Heard from an old college buddy the other day. Jeff turned me on to a few things during our days on the hill in the early way back when, including a certain rock artist from New Jersey, name of Springsteen.
Anyway, Jeff, who was never much of a sports fan, e-mailed me the other day and said I should get into cycling, especially the Tour de France.
“Absolutely compelling,” wrote Jeff. “Think of it, not a game of 2 hours duration
with substitutes going in. We’re talking 21 stages,, 2500 miles,
almost everyday, with the winner coming in often seconds ahead after
3 weeks of racing. The drama, the old school rules, the mano a mano
duels and the crashes, the scenery, are the stuff of legend. These
are the best athletes in the world.”
Well, I have ridden a bike. And I did cover cycling in the 1970s, when I was writing for the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel and Enterprise in central Massachusetts. Each year, around the Fourth of July, hundreds of cyclists race breakneck through the streets of the old, industrial city of Fitchburg in the Arthur Longsjo Memorial Race. Today the race is known as the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, the self-proclaimed largest pro/am cycling competition in North America.
The race began in 1960 in memory of Art Longsjo, a Fitchburg resident, who competed in both the 1956 Winter Olympics as a speed skater and the Summer Olympics as a cyclist. Two years later, Longsjo was killed in an automobile accident while returning home from a cycling victory in Quebec.
Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven straight times from 1999-2005, won the Longsjo race in 1992. Tyler Hamilton won the race in 1996; in the 2004 Olympics in Athens he captured a gold medal in the individual time trial.
Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986 and a three-time champion, raced in Fitchburg as a junior. Sheila Young, who won three speed skating medals (a medal of each metal) in the 1976 Winter Olympics, competed in the 1976 Longsjo.