Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An Explanation for the Women 3/4 Changes

Hello Everybody,

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.

Best Regards,

Ed Collier
Executive Director
2010 Fitchburg Longsjo Classic


  1. Thank you for your explanation and the time invested promoting the Fitchburg Longjo Classic. It is truly one of New England's gems. Though I cannot respect this decision as there is something instinctively wrong with the inequality, unbalance, and messages this sends to the community. That the perception of the family aspect, 1/3 gain, and other details warrants a ratio of 1 women's race to 6 men's races. That in 2010 community still holds women's athletics in this low esteem as to be comfortable with this unbalance.
    Sometimes doing the right thing is more important than details.

    Kim Blodgett

  2. I'm a bit late getting to comment, but thanks for taking the time to write this.

    The decision is really sad news. Fitchburg is placed on a pedestal regionally; it also has historically managed to attract a large field of lower category women, so to diminish the women’s 3/4 race so greatly at Fitchburg is a real blow. When I raced Fitchburg several years ago, it was the goal of many developing women’s seasons.

    Unfortunately, though you have background explanations for the decision, it’s very hard to look at six full race categories for men with just one for women, and multiple options for some men with some women excluded from full participation, without feeling that women, women’s racing, and particularly women's development, are devalued. That's what ends up being the public message. It doesn’t sound as though it’s one you want to send.

    Respectfully, I would advocate taking such an unequal set of race categories off the table as an option. I know the financial difference between 150 racers for four days and 50 for two versus 50 (I hope that would be conservative, but that is last year’s number) for four days and 150 for two is not insignificant, but it isn’t astronomical either, and your explanation (considering cutting juniors instead, which, incidentally, I hope would not happen either) does suggest that some disparity was acceptable. That being said, I know it’s easy for me to disagree with the decision when I don’t bear the financial risk, and I don't mean to throw blame. I will try to think of solutions that might be helpful too.

    Thanks for all your hard work in promoting the race.
    Rachel Brown