

I don't know if they put the mayor's name on the banner back then, but he probably deserved it just for that.

May said...

Thanks for posting this:-) Things have felt so negative here lately, I am glad people are talking about this.

Also, tomorrow (almost today) is the fourth of july parade, which is always fun.

stah said...

Art Longsjo was my godmother's cousin, so I almost feel related to the guy.

The whole event is awesome but I agree with Unicow, the FSC portion and Sunday's race are the best. I've spent the last few years watching the FSC race from the corner of Highland and Ross St. It's an tight turn just before the street drops. It was always on Friday but they changed it to Saturday because of the parade.

Stop by the Boulder for a party during and after the race on Sunday. You can see more than half the course from there. I'm pissed that I'll be away and miss the weekend events.

Along with the ever expanding Civic Days, the Longsjo really makes this the best time of year in Fitchburg.