Newcomer Cogburn, veteran Shea dominate the field

Pinkham Notch, N.H.-Cameron Cogburn, a graduate student at M.I.T. who gave up professional cycling to concentrate on astrophysics, and Marti Shea, a New England bike-racing veteran with numerous victories in uphill races, shared the winners’ podium today at the 7th annual Newton’s Revenge, a grueling bike race to the summit of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington.

Cogburn, 26, of Cambridge, Mass., made his first-ever trip up the 7.6-mile Mt. Washington Auto Road (average grade 12 percent) by bursting ahead of the field at the start and steadily increasing his lead, reaching the 6288-foot summit in 55 minutes 59 seconds. The 49-year-old Shea, who has won the women’s side of this race every year it has been held, maintained her streak with yet another convincing performance, finishing in one hour 5 minutes 23 seconds, good for sixth place overall in the field of approximately 230 riders and more than nine minutes ahead of her nearest rival.

Both winners, as well as everyone behind them, had to contend with Mt. Washington’s notorious weather. Temperatures at the summit were in the low 50s, with winds gusting up to 63 mph.

“That wind – I couldn’t believe it!” said Cogburn a moment after he had crossed the finish line and wrapped himself in a blanket. “I was concentrating hard, to make sure I didn’t get blown over.”

“I was on a fast pace today,” said Shea, “but then the wind slowed me down. I was thinking,, ‘It’s helping me – no, it’s not!’ But last year on a perfect day I did 64 minutes, so 65 today feels pretty good.”

Despite never having seen the Auto Road before, much less tested his legs on it, Cogburn said he came into today’s race expecting to win. “I’ve ridden (the races up) Mt. Ascutney and Pack Monadnock,” he said, “and in 2009 I won (Mt.) Whiteface in New York State, so I had some comparison times.” On paper – and in fact — he was faster in uphill events than anyone else in today’s field.

Tim Tapply, 37, of Sherborn, Mass., was the only rider to keep Cogburn in sight after the first half mile, but the gap between them was already 40 seconds and continued to widen, reaching more than a minute at two miles and three minutes by the end. Tapply finished in 58:59.

“You go to enough of these races,” said Tapply, who placed fourth in Newton’s Revenge last year, “and you see someone go out hard and then blow up. But (Cogburn) obviously knew his condition. Hats off to him.”

In 2009 and 2010 Cogburn competed on the Jelly Belly professional team, winning several races. Last year, however, as a graduate student at M.I.T., he found himself pulling all-nighters and missing training time, so he gave up his pro license and now competes as a Category I amateur. “I’ve had just a little over a month of serious training for today,” he said, adding that he expects to return to Mt. Washington on August 18 to race in the other event on the same course, the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb.

So will Shea, who has 2010 and 2011 Hillclimb victories to go with her six wins in Newton’s Revenge. “It’s a matter of pride,” she said, with a smile beneath her wraparound sunglasses. “If I’m getting on my bike at the starting line, I’m going for the win.”

No woman in the field could contest such a claim today. Liz Feeney, also 49, of Philadelphia, finished second in 1:14:37.

Shea is also going for the 2012 championship in the Bike Up Mountains Point Series (BUMPS) competition, which draws a hard core of cyclists to ten uphill races in the northeast each summer. With Newton’s Revenge today, Shea has finished first in all four of the BUMPS races held so far this season.

For their victories, Shea and Cogburn won $1000 apiece.

Among the Mt. Washington veterans in today’s race, one of the most confident and well-prepared was 13-year-old Jonah Thompson of Albuquerque, N.M., who had previously completed the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb three times and will return for that race in August. Before today’s race Thompson commented, “I’m going to try to start out pretty fast, because it’s windy, and I know that will slow me down.”

Aware that lightweight riders are particularly susceptible to being blown back by high wind, Thompson, who weighs just 72 pounds, carried out his plan intelligently. In the final yards – the steepest part of the Auto Road, a 22 percent grade – he smiled and stood on his pedals while passing yet another much larger rider on his way to the finish line. His time, 1:18:21, placed him 39th overall.

The first finishers from New Hampshire were Douglas Jansen, 49, of Pelham (1:07:08) and Kori Preble, 40, of Bow (1:33:51).

TOP MEN:

1. Cameron Cogburn, 26, Cambridge, Mass., 55:59
2. Tim Tapply, 37, Sherborn, Mass., 58:59
3. Chris Yura, 33, Bryn Mawr, Pa., 1:02:46
4. Gerry Clapper, 51, Avon, Conn., 1:03:44
5. John Bayley, 43, Watertown, Mass. 1:04:44
6. Erick Vandendries, 47, Chestnut Hill, Mass., 1:06:00
7. Douglas Jansen, 49, Pelham, N.H., 1:07:08
8. Gregory Bartick, 40, Gorham, Maine, 1:07:41
9. Gregory Larkin, 44, Hollis, N.H., 1:07:45
10. Matthew Sudduth, 41, Philadelphia, Pa., 1:08:55

TOP WOMEN:
1. Marti Shea, 49, Marblehead, Mass. 1:05:23
2. Liz Feeney, 49, Philadelphia, Pa., 1:14:37
3. Elizabeth West, 46, Westport, Conn., 1:16:51
4. Paula Brunetto, 46, West Cornwall, Conn., 1:19:00
5. Guylaine Mailloux, 35, Montreal, Quebec, 1:21:59
6. Margaret Thompson, 58, Clinton, N.Y., 1:22:13
7. Dominique Codere, 53, Montreal, Quebec, 1:24:43
8. Mary Hynes Johanson, 57, Belmont, Mass., 1:24:55
9. Kelley Fitzgerald, 45, Woburn, Mass., 1:25:18
10. Susan Lucek, 51, Tolland, Conn., 1:27:30

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