TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
June 29, 1997
By Lynne Tolman
Fitchburg Longsjo Classic promoter Ray Wolejko isn't making any predictions this year about the outcome of the four-day stage race, which begins with a time trial Thursday, because there are too many mighty contenders for the winners' podium.
"We've got probably the strongest field ever in terms of domestic pro riders," Wolejko said. "There's probably 10 or 15 guys who could legitimately win the race this year."
Shaklee is also fielding a team, and the Canadian team Everfresh includes top national riders.
Fitchburg is ranked among the top five domestic races in the NRC points series, on a par with the Killington, Redlands Classic and Tour de 'Toona stage races.
Teams will use the results of Thursday's opener to designate a leader to protect and lead out in the following stages. The Wachusett Mountain Road Race on Saturday is likely to be the deciding race. Knowing its rigors, the racers may hold back in Friday's circuit race, Wolejko said.
In the women's competition, look for Saturn to dominate. Team members racing in Fitchburg will be Sue Palmer of Hamilton, Ontario, 1996 Canadian national road champion and three-time winner of the best climber's jersey in the International Women's Challenge; Karen Bliss Livingston of Gainesville, Fla., a stage winner in last year's International Women's Challenge; Julie Young of Auburn, Calif., winner of the 1996 Canadian Pro Points Stage Race; and Julie Hudetz of Boulder, Colo., winner of last year's Joe Martin Stage Race.
"After an Olympic year, most of the established names in women's racing have moved on," Wolejko said. But Saeco-Timex has some worthy entrants, notably New Zealander Susy Pryde, who was in second place in the U.S. points standings early this month, and Giana Roberge of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., who first raced in Fitchburg in 1995 as a Category 4 rookie and this year was selected for the U.S. national team.
Last year's winner, Lynette Nixon from Australia, is not expected back this year, although other riders from Australia and New Zealand will compete.
Wolejko even recruited a ringer from Finland to ride for the Fitchburg Cycling Club, host of the race along with the Minuteman Road Club. Anu Oinenen suffered a minor injury in the Hewlett-Packard International Women's Challenge in Idaho last week when a race car hit the peloton, and although she was knocked out of contention in that race, she's ready to ride here, especially upon being assured of the hospitality of local Finnish-Americans, Wolejko said.
In amateur racing, the women's Category 3 and Category 4 races are separate this year, in keeping with the expanded New England Women's Challenge Series sponsored by Stonyfield Farms. "We used to get about 30 women" at Fitchburg, and 150 are expected this year, Wolejko said.
Nonracing cyclists can get in on the riding with the Fitchburg Fun Rides, a series of free, go-at-your-own-pace rides designed to put riders back in town in time to watch the racing. The racing and Fun Rides schedules are at http://members.aol.com/longsjo/homepage/welcome.html
The GT Bicycles Air Show, a traveling bike stunt team, will perform Saturday at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers and Sunday at Landry's Bicycles, 574 Washington St. (Route 138), Easton. Shows are at noon and 2 p.m. both days.
TIP OF THE HELMET -- To Rob Hult (Fat City Cycles) of Harvard for his victory in the semi-pro race at Mount Snow, Vermont, last weekend. Also, my copy editing co-worker Mark Conti of Franklin placed second in the beginner men's 35-44 cross-country race, and his 8-year-old son, Max, took second place in the kids' 7-8 race.
The Massachusetts Audubon Society 's NatureWatch weekend Aug. 8-10 on Cape Ann includes a leisurely 6- to 8-mile bike tour Saturday with nature stops, and a 20-mile ride Sunday, along with other active options and sessions on natural history, culture and the arts. The weekend costs $325 for members, $365 for nonmembers. Call 617-259-9506, ext. 7251, or see the Web site at http://www.cape-ann.com/massaudubon.
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