Sparta Cycling is pleased to announce that the first annual Berkshire Cycling Classic in Lenox, Massachusetts on May 6, 2012 has been named the American stop on the fifteen event UCI WORLD CYCLING TOUR for 2012 through 2014. The rides are held as Cyclosportif (or Gran Fondo) event formats.  A familiar name in the NYC cycling community, John Eustice, is working with many others to organize the event, and we in CRCA did this interview with him to find out more about it.

Tell us more about the Berkshire Cycling Classic, how it’s like or different from other races or Gran Fondo events?

Start at UWCT Perth Tour

The event follows the classic European-style Cyclosportif (Gran Fondo) format with one overall time for the racecourse – which is a very challenging and beautiful one. It’s a perfect prep event for GFNY with 5000′ of climbing and a two-week gap between them. We’ve now got the UCI status for the race through 2014, which means that riders can qualify for the Master’s World Championships, which are far away this year in South Africa, but should be closer next year. What will be fun for everyone is the UCI atmosphere, with top class staging, full Mavic Service Course and a Grand Tour quality racecourse – the best I’ve ever designed.

Why should a racer do a ride like this?

One of the problems confronted by developing riders in the U.S. is that there are not enough long and hard road races for them to do. A good GF/Sportif provides all the hard training one could wish for, and in a competitive atmosphere that makes the miles flow by. Strong new riders can find themselves in groups with experienced ones and learn terrific lessons on road riding. Seeing hundreds of riders dropped behind you is great for morale too. Many European Continental teams do GF/Sportif rides when their racing schedules are light in order to keep the rhythm of racing and get a stress-free and deep workout. You tend to really go for it on these rides and this one in particular, with its tough climbs, guarantees a real hammerfest. Race both the Berkshires and the GFNY, and watch your racing fitness take a big leap forward for the rest of the season. And, the Berkshire Cycling Classic is an actual UCI race with age-group awards.

What are the options and how does one sign up?

This event, and the possibility of grabbing the UCI status, came about very late in the day, so we only have one simple signup option through BikeReg (go to this link or through the Berkshire classic website). The $85 fee includes a nice lunch in a finish line restaurant and we’re still working on some swag for participants.  Lenox is a true Norman Rockwell New England resort town (in fact the race goes right by his studio) and the charming inns are offering off-season rates. So it makes a terrific getaway weekend for a couple, even if only one of them is riding.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege Finish

How did this event come about?

Last year I was invited to do the London – Paris ride, which is a sort of 3-day fantasy Tour de France experience. It was fantastic and really changed the way I look at the sport. My group contained Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstead (who is back to full-time racing) some UK internationals – men and women – as well as a collection of ex-pros and high-level, high-achieving executive types. Everyone was strong, we went really hard, and it was a blast, one of the best things I’ve ever done in the sport. I think about it all the time. Sportif rides are the future of the sport, and while I’ll keep Harlem and my Pennsylvania UCI race going, anything new will be along the Cyclosportif/Gran Fondo direction. Sportif rides offer camaraderie, long hard riding, real rider development (watch some unknown Cat 5 really blast the Berkshires) and one goes away from them with a deep level of satisfaction.

For more information, go to the website for the race. The link is here.