Monday, July 7, 2008

A Sketch from Fitchburg Longsjo

My wife and I were out in Western Mass last weekend for much-needed R&R. On the way back yesterday, she kindly consented to visit the Fitchburg Longjso Classic, a road race going on all that weekend – as far as I know, the only stage race held in our fine state. It’s been graced by the likes of Lemond, Armstrong and the Heiden siblings. Go here for good information and a nice history of the racer after whom the event was named.

We were there for the final stage, a criterium. Here’s a little tone poem on what we saw:
  • A lot of happy people hanging out downtown on a fine summer day, making noise every time the peloton buzzed by – sounding like a swarm of very fast, angry bees; looking like a river of neon colors and sweat and jostling and effort.

  • Riders from around the world hanging out on shady side-streets, speaking various languages, donning their radio earsets, warming up on trainers next to team buses silk-screened with cool graphics for teams I’d only read about.

  • So much drool-worthy bikeage that I could barely contain myself. I asked my wife if she thought the SRAM tent would notice if I strolled by and palmed a couple of high-performance wheels (there were scores of them lined up). Surprisingly, she discouraged that idea.

  • A pretty good race announcer who, despite being young and bald-headed in a hip way, exclaimed, “Oh, my stars!” every time something exciting happened. We liked that.

  • On the penultimate lap of the men’s Category Four race (essentially, amateur hour), the rider who crossed the line first threw his arms in the air in the classic winner’s pose and coasted – only to have the peloton swarm past him at full tilt. He’d thought it was the last lap. We got an awful feeling in the pit of our stomach for him; unless he’s got a superhuman psyche, it will be a long time before the memory of throwing away 60 minutes of successful, all-out effort stops torturing him. At the finish, I thought I saw him solidly ensconced in the middle of the pack.

We stuck around long enough to watch most of the women’s pro race, which was exciting – lots of spirited sprints, especially the one for the $100 premium thrown down by a good-hearted local. You should have seen the bikes rockin’ and rollin’ at the line for that one. We left after that; my wife had been more than generous in taking a chunk out of our last weekend day to indulge my obsession with anything velo. She is a great woman.

No comments: