Worcester, Mass. 
June 24, 2001 

Alachoyan gearing up for Longsjo

By Lynne Tolman 

  Joe Alachoyan of Amherst is thinking "payday" next weekend. 
  As a Category 2 racer with the Ideal Tile/Brielle Cyclery team, he doesn't get paid to bike. But in stage races like the four-day Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, which begins Thursday, there are ample opportunities for hard-working amateur riders to score a little prize money while the pros score the headlines. 
  Alachoyan, 22, grew up in Millbury and started riding at age 13 or 14 with his father, Paul, also a racer. The son raced for the Bicycle Alley team in Worcester, then three years with the New England Cycling Support Association, one of the region's top training grounds for junior racers. 
  In 1999 he was a Category 3 racer on the Excite/SmartFuel team based in Vermont. Last year he moved up to Category 2 with New York-based Breakaway Courier Systems, led by Adam Myerson of Northampton, who has been coaching Alachoyan for a few years. 
  Alachoyan, a senior at UMass-Amherst, has "some exceptional climbing and time trial ability, and with a little direction and maturity he could develop into a national-caliber rider," said Myerson, now with the GS Mengoni team. 
  The UMass cycling team qualified for the collegiate national championships last month in Colorado Springs, Colo., but Alachoyan was the only team member to scrape together the money and time to go. In retrospect, he said, it wasn't worth it. "The altitude killed me." 
  Myerson said Alachoyan showed "excellent form" when he placed seventh in last year's Four Bridges of Elgin race in Illinois, an 80-mile road race for men ages 19 to 23 only. "I think he's capable of more rides like that," Myerson said. "If he can get more serious and realize the kind of commitment he needs to make to really succeed in the sport I think he can do it; the talent is there." 
  Alachoyan said the Elgin race July 8, which is the only under-23 race in North America that counts in the international rankings, and the under-23 national championships Aug. 2-5 in Gainesville, Fla., are his most important contests this season. 
  He hopes good results there can help him clinch a pro contract for 2003. He doesn't expect to be able to turn pro next year because school, and working 25 to 30 hours a week at Starbucks in Northampton, don't allow him enough time to boost his training to the next level. Right now the "big week" in his four-weeks-on, one-week-off training cycle consists of about 400 miles of riding. "If you can't do the big week there's no point," he said. "It has to build systematically." 
  Meantime, he said, "there's decent money to be had in the pro/1/2 category," where he is holding his own. Last summer he and five teammates came home from the Superweek race series in Wisconsin with about $2,000 among them; his share was "more than I would make at work for a week." 
  Ideal Tile is based in New Jersey, and Alachoyan is the only rider on the team not living in the Garden State. With a fair share of the team's racing in New Jersey, "I'm sure getting sick of driving down the Merritt," Alachoyan said. 
  He placed 12th in the New Jersey state time trial championships, with teammates placing third, fourth and ninth. "So we're really strong, but we don't seem to be clicking yet," Alachoyan said. 
  He's competed in the Fitchburg race six times before, and as a junior he once placed second overall, though he never won a stage. "It's my home race," he said. "I grew up training on that mountain. Just about every Wednesday I used to do hill repeats up Mount Wachusett." 
  His goal for this year's Longsjo is "going to depend a lot on my time trial," he said. A strong TT on the first day can put a rider far enough ahead of his rivals to keep an edge during the other stages. 
  "If I have a good TT I can place fairly high" overall, Alachoyan said, noting that the cash prizes go 20 places deep. First place overall is worth $1,750; 20th place, $175. "If not, I'm going to go for the sprint jersey ... Either way, I'm trying to make money at Fitchburg." "King of the Mountain" points are given for hill sprints within each stage, and the prizes for the top four-day points totals are $500, $300 and $200. 
  Last year's King of the Mountain competition was fierce, with Donny Lopez of Wheelworks/Cannondale beating Breakaway Courier's Andy Crater for the winner's jersey. In the road race, "I was trying to lead Andy out for sprint points" on Mountain Road in Princeton, Alachoyan said. "Generally, the pros have bigger fish to fry, so they seemed content to let Andy and Donny have at it." 
  At 5 feet 8 and 135 pounds on a lightweight aluminum Cannondale 4000si, "making it to the top of climbs with the pros isn't a problem," Alachoyan said. "But you reach the top going so fast ... you crest the hill and I'm in my 11 (hardest gear), head down, just groveling; it's all I can do to hang on." 
  Longsjo organizer Ray Wolejko is pleased to see the race maintaining its appeal for amateur riders. "I really think this is a race for everyone. It's not just for the most elite teams," he said when asked about the Mercury team defending its 2000 title. 
  Mercury had hoped to bypass Fitchburg for the Tour de France this year, but the California-based team was not selected for the Tour despite a higher ranking than some of the French squads that were chosen. Last year's Longsjo winners, Mercury's Henk Vogels from Australia and Canadian Lyne Bessette of the Saturn team, are both registered for the Fitchburg race. 
 Members of the Saturn team, including brothers Frank McCormack of Leicester and Mark McCormack of North Easton, helped community volunteers build a playground at Cutter Park in Arlington yesterday. The playground will be dedicated July 7, the day before the BMC Software Tour of Arlington race, in memory of Saturn rider Nicole L. Reinhart, who died at age 24 in the same race last Sept. 17. Saturn of Medford retailer Adam York organized the playground project. Pettinelli Associates of Burlington, Vt., donated the materials and directed the one-day construction effort. 
  TIP OF THE HELMET to Saturn's Frank McCormack for winning the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minnesota last weekend. McCormack edged Kirk O'Bee of the Navigators to win the 102-mile road race June 16. 

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