The Hillclimb in VeloNews

It was one thing when VeloNews recommended cyclists put the Hillclimb on their bucket list. Quite another when they put it in their Rides of a Lifetime list. Looking at the others put the Hillclimb in quite good company.

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Marti Shea wins record fourth Hillclimb, 11th race overall

42nd Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

– Marti Shea wins record fourth Hillclimb, 11th race overall
– Ebsen tops Cogburn to take Mt. Washington debut

August 16, 2014

PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. – Marti Shea of Marblehead, Mass., dominated once again and John Kronborg Ebsen of Denmark delivered an impressive effort in his first look at the mountain, as the two riders rode to victories in tough weather conditions in the 42nd Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb on Saturday.

As has been the case nearly every other time she has raced here, Shea sped away from the other women in the field at the start and rode behind only the strongest men. She eventually finished in one hour six minutes and one second – two minutes shy of her best time here, but an emphatic victory in typically bad Mt. Washington weather. Ebsen closely followed Cameron Cogburn, the two-time defending champion, for the first five miles of the 7.6-mile race, then surged ahead in the final two miles to win in 52 minutes 53 seconds.

In this grueling climb to the 6,288-foot summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, Shea’s time placed her 17th overall and nearly eight minutes ahead of her nearest challenger, as she became the first woman to win the Hillclimb four times. Previously she had been tied with Aimee Vasse with three wins apiece. It was the 11th overall race win on the Mt. Washington Auto Road for Shea, who also has won Newton’s Revenge – a July race on the same route – seven times.

Shea hoped to finish the climb in under 65 minutes, but the cold and windy weather got in the way of that plan. The temperature was just over 40 degrees and winds about 35 miles per hour for a wind chill factor of 25 degrees when the top riders reached the summit.

“Down below, the weather was good,” said Shea, “But around four miles the wind started, and then it was off and on – a side wind, then a head wind. I was losing body temperature. There have been a few races here with conditions like this, but this may have been the worst I’ve seen. Anyway, I’m happy about my fourth win.”

Silke Wunderwald, 42, of Hopkinton, R.I., won this race last year when Shea was occupied with coaching and leading cycling tours in Europe. This year she followed Shea at a respectful distance, taking the runnerup spot in 1:13:55. Stefanie Sydlik, 29, of Cambridge, Mass., was third in 1:16:39. Fourth place went to Elizabeth McClintock, 51, of Wellesley, Mass. Alexa Gubinski, 26, of Fairfield, Conn., was fifth in 1:20:30.

For most of the race, Coburn, 28, a professional cyclist on leave from graduate studies in astrophysics at M.I.T., led a string of riders. The 25-year-old Ebsen, fellow Mt. Washington first-timer Eneas Freyre of Norwalk, Conn., 38, and Eric Follen, 39, of Sanford, Maine, a two-time runnerup here, rode in a peloton-like line from the early going until where the Auto Road turns to dirt above the tree line. Ebsen, however, also a pro cyclist, had recently beaten Cogburn in a race in Taiwan, and his first attempt on Mt. Washington was well calculated.

“I knew I should follow Cameron,” said the winner. “He’s a really strong rider. When it got steep, then I would go.” Ebsen began pulling away before the six-mile mark, extended his lead, and won in a time of 52 minutes and 53 seconds, 57 seconds faster than Cogburn.

“I knew his strategy,” said Cogburn, who had won each of his previous four races up the Auto Road — a pair of wins in Newton’s Revenge (2012 and this year) to go with the two Hillclimb triumphs. “He sat on my wheel for 39 minutes.” Because he has expressed a hope of beating the course record at Mt. Washington – 49:24, ridden in 2002 by Tour de France rider Tom Danielson – Cogburn reckons that other riders will often pace themselves by following him.

He commented that he was feeling less than one hundred percent, having recently returned from hard training with his team in the Rockies. “But I kind of like this weather,” he added. “You’re racing up this road, and clouds come at you.”

Freyre rode strongly to third place in 54:11, while Mt. Washington veteran Philip Wong, 34, of Northborough, Mass., overtook Follen in the final mile to take fourth in 54:23, with Follen three seconds behind.

The first New Hampshire finishers were Alec Babala, 23, of Nashua, and Christine Jankins, 50, of Hampton. Wearing the team jersey of the cycling club at Rhode Island School of Design, where he graduated this year, Babala placed 15th overall with a time of 1:05:25. Jankins finished in 1:30:06.

Babala found today’s weather the worst he has encountered in his four races up the mountain. “I was underdressed,” he said. “I should have been wearing arm warmers.” Above the tree line, he and all the other riders were battered by the wind while simultaneously riding into a cloud cover that had settled on the upper slopes. “I couldn’t see anything,” he continued. “I just heard breathing behind me for a while, and then I didn’t hear it, so I knew I was pulling away from somebody. And I could hear bells through the fog. That kept me going.”

Babala had hoped to finish the ascent in an hour, but, like most riders in the field, he found the conditions difficult. “Every turn in the road, you just have to keep going. Press on the pedals. My chain kept slipping, and my cadence was off.” Even so, he was pleased that his time today was his fastest ever for this climb. “Overall, it was a good day.”

In all, 517 cyclists finished the race, including two unicyclists and three tandem teams. The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb serves as the primary fundraising event 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.

 

COGBURN AND WUNDERWALD PEDAL FASTEST TO THE TOP

An M.I.T. graduate student in astrophysics and a research chemist showed today that scientific careers have not hampered their bicycling abilities. Cameron Cogburn, 27, of Cambridge, Mass., and Silke Wunderwald, 42, of Hopkinton, R.I., took the top prizes today in the 41st annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, a 7.6-mile all-uphill race to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States.

Cogburn, a former professional rider who returned to amateur status to concentrate on his studies, blasted off the starting line at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road and led a pack of six riders for the first two miles before pulling away and pedaling solo to a finishing time of 50 minutes 48 seconds. That time was nearly two minutes faster than last year, when he first won this race, and within sight of the course record 49:24, set in 2002 by Tour de France racer Tom Danielson.

“I know I could get the record,” said Cogburn after reaching the 6288-foot summit of Mt. Washington. “It’s a matter of losing a couple of pounds. But last week I went to Leadville” – a 100-mile bike race at high altitude in Colorado, where Cogburn finished fourth – “and I suffered a bit at 12,000 feet! I’m happy with today.”

Cogburn’s closest pursuer was 23-year-old Erik Levinsohn, a first-year Yale medical student with extensive bike-racing success in New England. “My plan was to stay with Cameron as long as possible,” said Levinsohn. “But that was for only two and a half miles! The finish was a long way coming after that.” Levinsohn finished in 53:29. Third place went to Jeremiah Bishop, 37, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, in 54:24.

One of the country’s most accomplished mountain bike racers, Bishop was testing himself on the Auto Road’s 12 percent grade for the first time. “This is a spectacular place to ride,” he said at the windswept summit, as he and Cogburn wrapped themselves in blankets against the 30-mph winds, and compared notes. “For a hillclimb, I don’t know anything quite like it.” Bishop added that he and Cogburn would meet again the next day in the Hampshire 100, a 100-mile off-road race near Greenfield, N.H. “I feel like this’ll warm me up for tomorrow.”

Wunderwald pumped her fist as she sailed through the finish in one hour 9 minutes 56 seconds, a welcome improvement on her Mt. Washington debut last year, when she finished third in 1:10:47.

“The lesson I learned last year,” she said, “was, Don’t go out too hard!” Like many Mt. Washington racers before her, she discovered that the only way to ride well on the Auto Road is to concentrate on pacing, not on the competition.  As her fellow winner Cogburn put it, “You have to stay within your limits and not think about the other riders.”

A native of the Lake Constanz region of Germany, Wunderwald moved to the U.S. twenty years ago and works in research and development with Pfizer in Groton, Ct. She began competitive cycling in 2006 and in the last two years has focused on hillclimbs. The women’s runnerup was 28-year-old Stefanie Sydlik of Cambridge, Mass., in 1:12:59. Third was Line Lauritsen, 31, of McHenry, Maryland, in 1:14:33.

In a field of 504 finishers, the first New Hampshire riders to reach the top of Mt. Washington were Douglas Jansen, 50, of Pelham, placing 18th overall in 1:05:12 and Christine Jankins, 49, of Hampton, 237th overall in 1:30:56.

For their victories, Cogburn and Wunderwald won $1500 apiece.  All proceeds from the race benefit the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H., which offers classes, workshops, camps, excursions and other lessons in natural history and the environment.

TOP MEN
1.  Cameron Cogburn, 27, Cambridge MA     50:48
2.  Erik Levinsohn, 23, Williamstown MA    53:29
3.  Jeremiah Bishop, 37, Harrisonburg VA    54:24
4.  Ryan Miller, 22, Corvallis OR     55:23
5.  Chris Carr, 30, Golden CO      56:52
6.  Timothy Ahearn, 39, Woodstock CT   56:55
7.  Sean McCarthy, 29, Amherst MA    58:38
8.  William Cooper, 25, Philadelphia PA   59:35
9.  Chris Yura, 34, Bryn Mawr PA    59:54
10. Nate Whitman, 38, Los Angeles CA  1:00:12

TOP WOMEN
1.  Silke Wunderwald, 42, Hopkinton RI   1:09:56
2.  Stefanie Sydlik, 28, Cambridge MA  1:12:59
3.  Line Lauritsen, 31, McHenry MD   1:14:33
4.  Kristen Gohr, 43, Reading MA  1:15:06
5.  Patricia Karter, 57, Milton MA  1:20:57
6.  Elizabeth Bove, 42, Woodstock CT  1:21:53
7.  Kelley Fitzgerald, 47, Woburn MA  1:24:28
8.  Michelle Vuolo, 41, Stow MA   1:25:09
9.  Susan Lucek, 53, Tolland CT   1:25:20
10. Margaret Thompson, 59, Clinton NY  1:25:32

 

See Complete 2013 Results

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.

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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