41st Annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

August 15, 2013 – Pinkham Notch, N.H.

This Saturday’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb promises to be one of the best two-rider battles in memory. It pits defending champion and former road-racing pro Cameron Cogburn, 27, against mountain and cross-country biking star Jeremiah Bishop, 37, who will be racing up the Mt. Washington Auto Road for the first time.

Three-time defending champion Marti Shea, of Marblehead, Massachusetts, would have been the prohibitive favorite on the women’s side, but Shea recently confirmed that other obligations will keep her from competing. The women’s top prize is thus open to a number of strong riders, of whom the favorite may be Kristen Gohr, 42, of Reading, Massachusetts.

TWO EXTREME RACES IN TWO DAYS

Cogburn, of Cambridge, Mass., and Bishop, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, will meet twice this weekend, in what Bishop recently referred to as New England “diabolical double” – the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb on Saturday and the Hampshire 100-mile mountain endurance race on Sunday.

On Saturday they’ll contend not only with each other but with the 12 percent grade of the Auto Road, which rises without a break for 7.6 miles to the 6288-foot summit of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.  Besides the ultra-steep grade, the course poses the additional challenges of frequently very high winds and an ascent through several different climate zones. On Sunday in Greenfield, N.H., they’ll race 100 miles over varied terrain, much of it rocky, in a course some riders consider to be as difficult as the famed Leadville (Colorado) 100-miler.

RACING EXPERIENCE

When Cogburn first competed at Mt. Washington, a year ago, knowledgeable cyclists promptly picked him to win.  For several years he had competed professionally, on the Jelly Belly and CCB teams, before relinquishing his professional status to concentrate on his graduate studies at M.I.T., and he was known in cycling circles as a smart, talented competitor. In July 2012 he won Newton’s Revenge, the first bike race up the Auto Road each summer, and then in August he pulled away from a strong field to win the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, which is held on exactly the same course but with three times as many riders.

Cogburn’s time in the latter race, 52 minutes 28 seconds, was the third-fastest official time ever recorded for the Auto Road ascent. The two faster times belong to Tom Danielson, who was also the first U.S. finisher in the 2011 Tour de France.  Although Cogburn’s professional career involved mainly road racing, he has considerable mountain biking experience, and this month he placed fourth in the Leadville 100.

Jeremiah Bishop is a 14-time member of the USA Cycling National Team, which represents the USA at international competitions including Continental and World Championships. He won a gold medal in the 2003 Pan American Games, placed eighth overall at the 2006 World Championships, has been a U.S. national champion in both short-track cross-country and marathon mountain biking and is considered by many observers to be this country’s leading endurance mountain bike racer, having won the 2012 National Ultra Endurance series.  A member of the SHO-AIR/Cannondale team, he has been among the top three elite male riders in national cross-country racing this summer, winning the Windham Mountain race in New York state in July and placing third at the Catamount Classic in Vermont on August 4th.

POSSIBLE TOP FEMALE CONTENDERS

Marti Shea, now 50, has concentrated this summer coaching and leading vacation tours in Europe. Without her, the women’s Hillclimb this year may go to Kristen Gohr, 42, of Reading, Massachusetts, who has frequently been runner-up to Shea and finished second in this year’s Newton’s Revenge. Gohr’s time in 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 Hillclimb 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.

RACE DETAILS AND BENEFICIARY

The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is the primary fundraising event each year for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H. The Center 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 race starts Saturday in five waves, beginning at 8:35 a.m. with the Top Notch (elite) group and continuing at five-minute intervals with four successive waves of riders sorted by age.

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