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Goguen, 17, to defend Longsjo Classic title.

Seventeen-year-old Peter Goguen of Hopedale went across the gap and chased down the leading breakaway with six laps to go in the Fitchburg criterium of the revived Longsjo Classic last year.

Then, with two laps left, he attacked the leading group and rode away from the top pros. The strong solo effort earned the young rider a solid victory in a race won by many cycling legends since it began in 1960.

"I was just really overwhelmed. It was the biggest win of my life, or the most exciting win of my life,'' said Goguen, a member of Race CF cycling team.

Though only a junior racer, Goguen is no stranger to big events. He won the cyclo-cross junior men national championships in January, has competed in Europe and has stood on the podium at many major road races.

The young cyclist's win was emblematic of the new energy behind the Longsjo's effort to re-establish itself as one of the biggest races in the country.

"It was a great way for the Longsjo to be reborn last year, with a new generation winning the race,'' said race director Alan Cote.

After cancellations in 2011 and 2012, the Longsjo Classic bounced back last year with two successful races in the Leominster twilight criterium on Friday night and the traditional race on Sunday in Fitchburg. This year, the Longsjo continues the revival with a new criterium in downtown Worcester.

The Leominster Twilight Criterium kicks off the 53rd Longsjo Classic on Friday. This event was held for the first time last year.

The Worcester crit will be held Saturday. The Fitchburg Classic Criterium will be held next Sunday.

The Longsjo Classic began as a one-day event, the traditional criterium in downtown Fitchburg, and expanded to a four-day stage race in 1991. After recent troubles forced the cancellation of the event two years in a row, members of the Longsjo family stepped in, formed a foundation and took over the race last year.

This year, there will be three criteriums, which are races on short loops about a mile long in which racers do several laps.

"Those races favor explosive riders who sprint well, not the skinny climbers. The really fast explosive riders are the ones who do well in criteriums,'' Cote said.

Criteriums involve a lot of teamwork, Cote said, and teams will try to position riders in certain places at different times of the race. For spectators, the crits offer a chance to see the racers riding by every few minutes, as leaders change and teams jockey throughout the race.

"It's a tremendous sight and sound going by. You get that tremendous whoosh like a tractor-trailer passing you,'' Cote said.

The colorful pelotons will be rolling through downtown Worcester on Saturday, bringing sanctioned bike racing to the city for the first time since the Worcester Whirlwind races in the early 1980s.

The race will start and finish in front of City Hall on Main Street, which will be closed to traffic. The course then turns right onto Front Street at Worcester Common and right onto Church Street, crosses Franklin Street and heads down Salem Street past the Major Taylor Statue at the library, turns right on Myrtle Street, right on Southbridge Street onto Main Street toward City Hall. The racing starts at 4:45 p.m., the pro women race at 6:15 and the pro men at 7:20 p.m.

Cote said anywhere around the common or near the Major Taylor Statue will be a great place to watch the racing, but especially at the first corner of the course as it turns from Main Street onto Front Street.

"That area will be great. You have a big wide Main Street, four lanes wide, then it narrows around the corner, so you'll see riders jockeying for that turn. It will be very dynamic and exciting out there,'' Cote said.

Giving much credit to the efforts of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce for helping to make the bike race in Worcester possible, race organizers said they're excited about the event that could bring thousands to watch hundreds race in the downtown area, as well as expand the Longsjo to three days of racing.

"It's a very big deal. It's the second biggest city in New England. It's a great city to have a race in. From the riders' perspective, you have three races, three quality races, within 30 minutes of each other,'' Cote said.

Cat 2 racer Patrick Goguen, 28, of Hopedale, who watched his first Longsjo race at about 8 years old and has competed in nine events, including one in which he crashed at 40 miles an hour on a downhill in the Fitchburg circuit race, still remembers his first race as a junior when the event was a four-day stage race.

"It was like the biggest junior race in the country back then,'' said Patrick Goguen, who coaches his brothers and is director of the Race CF team. "I was hanging on for dear life.''

Peter did more than just hang on in his first year racing at the Longsjo, he took home first place in the elite field. Patrick said of all the Longsjo races he has seen and done, his brother's win is his favorite.

"He was just so strong. That was pretty amazing,'' said Patrick, who was in the field directing the team but went to the pit when teammate Austin Vincent crashed near the end of the race, leaving Peter to take the race into his own hands.

"I always wanted to do it. I pictured myself doing it. To compete last year and win the pro race was so special,'' said Peter, who won the race in front of his siblings (he has nine), parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, many of whom grew up in the Fitchburg area.

The two Goguen brothers said racers are excited that the Longsjo has returned and continues to grow.

"It's been by far the biggest, most prestigious race in New England. And last year it was. It was the biggest deal and brought out the best,'' Patrick said. "I think everybody is stoked, pretty excited about it.''

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Worcester Criterium on Saturday afternoon will also feature a Family Fitness Festival. The festival will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the Worcester Common Oval behind Worcester City Hall.

The festival will offer a family Zumba dance party, a kids' run, healthy living vendors and a bike parade in which participants are encouraged to decorate their bikes and ride the perimeter of the common.

The Rollstone Bank Leominster Criterium begins at 5 p.m. Friday, with the pro women racing at 6:30 and the pro men racing at 7:30 p.m. The .8-mile course begins on Pleasant Street, between Adams and Pearl streets, turns left on Park Street, to West Street, to Cotton Street, to Cottage Street and back on Pleasant.

The Fitchburg Downtown Criterium begins at 9 a.m. next Sunday, with pro women racing at 1:15 and the pro men at 3 p.m. The .9-mile traditional three-corner course is flat and fast, and always entertaining. The race starts on Main Street, near City Hall, heads northwest, makes the horseshoe bend at the Upper Common, stays on Main Street and heads to Boulder Drive, then left on Putnam Street and back on Main.

The Longsjo Classic will be the final and featured event of a new series called New England Criterium Week. In addition to the Longsjo, crit week includes the Keith Berger Memorial Criterium in East Hartford, Connecticut, that takes place today, and the Exeter Classic Criterium in Exeter, New Hampshire, on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Verge Sport New England, crit week will offer a prize list for a team competition over the five crits. Cash prizes will be provided for top teams in the elite men and women divisions, and the masters men 40-plus division.

The total prize money for the three-day event, in addition to the crit week prizes, is about $18,000, according to Cote, making it one of the biggest events in the Northeast.

Contact Mark Conti

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 22, 2014
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