There are few active racers who can be described as a legend with no dispute. Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, who has won 51 French and world championships, is at the top of the list.
When Longo, a last-minute entrant at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, arrived at race headquarters Tuesday, many of the other women racers lost their pre-race cool, looking more star-struck than intimidated by Longo’s racing ability.
“I’m just in awe,” said Flavia Oliveira, who will join Longo on the River City Racing composite team. “I just want to bask in all of her knowledge.”
Longo briefly met her new teammates just hours before the Mt. Hood prologue.
Longo confirmed late last week that she would attend the race, and arrived from France Monday night.
“I was not really supposed to do that, but this is the first time for me,” Longo told VeloNews.
Longo, 49, said she chose to do Mt. Hood because she likes to try new things. She is preparing for this summer’s Olympic games, where she hopes to compete in the road race and individual time trial. She has won four Olympic medals in her career, including a gold in the 1996 road race.
“I have been racing for a long time, of course. Iif I could do something new, it’s better,” she said.
Longo said she was a bit tired from the last-minute flight but hoped to be competitive once she got over the tiredness. She said she was looking forward to the hot dry weather forecast for later in the week.
Meanwhile, her teammates and competitors said they are looking forward to rubbing shoulders with her.
“I’m just thrilled; she definitely been a model for me for a long time,” said Sami Fournier, a Bend, Oregon, rider who will join Longo and Oliveira on the River City team. Fournier, 41, said she’s been following Longo’s career since the days of the Idaho Women’s Challenge in the 1980s.