News and updates
· Cogburn returns to defend title
· Mountain biker Bishop from Cannondale challenges
· Women’s race may be Shea, may be a chance for Gohr
Pinkham Notch, N.H. – On July 18 in the Alps, 175 of the world’s greatest cyclists concluded the 18th stage of this year’s Tour de France by riding up the famously steep and switchback-riddled Alpe d’Huez. On Saturday, August 17 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 637 cyclists, most of them hardcore amateurs plus a pro rider or two, will race up an even steeper and more daunting road in the annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. From the starting line at the base of the Auto Road, just off Route 16 north of Pinkham Notch, N.H., they’ll pedal 7.6 miles to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, 6288 feet above sea level.
Racers will start in four waves, beginning with the Top Notch, or elite, group at 8:35 a.m. and continuing with four successive groups, sorted by age and gender, at five-minute intervals. If the weather on August 17 creates unsafe conditions on the mountain’s summit or the higher portions of the Auto Road, the race will be held instead on Sunday, August 18, with the same starting times.
The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is the principal fundraising event for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H.
THIS YEAR’S TOP RIDERS
Now in its 41st year, the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb attracts Olympians, hardcore bicycle road racers, mountain bikers, triathletes, all-around adventure athletes, tandem teams and even the occasional unicyclist. They are drawn to this grueling event by the Hillclimb’s reputation as the toughest uphill race in America, a reputation enhanced not only by the steepness of the road but also by Mt. Washington’s notorious winds and unpredictable precipitation.
Leading the field in this year’s Hillclimb is 27-year-old Cameron Cogburn, a former professional rider who reverted to amateur status in 2012 in order to concentrate on his graduate studies at M.I.T. Cogburn returns to defend the Hillclimb champion’s title he won last year, when he raced away from the rest of the field to win in 52 minutes 58 seconds, the third-fastest official time ever recorded in this race.
Whether or not Cogburn reaches the top of the Auto Road first may depend on how Jeremiah Bishop handles Mt. Washington. One of the country’s premier mountain bike racers, Bishop, 37, is a former Pan-American Games gold medalist, placed eighth in the 2006 World Mountain Bike championships, and is currently battling for the lead in the national Pro Cross Country Tour of off-road races. A member of the SHO-AIR/Cannondale team, he’ll compete in the 2013 Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb two weeks after the XCT series of races finishes on August 3.
The women’s race is harder to predict. Marti Shea, of Marblehead, Massachusetts, winner of the Hillclimb the past three years, is officially registered, but this week Shea said she has not yet decided whether she’ll compete.
Shea, 50 years old and still dominant on this course, is also a six-time winner of Newton’s Revenge, the other bike race held on the Auto Road each year in July. She missed that race this year because she was leading cycling tours in Europe. Lea Davison of Jericho, Vermont, this year’s winner of Newton’s Revenge, is racing on the XCT circuit and has not indicated that she’ll compete on the Auto Road in August.
Without Shea or Davison, the race could go to Kristen Gohr, 42, of Reading, Massachusetts, who has frequently been runner-up to Shea and finished second to Davison in this year’s Newton’s Revenge. Gohr’s time in the 2013 Newton’s Revenge, one hour 11 minutes 18 seconds, was six minutes slower than Shea’s recent times here, but it is considerably faster than the times of any of the other top women in the field who have raced this course before.
Unless a newcomer to the race can challenge Gohr, the battle for second could be between Stephanie Sydlik, 27, of Cambridge, Mass., and 18-year-old Rachel Chambers of Bolton, Conn. Sydlik placed third this month in Newton’s Revenge, in 1:18:21; Chambers finished sixth in the Hillclimb last year, in 1:20:52.
The other strongest woman in the race is veteran Margaret Thompson, 58, of Clinton, N.Y., who finished just behind Chambers in the Hillclimb last year, in 1:21:02.
The race for third is often close on the men’s side, and it should be this year. Among those likely to be chasing Cogburn and Bishop are Tim Ahearn, 39, of Woodstock, Conn., Chris Yura, 34, of Philadelphia, Pa., Gerry Clapper, 52, of Avon, Conn., and Nico Toutenhoofd, 45, of Boulder, Colo.
Ahearn, who began bike racing only three years ago, placed third in the Hillclimb in 2010 and 2011 as well as third this year in Newton’s Revenge. Yura usually finishes a minute or two behind Ahearn but last year finished ahead of him in the Hillclimb. Clapper’s times are usually close to Yura’s. Toutenhoofd’s performances are harder to predict. In 2010 he won the race outright, beating Ahearn by a minute and Yura by more; last year Ahearn, Yura and Clapper all finished ahead of Toutenhoofd.
Prominent among the younger riders entered is Jonah Thompson of Albuquerque, N.M. Just 14 years old, Thompson is already nationally known as a highly talented and competitive road and off-road bicycle racer. He first raced the Hillclimb in 2008 and has competed on the Auto Road in one or both races here every year since then. In Newton’s Revenge this year he finished 23rd overall in a time of 1:15:25.
The youngest rider entered in this year’s Hillclimb is 11-year-old Marie Goodwin of Silver Lake, N.H. Goodwin won free entry to the race courtesy of the Residence Inn Marriot of North Conway, the MWV Bicycling Club and the Tin Mountain Conservation Center.
TIN MOUNTAIN CONSERVATION CENTER
The entry fee for the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is $350. Part of that fee covers the considerable logistical expense of staging the race, and part constitutes a donation to the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which offers classes, workshops, excursions and other lessons in the workings of the natural world.
Tin Mountain maintains and protects properties for conservation, research and recreation for residents and visitors to the area. Its programs are available to students, schools, and community groups. Further information about educational programs, camps and other activities at Tin Mountain is available at www.tinmountain.org.
REGISTRATION AND RECORDS
The Hillclimb continues to be extremely popular among experienced cyclists. On-line registration for this year’s race opened on February 1st and closed ten days later.
The Hillclimb field is limited to 635 cyclists (plus or minus one or two), the maximum the Auto Road can accommodate. This year’s field includes 631 individual cyclists plus three tandem teams. Exceptional late entry is permitted each year to established professional riders.
The men’s course record, 49 minutes 24 seconds, was set in 2002 by Tom Danielson – who became the first American finisher in the 2011 Tour de France. The women’s record belongs to French cycling legend Jeannie Longo, who made the climb in 2000 in 58:14. Formerly, the women’s open record was held by Canadian cyclist Genevieve Jeanson, and former American Tour de France and Olympic rider Tyler Hamilton had recorded four finishing times faster than Cameron Cogburn’s; these two riders’ times were deleted from the official records following their admissions of having used performance-enhancing drugs during their competitive careers.
Registration for the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is managed by BikeReg.com. For a complete list of riders entered, go to https://www.bikereg.com/net/Confirmed/17625
The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is one of the 11 events in the Bike Up the Mountain Point Series (B.U.M.P.S.) The series includes Mt. Ascutney in Vermont, Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts, Mt. Kearsarge in New Hampshire, Whiteface Mountain in New York State, and other uphill races. For further information see www.hillclimbseries.com.