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Concord racer follows 90 years of tradition at Loudon Classic

  • Chris Bouchard, right, chats with riders and their families while eating at a riders' barbecue on June 14, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The Smoke Shack, who put on the barbecue, is one of Bouchard's sponsors. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Chris Bouchard, right, chats with riders and their families while eating at a riders' barbecue on June 14, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The Smoke Shack, who put on the barbecue, is one of Bouchard's sponsors.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Chris Bouchard puts on his riding gloves and begins to get ready before leaving the garage to race in the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Chris Bouchard puts on his riding gloves and begins to get ready before leaving the garage to race in the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Riders gather for the mandatory meeting at the last day of racing on June 16, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>

    Riders gather for the mandatory meeting at the last day of racing on June 16, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Brian Miller, left, lends Chris Bouchard a hand while putting some final touches on his motorcycle in one of the garages at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 13, 2013 in Loudon. Bouchard and Miller used to ride their motorcycles on the street together. After Boucher got into racing, he brought Miller into the community and now he's hooked. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/>

    Brian Miller, left, lends Chris Bouchard a hand while putting some final touches on his motorcycle in one of the garages at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 13, 2013 in Loudon. Bouchard and Miller used to ride their motorcycles on the street together. After Boucher got into racing, he brought Miller into the community and now he's hooked.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Spectators watch the end of the endurance race on the first day of the Loudon Classic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 14, 2013. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>

    Spectators watch the end of the endurance race on the first day of the Loudon Classic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 14, 2013.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Wendy Weisiger goofs around with Chris Bouchard in the garage after his race on June 15, 2013. Weisiger used to ride on the street with Bouchard before he started racing on the track. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>

    Wendy Weisiger goofs around with Chris Bouchard in the garage after his race on June 15, 2013. Weisiger used to ride on the street with Bouchard before he started racing on the track.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Walter French, of Providence, Rhode Island, dances with his second place trophy while Chris Bouchard, right, gives him a hand with his bike after the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Bouchard came in 11th place and decided to help French, who he races with every month at the speedway. "I don't usually do this but he had a much tougher ride than me today," Bouchard said. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Walter French, of Providence, Rhode Island, dances with his second place trophy while Chris Bouchard, right, gives him a hand with his bike after the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Bouchard came in 11th place and decided to help French, who he races with every month at the speedway. "I don't usually do this but he had a much tougher ride than me today," Bouchard said.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Riders start putting on their helmets and getting in the zone before leaving the garage on June 14, 2013 before their race in the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>

    Riders start putting on their helmets and getting in the zone before leaving the garage on June 14, 2013 before their race in the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Riders, including Chris Bouchard, center, line up, some with umbrella girls, before starting the first lap of the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>

    Riders, including Chris Bouchard, center, line up, some with umbrella girls, before starting the first lap of the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Chris Bouchard, center, comes around a turn while racing in the Loudon Classic Amateur division Grand Prix on Saturday, June 15, 2013. Bouchard finished in 11th place. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff

    Chris Bouchard, center, comes around a turn while racing in the Loudon Classic Amateur division Grand Prix on Saturday, June 15, 2013. Bouchard finished in 11th place.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Riders come around a turn during the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>

    Riders come around a turn during the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

    ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
    Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Chris Bouchard, right, chats with riders and their families while eating at a riders' barbecue on June 14, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The Smoke Shack, who put on the barbecue, is one of Bouchard's sponsors. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Chris Bouchard puts on his riding gloves and begins to get ready before leaving the garage to race in the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Riders gather for the mandatory meeting at the last day of racing on June 16, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>
  • Brian Miller, left, lends Chris Bouchard a hand while putting some final touches on his motorcycle in one of the garages at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 13, 2013 in Loudon. Bouchard and Miller used to ride their motorcycles on the street together. After Boucher got into racing, he brought Miller into the community and now he's hooked. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/>
  • Spectators watch the end of the endurance race on the first day of the Loudon Classic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 14, 2013. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>
  • Wendy Weisiger goofs around with Chris Bouchard in the garage after his race on June 15, 2013. Weisiger used to ride on the street with Bouchard before he started racing on the track. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>
  • Walter French, of Providence, Rhode Island, dances with his second place trophy while Chris Bouchard, right, gives him a hand with his bike after the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Bouchard came in 11th place and decided to help French, who he races with every month at the speedway. "I don't usually do this but he had a much tougher ride than me today," Bouchard said. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Riders start putting on their helmets and getting in the zone before leaving the garage on June 14, 2013 before their race in the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>
  • Riders, including Chris Bouchard, center, line up, some with umbrella girls, before starting the first lap of the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>
  • Chris Bouchard, center, comes around a turn while racing in the Loudon Classic Amateur division Grand Prix on Saturday, June 15, 2013. Bouchard finished in 11th place. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff
  • Riders come around a turn during the Loudon Classic Amateur Grand Prix on June 15, 2013 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. <br/><br/>ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff<br/>

The 90th annual Laconia Motorcycle Week ended yesterday, but for Chris Bouchard, 40, of Concord, every week might as well be called “Bike Week.”

A construction worker in the telecommunications industry, Bouchard has been racing motorcycles non-professionally at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for three years. He competed Saturday in the Loudon Classic, the longest running motorcycle race in the country.

Bouchard, who finished 11th out of a field of 30 amateur riders, is not sheepish about the affection he has for his sport.

“My life during the summer is nothing but getting ready for each race weekend,” he said yesterday, referring to the race season, which comprises one weekend each month from April to October. “For two weeks I do whatever I want, and for the other two weeks, racing comes first.

“Well, racing comes second to my family, as far as that is concerned and what not. But as long as the family life is fine, racing takes my priority for everything.

“It’s, it’s, it’s . . . I don’t want to . . . it’s kind of . . . it’s an addiction,” Bouchard continued. “It really is. It’s almost like a crack addiction. And all of us are the same way. We really have that addiction for adrenaline, and for fun.”

As he suggested, Bouchard is not alone.

“I’m (expletive) addicted,” said Roland Fahnbulleh, a fellow rider who was limping around the track infield yesterday with crutches and a puffy ankle – the result of a racing accident Saturday, he said.

Like Bouchard, Fahnbulleh said he got involved in racing at the speedway after years of riding – at times carelessly – on the street.

After a year of novice racing, Fahnbulleh said he found himself not only amused, but also becoming a much safer driver than he was previously.

“Being out here makes you realize how dangerous it is to open your bike up,” he said. “You get out and you’re like, ‘I could fly down this road, I could take that turn, and I could probably make it stick.’

But if I don’t, there’s no air wall, there’s no run-off, and there’s also a tree.”

As Fahnbulleh spoke, and as Bouchard walked over from another conversation, wearing sandals and spandex under his shorts, a medical team tended to a racer who had been thrown from his bike during an earlier race – he suffered a mild to severe concussion, Bouchard later explained.

“People who ride motorcycles all have an understanding that every time they get on their bike, there’s a potential that they’re going to crash, there’s a potential that they’re going to go to the hospital, there’s a potential that they’re not going to come home,” Boucher said. “And I’ve been, when I rode on the street, have unfortunately been witness to some of those accidents.”

Boucher said he became interested in motorcycles while in high school, and cemented his enthusiasm for them while stationed in Italy as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, from 1991 to 1994.

“That was where it kind of ingrained in stone my love for riding,” he said. “Up until then it was just very recreational, but it turned into a love affair, if you will, at that point, because the roads over there are like race tracks, the speeds are a lot higher, and that’s kind of what sucked me in.”

Because the nature of his work keeps him away from home four to five days each week, Boucher said racing at the speedway has come to fill a void in his life.

“A lot of these guys I don’t see until I’m here, until I’m racing,” he said. “So every single weekend that we come in it’s like, ‘Hey, how’s it going? What’s going on?’ Everybody gives each other hugs. It really is a family-type environment.”

Fahnbulleh described the respect riders have for each other as unparalleled.

“The camaraderie out here is like no other sport,” he said. “You can’t put into words how intense the competition is, and how opposite it is off the track.”

Bouchard races a Ducati motorcycle, which isn’t cheap (though he receives partial sponsorship, he said, including from Apollo Racing, Heroic Racing Apparel and the Smoke Shack in Boscawen). It used to be his street bike, he said, until he spent a large sum equipping it for the track. Now he cares for the machine like a spouse; Boucher is single but admits he is married to his motorcycle. During race season he spends several off days scrutinizing the bike, tightening every bolt, checking tire pressure and oil levels. After the final race in October, he drains all its fluids and stores it away for the winter.

“It’s an expensive hobby,” he said. “I do it purely because I love motorcycles and I love racing. That’s 99 percent of the reason I’m out here. It’s nice to win, but if I don’t win, as long as I stay upright, I’m fine, I’m happy.”

Brian Miller, a friend of Bouchard’s who has been racing for roughly a year, described it like this: “He loves this sport a lot more than I do. I’m out here to have fun, (Chris is) out here to be competitive.”

This year’s Loudon Classic had plenty of competition, Bouchard said. What it lacked, he and others said, was spectators.

“This is nothing but a shell of what it used to be,” Bouchard said of the crowd size, or lack thereof. “Years past, this event in particular would have 30,000, 40,000 people here.”

Bouchard said he thought part of the problem was less regional attention on Bike Week as a whole. But more importantly, he said, the fan base has waned ever since professional riders stopped attending the event, because the track couldn’t safely accommodate faster and faster bikes.

“When all the big guys stopped coming, the crowds stopped coming,” Bouchard said. “I know we’re never going to get 40,000 people in the stands for the Loudon Classic, as it sits, but if we can just get more local interest in it, there’s some of the best racing in the country right here at this track, and people don’t even know it’s happening.”

That racing is part of a tradition that dates back close to a hundred years, when, Bouchard said, the “race” was nothing more than a few Army buddies driving their Harleys around in the dirt.

The event and its venue have come a long way since those early days, but its racers bring perhaps the same fascination and dedication now as they always have. Bouchard said he looks forward to being a part of that for years to come.

“I’m too old to do anything professional now, but I would like to, if I had it my way, I’d love to be able to do this every weekend or every week,” he said. “If I could do this for a living, you know, if you can do something fun and that you have a lot of passion for, for a living, you win, you know?”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

Great article but bad reporting when you get the last name wrong of the person your writing about.

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