Cogburn and Shea Dominate 40th Bicycle Hillclimb

Pinkham Notch, N.H. – August 18, 2012

Six weeks ago, M.I.T. graduate student Cameron Cogburn and former Boston University distance runner Marti Shea were the runaway winners of Newton’s Revenge, the annual July bicycle race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire.  Today Cogburn and Shea duplicated that performance by winning the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, a race on the same 7.6-mile all-uphill course against a much larger field of competitors.

Cogburn, 26, a former pro rider who returned to amateur cycling classification when he began graduate school in astrophysics, paced himself carefully from the start. For two miles he trailed Leroy Popowski of Colorado Springs, Colo., Phil Wong of Beverly, Mass., and former U.S. mountain biking champion Tinker Juarez of Whittier, Calif., but when he overtook them, they had  no chance of clinging to his wheel. He pedaled to the 6288-foot Mt. Washington summit in 52 minutes 28 seconds to claim the winner’s $1500 prize.

“I’m a good pacer naturally,” said Cogburn after the race. “Those guys went out super-hard, and I knew they couldn’t hold it.”

At two and a half miles, Cogburn caught Juarez and Popowski. At three he was all alone in front and widening the gap, looking calm and comfortable. Popowski, who was meeting the Auto Road and its 12 percent average grade for the first time, eventually took second in 53:47 — fast enough to have won any of the past four Hillclimbs, but not today’s.

While 2012 is Cogburn’s first year of racing on Mt. Washington, Shea practically owns the Auto Road. The 49-year-old former all-American distance runner from Manchester, N.H., has won Newton’s Revenge all six years it has been held, and today’s win is her third in a row at the Hillclimb. Her time today – one hour 3 minutes 14 seconds – is her personal best for the course and the second-fastest finish ever by a woman on the Auto Road.

French cycling legend Jeannie Longo set the women’s course record, 58:14, in 2000. Only Tom Danielson, a Tour de France-level American professional rider who set the men’s course record of 49:24 in 2002, claims faster times here than Cogburn’s.

Shea, who now lives in Marblehead, Mass., was riding aggressively from the start. “When we when through four miles, I said ‘Oh no!’ because we were going so fast. But we held it. And it was one of the best days I’ve had here with the weather – cool but no wind. Normally here, we have hot weather or else it’s cold but there’s a lot of wind.”

The only other woman to break an hour and ten minutes was Shea’s fellow veteran Sue Schlatter, of Ottawa, Canada. Schlatter, who in earlier years could match Shea’s times, had no chance today, settling for second in 1:06:13.

Wong, the runnerup in this race in 2003 and 2004, finished fourth today, in a personal best of 54:12. The 51-year-old veteran and former Olympian Juarez, also a two-time Mt. Washington runnerup, was fifth, in his fastest-ever time (55:10).

While most of the top finishers started the race in the first wave of riders, Peter Hurst, of Norwalk, Conn., started in the second wave, five minutes later, and so was not among the early leaders. He was the eighth rider to cross the finish line, but his net time – 54:03 — was five minutes faster than the clock showed, and he edged Wong for third.

Nearly all the riders benefited from the cool, windless air. A record seven riders broke the one-hour barrier, including three from Colorado – Popowski, Chris Carr (sixth in 56:16) and Mark Schwab (seventh in 58:36).

“It’s a good race,” said Popowski. “We’re used to races that start at 6000 feet – but this is a lot steeper (than the Rockies).”

Among the most-watched competitors, the only ones who rode more slowly than they had earlier this summer in Newton’s Revenge were the ebullient 13-year-old cycling marvel Jonah Thompson, of Albuquerque, N.M., and longtime top-ten finisher John Bayley of Watertown, Mass.

“I woke up this morning with the sniffles,” said Thompson. “I’m kinda bummed. It was hard to breathe, sometimes. But the race went well anyway.”  Thompson, who first raced up Mt. Washington at the age of nine, finished today in 1:22:39, or better than 75 percent of the field of 600 riders.

Bayley was riding as usual among the leaders until the fifth mile, when he tried to shift to his lowest gear and his bicycle’s derailleur broke. Gamely he ran onward, in stiff, cleated cycling shoes, pushing his bike the remaining two and a half miles to the finish in 1:19:40.

Inaugurated in 1973, the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is regarded by professional cyclists as more difficult than the fabled Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France. It serves each year as the primary fundraising event for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H. The center runs school programs that reach 5000 students, nature camps for more than 300 children, community nature programs and other educational and environmental events in the Mt. Washington region.

TOP TEN MEN:

1.  Cameron Cogburn, 26, Cambridge, Mass., 52:28
2.  Leroy Poposki, 39, Colorado Springs, Colo., 53:47
3.  Peter Hurst, 27, Norwalk, Conn., 54:03
4.  Philip Wong, 32, Beverly, Mass., 54:12
5.  David (“Tinker”) Juarez, 51, Whittier, Calif., 55:10
6.  Chris Carr, 29, Golden, Colo., 56:16
7.  Mark Schwab, 38, Boulder, Colo., 58:36
8.  Chad Young, 17, Newmarket, N.H., 1:00:02   [one hour and two seconds]
9.  Chris Yura, 33, Bryn Mawr, Pa., 1:00:36
10.  Timothy Ahearn, 37, Woodstock, Conn., 1:00:50.

TOP TEN WOMEN:

1.  Marti Shea, 49, Marblehead, Mass., 1:03:14
2.  Sue Schlatter, 49, Ottawa, Ontario, 1:06:13
3.  Silke Wunderwald, 41, Hopkinton, R.I., 1:10:47
4.  Mary Hynes Johanson, 57, Belmont, Mass., 1:17:35
5.  Cristine Lamoureux, 46, Montreal, Quebec, 1:19:44
6.  Rachel Chambers, 17, Boston, Conn., 1:20:52
7.  Margaret Thompson, 58, Clinton, N.Y., 1:21:02
8.  Dominique Codere, 54, Montreal, Quebec, 1:23:21
9.  Jeannie Allyson, 53, Durham, N.H. 1:23:24
10.  Cynthia Coffin, 48, Center Harbor, N.H., 1:24:13.

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