Young riders highlight race’s and sponsor’s focus on education and the outdoors

August 16, 2013 – Pinkham Notch, N.H.

For four decades the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb has attracted Olympic competitors, highly ranked amateurs of road and mountain bike racing, aspiring young professional cyclists aiming to demonstrate their climbing prowess, and extreme athletes of many stripes who are looking for a new challenge. They battle the Auto Road’s relentless 12 percent grade and Mt. Washington’s high winds in order to climb 4707 feet to the mountain’s summit, at 6288 feet the highest peak in the northeastern U.S.

The Hillclimb also attracts riders who just look like, well, children.

Don’t be fooled. They ride hard, they’re experienced, and they are fun to watch.

One young rider at Mt. Washington has become a familiar face at major competitions from coast to coast. He is 14-year-old Jonah Thompson of Albuquerque, N.M., who first raced in the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb at the age of nine – four years younger than the next-youngest person in the race – and placed 442nd out of nearly 600 finishers. Last year he finished in one hour 22 minutes 39 seconds, placing 149th overall and fifth in the Junior age group, which was otherwise filled with 17- and 18-year olds.

Earlier this summer, Thompson competed in Newton’s Revenge, the other race held each summer on this same all-uphill course, and finished 23rd overall among nearly 200 riders, in a time of 1:15:25. Now nationally known as a highly talented and competitive road and off-road bicycle racer, Thompson placed fourth among in the Junior division last month in the Pike’s Peak Cycling Hillclimb in Colorado.  (The Pike’s Peak race represents an altitude gain similar to that at Mt. Washington, but extended over 12 miles and with some downward dips in the course. Pike’s Peak is at a higher altitude, but Mt. Washington is considerably steeper.)

The youngest rider entered in this year’s Hillclimb is 11-year-old Maria Goodwin of Chocorua, N.H.  Goodwin, a sixth grader at Kenneth A. Brett School in Tamworth, N.H., enjoys gymnastics and bike riding. Part of her inspiration for cycling comes from her father, Ron Goodwin, who has ridden the Hillclimb half a dozen times.

Maria got her first uphill racing experience this spring in Crank The Kanc, a 21-mile race up the Kancamagus Highway, just south of Mt. Washington. That race climbs 2300 feet – modest by Mt. Washington standards, but respectable nonetheless — and it attracts many of the same cyclists who compete in the Hillclimb. Maria rode it with her father, himself a past winner of the event, and finished in two hours 13 minutes.

While other riders pay a $350 entry fee to compete in the Hillclimb, Maria Goodwin is enjoying the opportunity to compete for free, courtesy of the Residence Inn Marriot of North Conway, the MWV Bicycling Club and the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which is the primary beneficiary of the race. Each year these three organizations offer a free entry to a local youth, selected from among all junior riders (21 years and under) who apply. Maria is the youngest rider ever to receive this free entry – and its first female recipient.

The regular entry fee is a donation to the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which offers classes, workshops, excursions and other lessons in the workings of the natural world.  Further information about educational programs, camps and other activities at Tin Mountain is available at www.tinmountain.org.

On Friday, August 16, the day before the race, Maria Goodwin and Jonah Thompson will join the race’s “Meet & Greet” session from 5-6 p.m., talking with any of the other 635 riders who’ll be making the climb the next day. At tables under the big tent at the Auto Road base, they’ll join older cycling notables including defending Hillclimb champion Cameron Cogburn, 2008 national mountain bike champion Jeremiah Bishop, top amateur cyclist Tim Ahearn, and veteran racer Margaret Thompson.

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.  If severe weather conditions make the Auto Road unsafe for riding, the race will be postponed to Sunday, August 18, with the same starting time.

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