"I'm not a bridesmaid anymore," Joe Rano of Millbury exulted at the
conclusion of the Fitchburg-Longsjo
Classic last week. He was wearing the Bob Beal gold medal for winning the
four-day stage race.
Rano, 39, had complained lightheartedly last season -- "always a bridesmaid" -- about his tendency to finish second. Stage victories eluded him last year in Fitchburg, and he ended up in second place overall in the masters (age 35 and up).
He didn't win any stages this year, either, and was disappointed that rival John Funk of the Leominster-based Gear Works team beat him to the top of Mount Wachusett by just 6 seconds.
But consistently strong riding kept his cumulative time low enough for the big prize. Rano finished fourth in the time trial, fourth in the circuit race, second in the mountain road race and third in a three-man sprint in the criterium.
Funk and Rano crossed the finish line pretty much together in the circuit race and the crit, but Funk was given third place in the former and second in the latter.
Key to Rano's overall lead of 46 seconds was that he had more than minute on Funk from the time trial alone. Even without time bonuses -- Rano's top finishes earned him 8 seconds, and Funk earned 18 -- Rano would have stayed ahead of Funk.
"I had the legs this time," Rano said.
Gear Works and Rano's team, Rhode Island-baed Arc-en-Ciel, have been competing for prizes all season. "They won the battle, but I won the war," Rano crowed Monday in Fitchburg.
It was no surprise to see a Hot Tubes rider on the winners' podium at the Longsjo. The Worcester-based juniors team, managed by Hot Tubes owner Toby Stanton of Leicester, recruits some of the country's top junior racers every year.
But this year, only two Hot Tubes riders were in Fitchburg. The others were busy winning the team pursuit at the Junior National Track Cycling Championships in Indianapolis, which earned them berths at the world championships next month in Athens, Greece. The winning pursuit team consisted of Hot Tubes riders Ryan Stoner from Florida, Bill Skinner of Monson and Jon Retseck from Pennsylvania, along with Michael Creed (Colorado Cyclist) and Tim Reinhart (East Coast Velo).
Stoner made his mark locally on June 1 when he entered the Tuesday night time trial in West Boylston and clocked 21 minutes, 37 seconds on the 10.2-mile course. That's an average speed of 28.4 mph, putting him second only to pro Frank McCormack of Leicester in the West Boylston TT all-time records, which have been kept since 1996. McCormack rode the course in 21:05 (29.1 mph) in 1996.
In Fitchburg, Hot Tubes' Ian Stuart, from Vermont, took the leaders' jersey in the first stage, the time trial, with a healthy 38-second lead. He kept the jersey throughout the four-day stage race, with third-place finishes in both the circuit race and the road race.
Going into the final day's criterium, Stuart was only 4 seconds ahead of rival Justin Thompson (Wooden Wheels Racing), who had climbed Mount Wachusett well ahead of the pack the day before. Stuart's teammate, Dan Wolfson of Belmont, set the pace for the crit.
When a couple of riders got away toward the end of the race, Hot Tubes didn't chase them, and consequently some of the other riders didn't either. Thompson wasn't in the breakaway, and Stuart knew he only needed to finish the stage -- provided Thompson didn't get any bonus points for finishing first, second or third -- to keep his overall lead. Stuart let Jon Husk (Coyote Hill) win the crit, and Stuart got the overall prize.
"These juniors still haven't figured out what we did to them," Stanton said afterward.
I saved the book "In Pursuit of the Yellow Jersey" by Samuel Abt and James Startt, published in February by Van der Plas Publications, to read in July when the Tour de France is going on. Now, as the Tour unfolds, the book is providing wonderfully detailed context for the day-by-day drama. Subtitled "Bicycling Racing in the Year of the Tortured Tour," the book has short, fact-packed chapters about last year's professional racing season leading up to the Tour, the drug scandal, the key riders, and stage-by-stage triumphs and disappointments.
Meanwhile, some of the best coverage of this year's Tour de France is on the Internet. I like the VeloNews site, which posts American rider Frankie Andreu's diary every day. Bicycling magazine also has a comprehensive Tour de France Center online, with Australian Stuart O'Grady's diary through Tuesday and then dispatches from American Bobby Julich. And visitors to the site can sign up to receive daily race reports from Bicycling via e-mail.
Both VeloNews and Bicycling have updates during the race each morning, complete results, maps, rider profiles, technical information on the equipment the pros are using, TV schedules, and more. ESPN, which is broadcasting coverage on TV, gives the Tour limited attention on its Web site.
Major Taylor Centennial Day is set for 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 23 at Quinsigamond State Park, South Lake Avenue, featuring a bike helmet sale, a noontime lunch for the MassBike Tour, and a display of models of proposed designs for the Major Taylor statue.
The Children's Medical Center of UMass Memorial Health Care has donated 200 bike helmets, in children's and adults' sizes. They will be sold for $5 each, with nurses fitting them to buyers' heads, and proceeds will go to the statue fund.
City officials will welcome the MassBike Tour riders, stopping here on the next-to-last day of their 360-mile jaunt around the state, and brief them on area bike projects.
The Major Taylor Humanitarian Association, organizer of the event, has selected five artists as finalist candidates to create a sculpture of Major Taylor, aka "the Worcester Whirlwind," 1899 world cycling champion, to be installed outside the Worcester Public Library. The artists have been invited to submit models of their designs for the July 23 event. People at the festivities can cast votes for the designs they like best; other opportunities for public input will come in August and September.
Every year or so, someone writes an obituary for road cycling. Supposedly everyone's buying mountain bikes now and hardly anyone is pedaling on the pavement anymore. But that story wasn't selling last month in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
About 800 roadies from all over North America were rolling along around Saratoga during a League of American Bicyclists rally based there. I was in the Seven Hills Wheelmen contingent that biked up from Worcester, joined by friends from the Harrisburg (Pa.) Bicycle Club.
On the second leg of the 170-mile trip, traversing the Green Mountains on Route 9 from Brattleboro to Bennington, Vt., we saw more than 100 other bikers, the Harley-Davidson kind, going in the other direction, in small groups, presumably headed for Motorcycle Week events in Laconia, N.H.
The noise was annoying but the bikers seemed friendly. Quite a few waved, and one even pedaled his feet as he passed. Was he mocking us? Teri Lema of Worcester, who used to ride a Harley and now pedals a 21-speed Trek, was our interpreter. She said the pedaling gesture was "simpatico."