Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Longsjo is Hurting


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.

Volunteers

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: wjc@longsjo.com


Finances


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.

Best Regards,

Ed Collier
Executive Director
51st Fitchburg Longsjo Classic
July 2-5, 2010
ecollier@longsjo.com

2 comments:

  1. I just want to say that I think the Longsjo is a fabulous event, one that's very important to the community and clearly one to which a significant amount of effort is dedicated. However, as someone who attempted to volunteer last year and had a terrible experience, I just want to say that I may not be the only one who consciously decided not to volunteer this year.

    A friend and I spent nearly an hour reaching the designated volunteer site at Wachusett given all of the race-associated road closures. Upon arrival at precisely the specified time, the volunteer coordinator (with whom we'd confirmed our meeting and assignment details in advance via email) was nowhere to be found. We finally located a single race staff/volunteer member, and he tried to call the volunteer coordinator to find out what was going on. She didn't answer her phone, and he laughed, "oh, she always forgets to turn on her phone." My friend and I had taken a rather large chunk of time out of our holiday weekend, foregoing other plans, and this was the end result. No one else could be found on site to provide clarification. We returned home, and my follow-up email to the coordinator was never answered.

    I continue to wish you all the best, but there is a reason I'm not stepping up to help this year. I'm not trying to be harsh, and I respect the challenges you face, but I wanted to make you aware of why you lost at least two supporters this year.

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  2. You've probably tried this, but have you considered asking USA Cycling to step in? After all, the Lonsjo classin is one of the largest races in the US, and one where many young riders get results that earn them pro contracts. So with all of the history of the event, USA Cycling would be crazy not to lend support.

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