Thursday, June 17, 2010
The Longsjo is Hurting
It’s with a heavy heart that I type this letter. This may turn out to be one of those Jerry Maguire mission statement situations that I will really regret in the morning.
The Longsjo is in rough shape. We’re hurting. In 2009 we pulled off an amazing event, with a lot of incredible memories relived, and a lot of new memories made. The amount of work that went into last year’s race was staggering. Our tiny staff tore themselves apart to make the race a success, and it was. At least in terms of dynamic racing.
One of my favorite memories was of the Raleigh Boys looking at photos of themselves from 30 years ago, and going over the details of those races as if it were yesterday. I’ll never forget that. We haven’t had that many spectators during the downtown criterium in so many years.
We had an unprecedented number of volunteers sign up to help in 2009. Deb, our volunteer coordinator worked herself into the ground recruiting folks from community organizations and clubs and it showed! We had so many new faces with us last year. It was incredible.
That number has fallen off a cliff in 2010. We’ve tried to reach out to the same groups, new folks, volunteers from years ago, and we’ve had no luck. People are volunteered out. It’s important to know that 99% of the Longsjo is run by volunteers. Everyone from our packet stuffers, to stage directors, to first aid doctors. They are all volunteers.
We can’t run this event without volunteers. We just can’t do it. We need volunteers of all sorts: people who can work one or more half-day shifts as marshals, and those who'd prefer to work a few hours during a morning or evening to do set-up or tear-down. If you’ve got an early TT start, give us a few hours in the afternoon. If you’re going to watch the afternoon races at Wachusett, watch as a marshal.
Head to: http://www.longsjo.com/Volunteer.html
We also need drivers for July 2 & 3. Anyone interested in being a driver should contact Bill Chiarchiaro directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
The financial struggles that have hit other races over the past couple of years are finally catching up with us. We’ve done a lot of of cutting and gotten really creative, and we’re confident that we're going to be able to handle that challenge in 2010. I don’t think folks realize that we are a non-profit organization. If we have any money left over at the end of the race, it goes right back into the Longsjo. For the last several years especially, and to a larger extent for the race’s entire history, we’ve only ever broken even at best. That’s often with our operations folks putting in thousands of dollars of their own money. We have two paid staffers, and those staffers, myself included, are working as volunteers in 2010.
Sponsors who stepped up for the 50th, have stepped back down. Folks who we expected money from in 2010 aren’t returning calls. We’ve had a few folks cut way back in just the last couple weeks. The economy is tough on everyone. If anyone knows how to get through to New England based cycling companies, please let us know, ‘cause we’ve tried.
We’ve been dialing for dollars since January, and people are tapped out. We’ve had good luck with our Fifty for 50 campaign, but we’re just a little bit more than half full.
That’s a $250 donation, and we are calling everyone we know.
We’ve set up a donation box through BikeReg.com. No one wants things to come down to this, but I’m afraid it’s one of our only options with two weeks to go. If you have benefited from the Longsjo, please consider donating what you can. If you have a fond memory of the race, think about that when you make a donation.
We’re letting folks know these financial details partly in the hopes that our fans might think about opening their wallets, and to at least understand where we’re coming from.
What we ask of you:
1. Please don’t ask for free entries. We really and truly can’t afford it. If you want a chance at prize money, it’s only fair that you pay your entry fee.
2. Register early, before June 29th. We’ve always been in a tough spot when it comes to rider registration revenue. Because we have such a relatively small sponsor pool to draw from in this area, we rely so heavily on racer entry fees to pay our bills. If you don’t register until late June, we get into the situation we’re in now (this letter)
3. Support our sponsors when you’re here. Look at our sponsor list, and if you’re going to buy a sandwich or pizza while here, buy it from one of our sponsors, and thank them for sponsoring the race.
Where do we go from here?
We at the Longsjo are doing some soul searching. Can we continue this race in 2011? In what form? Do we go back to a one day criterium? Do we have to move all or part of it out of Fitchburg to find new sponsors? Are the racers going to come? What do we tell the Longsjo family? We don’t have the answers to these questions yet. We’ll probably have some of the answers on July 6th.
This is a lot to let out there, and it’s painful to even think about these things. This current crew has been working so hard, and so well together for so long now that it’s almost unbearable to think that we haven’t worked hard enough.
One thing that needs to be clear however, is that there will be a race in 2010. Make sure it isn’t our last.
I want to thank folks for taking the time to read this, and when you comment or share your opinions, please go easy on us. It’s been a rough couple of weeks.
51st Fitchburg Longsjo Classic
July 2-5, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
We anticipated that folks would be upset with us for eliminating two days of racing from the Women 3/4 category. We really didn't expect the volume of emails, or some of the tone of the emails.
With that in mind, we're going to explain our reasoning in this blog post, and hopefully that will let people know that this decision was not made in haste, and that we did, in fact try everything else possible to get eight full categories to compete. Technical requirements and racers' expectations become higher, financial constraints intrude, and we have to figure out how to keep the Longsjo viable and relevant. People will still be upset I'm sure, but we need to get our side of things out there.
Perhaps the best way to explain this is with a detailed list.
1. In order to maintain our position on the NRC, we had to agree to full rolling enclosure for the Men Pro 1, and Women Pro/1/2.
We had been racing the road race course essentially the same way for nearly 20 years, but the rules have changed. They've changed to make the races safer for our riders, and to give them the chance to compete on an open road.
2. We only have 11 miles of road race course to work with.
This means that with the added complexities of two simultaneous rolling enclosures, there just isn't the room to run our usual four fields in the afternoon. We can get very technical with lap times, spacing, estimated finishing times, etc., but trust us, there isn't enough room. We spent weeks devouring maps, and driving roads in the area to see if there was a way to lengthen the course to give us the room needed. We initially came up with two options. Double the length and add two more towns, or force all racers onto narrow, ill suited roads. We don't have the budget, volunteers, or communication tools needed to double the length. If we sent the peletons down the narrow country roads we looked at, we'd be off the NRC for 2011.
3. Budget woes. As folks are no doubt aware, the economic climate in the U.S. is dismal. This affects everyone, and every event that needs sponsorship. At the end of 2009 we were told that we would likely be without $30,000 in sponsor money that we had expected for 2010. The Longsjo has one of the smallest budgets of any NRC stage race in America, and we need every penny. We're trying to get even more sponsors on board, but that still means cuts to our events, and our limited number of staffers likely not being paid. We are all still working because we love the race, and can't imagine not having the Longsjo. I think some folks don't realize that the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic is a non-profit organization. If we are fortunate enough to have money left over at the end of the year, it gets put directly back into the race.
4. Who do we cut?
Some of the emails assume this was an easy decision for us. It most definitely was not. We factored in everything from rider numbers, to lodging numbers, to distance riders from each category travel to get here. We factored in the potential outcry from the different categories. Everything was considered. We can't lose the revenue from the Masters. Though the Juniors generate only slightly more registration income for us, they bring 1/3 more riders than the Women 3/4. That generates revenue for us through the dorms. We also have entire families stay at the hotel. That makes our sponsors happy. We made the decision to cut two days from the Women 3/4 with a heavy heart.
5. Why cut two stages from the Women 3/4?
A. We can't run the road race during a weekday, especially on a weekday before a holiday. There is simply too much commuter traffic on Route 140 in Westminster and Princeton to run the race safely. B. We can't afford to run the road race on July 4th. As a result of the holiday, our police details earn double their normal rate. They are worth every dollar, but we can't afford it. We figured the women wouldn't want to race the first day, sit out the second, and race the last two. That leaves us with: Circuit Race, Road Race, Time Trial, Criterium.
6. Looking ahead. If we can't find a suitable course extension for 2011, we'll likely have to cut two stages again in 2011. This could be from the Juniors, or perhaps the Masters. We'll have to see how it goes. One thing that the Longsjo is known for is the fact that all our racers compete on the same courses as their professional counterparts. I raced the Longsjo in 92 as a Junior, and then watched Lance dominate the rest of the weekend. It's part of what makes the Longsjo so special in the hearts of our riders. Most other NRC races in the US have only a few token Crits for amateurs to race in. The Longsjo doesn't operate that way, and we never will.
Hopefully this answers some questions about our decision. It's not an easy decision to make. It is one we had to make.
We hope you will keep the Longsjo on your calendar for 2010, and if not, please keep us on your radar in 2011.
2010 Fitchburg Longsjo Classic
Hello Longsjo racers and fans. After much anticipation and hard work, registration for the 2010 Longsjo is now officially open! We’ve been working with our local city and town officials to make sure that the 2010 Longsjo is a continuation of the amazing success we had in 2009 for our 50th edition.
We’re changing up the order of the stages a bit to not only to liven up the racing, but to also ease the financial burden of running a race stage on the fourth of July. (Anyone want to guess what our police budget is for the road race?)
This will be our stage order in 2010:
Friday July 2nd - Fitchburg State College Circuit Race
Saturday July 3rd - Wachusett Mountain Road Race
Sunday July 4th - Courtyard by Marriott South Street Time Trial (same course as 2009)
Monday July 5th - Workers’ Credit Union Downtown Criterium
This 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.
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. We’ve been trying for years to make this happen, and thanks to the amazing efforts of our race operations staff, we’ve been successful.
One of the negative aspects of this development is that we need more space on the road race course. To ensure the safety and sufficient spacing between fields during the afternoon, we have been forced to eliminate the Women 3/4 category from the first two days of racing.
This was an agonizing decision for us, and is one of the reasons that we’re opening registration a bit later than we had hoped. We looked at expanded road race courses, stage order, timing of the fields, lap times for the last several years, and many other options to try and make room for four fields in the afternoon. We couldn’t figure out a way to do it, while at the same time give the pros the room they need to race.
The Longsjo is, and will continue to be one of the only races in the country where amateurs from nearly every category can come and race on the very same courses as their professional counterparts. We will continue to try and figure out a way for our usual eight categories to participate fully in the Longsjo, but for this year the Women 3/4 racers will be limited to the final two days of racing. The entry fees and prize lists has been adjusted accordingly.
One other adjustment to our categories is modification of the age classification for the Masters category. We received a number of comments last year regarding this issue, and we have decided to change the Masters category from 35+ to 40+. Had this change been in effect in 2009, only 10 riders would have been affected.
We look forward to seeing all of you in July, and wish you a safe and successful 2010.
The Longsjo Staff
As in 2009, we’ll be offering a free iPod Nano for one of the first 100 registered entrants, so don’t delay, register today!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Race Update - The ice storm of mid-December, 2008 caused devastation to many north central Massachusetts cities and towns. Princeton and Westminster were hit particularly hard. The Wachusett Mountain State Reservation suffered major damage, especially to the power lines headed up to the summit. The state decided to bury the power lines along what is normally our ascent road.
Progress on the project was slow to begin, and after we assessed the situation, the Longsjo staff decided to move the finish of the Wachusett Mountain Road Race to Princeton center. We know that many racers love the grueling final climb to the summit, and we expect to finish there in 2010.
There are some very positive aspects that come along with finishing in Princeton center:
Increased spectator participation
Feed Zone workers will be able to see their riders finish!
Festival atmosphere on the town common
The finish will be approx. 100 meters up Mountain Road, following the right turn off of Gregory Hill Rd. (The Wall). There should be some amazing duels on the final climb!
Monday, May 25, 2009
We have confirmed our new Courtyard by Marriott South Street Time Trial course, taking place July 2, 2009. The Rindge Road course we have used in Fitchburg, Ashby, and Ashburnham in 2007 and 2008 has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer suitable for a TT course. The new course begins on South St. near the town offices in Westminster, MA, heads out to Mare Meadow Lane in Hubbardston, and returns to Dawley Rd. and South St. in Westminster. It's a 14 km TT with some gradual hills, and some great views of a reservoir system. Check out this great flyover in youtube, or watch it here.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
In 1968, I was just 19 years old. I had a good sprint and was a good bike handler, so I did well in the criterium races that year. The previous year, I had placed well in the Fitchburg Junior race and it seemed that the circuit was one that I was happy with.
In the 1968 Art Longsjo Classic, François Mertens, John Aschen, and I attacked simultaneously to break away. We got a good rhythm going and held off the main pack. Aschen, who was not the best sprinter, led out the final kilometer and François and I jumped past on either side of him in the sprint to the finish line. My good acceleration and the fact that Francois waited for me to go, making it a short sprint, worked in my favour and I won by a couple of bike lengths.
The prize for first place, that year, was a console colour TV which John Gromek and I stuffed mostly into the trunk of our ’55 Chevy to take back to New Jersey. We must have somehow put our bikes in the back seat of the car we didn’t have a roof racks in those days. On the drive home from the race, we were stopped by the police who wanted to check to make sure that we hadn’t stolen the TV that was hanging out of the trunk. The next year I couldn’t attend the race, but the winner, Jocelyn Lovell, won a car for first place if I remember correctly!
At the time, only the 9th running of the race, I was the youngest to win, at 19 years old.
When I raced in the Fitchburg Junior race the year before, I remember watching Sammy Watson, who had won in 1966, prepare to drive away after his race with all of his equipment, bikes and bags, packed inside of his Volkswagen Beetle. I was greatly impressed by his ability to squeeze everything into that little car. -Bob Simpson