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
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
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!