The national stars couldn't steal the show from the homeboys at last weekend's Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, and the pro-elite-expert category was not the only one to feature outstanding racing by local riders.
While 25-year-old pro Frank McCormack of Leicester was victorious overall, edging out Bobby Julich (Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff) and Andy Bishop (Coors Light) at the top of Mount Wachusett for the pivotal stage win, Worcester-based Landry's/Hot Tubes captured the juniors title with two stage wins and a handful of other cash prizes.
In the juniors' 15-mile criterium, all eyes were on Landry's rider Shawn McCormack of Plymouth, Frank's brother, who had won the John Fitch Circuit Race the day before. That helped free up teammate Justin Bartlett of Hudson Falls, N.Y., to win the crit, putting Bartlett first overall and McCormack second. Both are 18.
Andrew Mills, 17, of North Brookfield, was the team's workhorse, attacking hard on the Pearl Street hill in the 21-mile circuit race to soften up the pack so Bartlett and McCormack could get away, said coach Toby Stanton. Mills finished ninth overall.
The other Landry's junior at Fitchburg, 17-year-old Mike Rozsko of Westboro, raced in the men's expert-sport category (Cat. 2-3) and finished in the money in the circuit race.
Two former Landry's riders who have advanced to the seniors and were riding for Worcester-based O'Neil's, Ken Lubin and Jason Croteau, also made strong showings. Lubin was second overall in Cat. 2-3, and Croteau was seen leading the pro-elite-expert pack in the circuit race, in which teammate Giuseppe Citterio took second.
Landry's masters took home their share of prizes, too. Ray Shultz, 37, of Weston was second in the criterium and fourth in the circuit race. Scott Wade, 35, of Putney, Vt., riding with Landry's since George Adams of Holliston broke his leg in a race in April, finished third in the circuit race and second overall.
Landry's/Hot Tubes takes pride in Frank McCormack's win, too, for he works at Hot Tubes, coach Stanton's bike-frame building and painting business in Webster Square, and wears that team's jersey when he and his brother, Mark, 24, are not riding for other sponsors or the National Cycle League's Boston Banshees. The brothers were crowd pleasers in the criterium when Frank set up Mark to win a $300 crowd prime, a fat envelope of cash that spectators ponied up during the race for a lap prize.
Racing on a brand-new Rhygin that he didn't even have time to try out before the Longsjo's opening time trial, Kurt Hackler of Bolton climbed to first place in Cat. 2-3 in the Wachusett Mountain Road Race, five laps on a hilly 11-mile course followed by the mountain ascent.
"I felt pretty bad the last two laps because I wasn't recovered" from the previous days' racing, said Hackler, 17. He'd been caught in a crash in the circuit race and "just sat in" in the crit. "I started feeling better and at the end, I just sat in, in the second spot behind Bill Bither -- he's from Ordinary Cycles in western Mass. -- and we kept a small gap from about five others. I attacked with about half a kilometer to go and held the gap." His time for the 58 miles was 2:32:08. That's an average of about 23 mph.
Part of Fitchburg's allure for local racers is the chance for amateurs at all levels to rub elbows, if not share the spotlight, with the pros. Rebecca Peach of Boylston, for example, an unattached Cat. 4 rider in her first season with a USCF license, said, "Part of the thrill is to say I'm just a local yokel, rather inexperienced, but I can ride the same course as Team Shaklee and the people I read about in cycling publications."
Peach, 34, finished second in the circuit race and fifth overall in a field of 24 Cat. 4 women. "I loved the circuit race because I'm much more of a climber," she said. "That hill really broke up the field ... I try to ride near the front and be smart about which breaks are going to go."
Peach led a five-person breakaway through the bottom corner of the last lap. Lynda Gauthier of the Springfield-based Cyclonauts got past her on the last hill and the next day took third in the crit to became the overall winner.
Peach, an engineer with Commonwealth Gas Co. in Southboro, rides with an informal club, the UMassters, made up mostly of employees of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. Her fiance, Paul Cook, is a UMass doctor and a beginning bike racer, too.
Peach said the speed of the criterium was surprisingly scary, even in her category, so she hung back in the tight spots. But being part of the action in Fitchburg only fueled her appetite for racing. "Certainly the fast stages are all teamwork. That's what I'd like to do, is get with some other people and work together."
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