Fitchburg Criterium Weekend

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Photo taken by Frank Tirrell

This year’s Longsjo Classic was a three-day series of criteriums all based around eastern Massachusetts. The first night was held in Leominster on a wide-open course with one decisive final corner into a 350m finishing sprint. Last year, former Champion System – Stan’s NoTubes rider Allan Rego took the win by jumping the field going into the last turn and holding off the charging pack by mere few feet. I suspected a similar sprint finish this year and seeing that I was alone at the race I figured waiting for a sprint was the safest bet.

The race was animated and it became clear quickly that most teams did not want to leave it to a sprint finish. Unfortunately, that also meant I had to cover and bridge to the most dangerous looking moves, while taking a gamble on attacks that looked less dangerous. In the closing laps a small group had 8-10 seconds on the chasing field and I was predicting a last lap catch, so I waited patiently in the field. However, a well-timed late attack by the ultimate race winner gave him enough ground to hold on for the win as we caught most of the remaining riders in the break before the line. I ended up second in the field sprint and and 4th on the day. I wasn’t psyched that I didn’t make the podium, but I felt confident that I could correct the mistakes I made for the next day’s race in Worchester.

Saturday brought much rougher roads and an overall more technical course, which is my favorite type of race. The course was perfect for a break, but a mid-race crash that neutralized the race provided enough recharge to rider’s batteries to keep everything together for a field sprint. The final corner was 300m from the finish but it had several bends and a small hill that crested 150m from the line. To avoid getting mixed up with any other riders I opted to jump the field at the bottom of the finishing hill and I was able to come over the top with enough of a gap to hold everyone off for the win. It was a great night and my first win of the season.

The final race in the series was held in Fitchburg. The race has been held 41 times since 1960 and winning this race is important not just to New England riders but to most racers across the country. I myself have competed in this race 6 times and have never had the honor of taking that top step. The 50-mile criterium was difficult from the first lap. The 90 degree heat combined with the constant threat of a break getting away kept both the pace and nerves high. I found myself in a few moves that had the right combination of riders, but I wasn’t strong enough to force the moves success and other rides were hesitant to ride with me after my previous night’s victory.

Fortunately for me, there were enough people who felt they deserved to be in the winning break that every move was eventually neutralized, and the stage was set for a field sprint. From the last corner the finish is 400m with an uphill slightly right bending finishing stretch. I was setup perfectly when the group went to the left side of the road coming out of the last turn and I jumped early, like the previous night, and took a straight line to the finish hugging the right side of the road. I took the win on my 7th attempt at the race and it felt great to win a race with such history, even though my legs were barely working and my head felt like it was going to melt off as I stood there waiting for the podium.

Thanks for reading,

Isaac Howe

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