Once an event that drew athletes from around the globe, the Longsjo Classic took a step toward returning to its former glory in 2013.
After missing two years of competition for various reasons, the cycling race returned in June as a two-stage event. Cut in half from its previous iterations, the Longsjo Classic still drew competitors and fans to the region. The race's return has been voted No. 6 on the list of the Sentinel & Enterprise's top-10 local sports stories of 2013.
Previous editions of the race featured four stages, but even with just two in 2013, organizers were thrilled to get things rolling again.
"We're thrilled that people are here," said Jason Longsjo, nephew of race namesake Arthur Longsjo and director of the Arthur Longsjo Foundation, which runs the event. "It shows how much this race was missed.
"We've gotten a lot of support from the community. We honestly weren't sure what to expect, but it's been great."
The 2013 Longsjo Classic had a stage in Leominster for the first time in the form of a downtown, nighttime criterium race. Two days later, the Fitchburg downtown criterium -- the event's traditional finale --wrapped things up.
The men's and women's pro division titles went to a pair of teenagers, with 17-year-old Peter Goguen of Hopedale and 17-year-old Ellen Noble of Kennebunkport, Maine, emerging victorious. With the race falling off the National Racing Calendar, many big-name teams chose not to attend, but the goal is to eventually bring them back to Central Massachusetts.
But just because a two-stage race had a bit of success, organizers won't be content until the Longsjo Classic is again a nationally recognized and celebrated event. The 2014 edition will expand to a third stage, with a Worcester criterium being added.
"We want to bring this race back to what it used to be, back in the days where people would line Main Street six and seven deep," said Longsjo Foundation board member Donn Ingemie. "We're trying to expand, but it's a controlled expansion."