FITCHBURG — Board members of the Art Longsjo Foundation Wednesday announced the end of the Longsjo Classic bicycle race, which was first held in 1960.
The event served as a memorial to Fitchburg resident Arthur M. Longsjo Jr., who in 1956 became the first American to compete in both Summer Olympics (cycling) and Winter Olympics (speedskating) in the same year. In 1958, at the height of his career, Longsjo died in a car crash while driving home after winning the 180-mile long Quebec-to-Montreal race.
Most of the event’s budget has come from cash sponsorships by local Fitchburg businesses. “There are many worthy causes, civic groups, and events working to enhance quality of life in Fitchburg,” said Reese Brown, event director of the Longsjo Foundation. “After 60 years, the Foundation Board made the decision for the Longsjo race to retire, in part so that the finite local dollars required to support the race can flow to other good causes.”
Also cited was the steep nationwide decline in road-style bicycle racing in the last 5-10 years, with countless races closing down. In 2010, the race had 1,000 entries across all categories. In 2019, that number had dwindled to 262. From 2016-19, entries fell by 38%. “Road cycling is in a freefall, and even USA Cycling (the sport’s national governing body) projects continued losses of race entries,” Brown said.
“We mark the Longsjo Foundation’s decision to end the race not with sadness, but with deep appreciation,” Fitchburg Mayor Steve DiNatale said in the statement. “For 60 years, the race brought international-caliber sports to Fitchburg’s downtown streets, and vitality to the city.
“The race may be bowing out, but it will forever be a part of Fitchburg.”
The final Longsjo races, in July 2019, were won by the brother-sister duo of Curtis and Emma White of Delanson, New York – the latter of whom is slated to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
The nonprofit Longsjo Foundation will distributing its remaining funds to Fitchburg charities and civic organizations. Details will be forthcoming.