PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H – Eneas Freyre, his race day complete, stood near the finish line and looked down the hill and watched rider after rider contend with the final grueling yards of the 43rd Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb.
“Wow,” Freyre said. “Look how steep that is. It’s amazing. You don’t realize that when you’re going up it. It’s such a privilege to ride this road.”
Freyre, 39 of Norwalk, Conn., who runs Total Training & Fitness – a training and retail business – took full advantage of the chance to ride up the Mt. Washington Auto Road and turned the opportunity into his first triumph on the mountain on Saturday in outstanding and atypical weather conditions on Saturday.
Freyre broke away from Eric Follen, 40, of Sanford, Maine, before the three-mile mark of the 7.6-mile, all-uphill race and cruised to the win in a time of 53 minutes. Follen, who won the Newton’s Revenge race here over the same course last month, was second, exactly a minute behind Freyre.
Veronique Fortin, 35, of Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian national champion in 2011, won the women’s title in one hour, five minutes and 58 seconds in her first look at the mountain.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Fortin said. “I didn’t look at the profile before the race. I knew it was long and hard. I knew I was pretty out in front and I was trying to stay constant, but I lost a little power at the end. At the steepest part at the end (with a nasty 22 percent grade) the crowds and the atmosphere made it easy to finish.”
The temperature was 71 degrees under sunny skies at the start of the race at 8:35 a.m. and it was in the mid-50s with just a little wind and a touch of fog at the summit. There were 516 finishers in the race.
Freyre was third in his first Hillclimb last year.
Follen and Freyre were at a pace of about six minutes a mile over the first couple of miles.
“That’s not sustainable,” Follen said. “I backed off a bit and thought he might blow up. But he’s a really strong rider and he’s been on top in all the New England races this summer.”
James Piccoli, 23, of Montreal, finished third in 55:17; Timothy Ahearn of Woodstock, Conn., was fourth in 56:59; and Brandon Holden, 21, of Boxborough, Mass., was fifth in 58:51.
Victoria Di Savino of Buffalo, N.Y., was the second female finisher in 1:09:45; Cecelia Davis-Hayes, 26, of New York, N.Y., was third in 1:10:46; Elizabeth McClintock, 52, of Wellesley, Mass., was fourth in 1:14:28 and Andrea Myers of Danbury, Conn., fifth in 1:17:45.
Davis-Hayes, a 2011 graduate of Williams College and a medical student at Columbia University, said she’s been waiting nearly a decade to ride the race, since an Appalachian Mountain Club Wilderness leadership course she participated in during high school passed near the summit and she saw signs of the race.
“It’s been way too long,” she said. “It was spectacular. I almost didn’t do it this year because I was training for triathlon nationals last week in Milwaukee (she finished third). But then I figured, ‘Just do it all.’”
Freyre brought about a dozen riders from Total Training & Endurance to the race.
While they and his wife, Nancy, and son Caden, 8, celebrated on the mountain, there was more celebrating in Massachusetts.
“Rhys is doing flips,” Nancy told her husband.
Rhys is their 5-year-old son who was back in Marblehead, Mass., with his grandmother.
“He heard what Daddy did and says he’s doing flips,” Nancy Freyre reported.
Dick Devellian, 78, of Jackson, N.H. was the oldest finisher in the race in a time of 2:30:53. Devellian, who started competing in the Hillclimb in the early 1980s, had both of his knees replaced four years ago. He raced in 2013 and was traveling and missed last year’s races.
“It was a tough day but it’s nice to be here at the top,” Devellian said. “I didn’t feel too good going up. That’s what you always do: On the way up you swear up and down that you’re never going to do this again and then you get to the top and it all goes away.”
So will he be back next year?
“I’ll tell you next year,” he said. “I can’t think of that right now.”
The Cadence Wealth Management $750 Prime was new this year and awarded $750 to the first male and female to the one-mile mark. Freyre colleted the $750 to go with his $1,500 check for wining. Di Savino was four seconds faster than Fortin to the mile mark and collected $750. Fortin got $1,500 for the win.
The Hillclimb is the primary fundraiser for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H. Tin Mountain offers classes, workshops, excursions and other lessons in the workings of the natural world. Information about educational programs, camps and other activities at Tin Mountain is available at www.tinmountain.org.
The Hillclimb is the second and largest of two bicycle races up the Mt. Washington Auto Road each summer. Newton’s Revenge, held in July 11, was created in 2006 to meet the demand of racers who were unable to get into the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb.