37th Annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

Phil Gaimon, of Tucker, Georgia, will return to the White Mountains of New Hampshire on August 15 to try to win the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb for the second time in as many attempts. Given his experience in the past year as a new professional cyclist after outstanding performances as an amateur, and given his familiarity the ultra-steep Mt. Washington Auto Road, Gaimon is the likely favorite to repeat as Hillclimb winner this year. However, he will have to withstand challenges from Nico Toutenhoofd, the runnerup here last year, and by Colorado hillclimbing veteran Kevin Nicol.

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Registration opens, February 1, at 8 a.m.

Registration for the 37th annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb will open in less than two weeks – on, February 1, at precisely 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Veterans of this 7.6-mile all-uphill bike ride know how important that registration hour is: Last year the field for this grueling race filled to capacity – 600 riders – within eleven minutes of when the race’s web site opened for registrations. This year many of those same riders, plus numerous other hopefuls, will be poised at their computers early on February 1 in order to complete the on-line application as rapidly as possible.

For more information and to register, visit www.mtwashingtonbicyclehillclimb.org. Riders can also enter at the Bikereg web site, www.bikereg.org. The Mt. Washington Bicycle Hillclimb site includes useful information about the Bikereg site as well.

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TWENTY FIVE YEARS ON MT. WASHINGTON

By Mark Greenleaf

“BERNIE!!!” I yelled, as I lounged in the back of the van. I had just finished the long walk back down to the parking lot from the finish line a short time prior, passing Dino on the way as he headed for the finish. Just in time, I should add, as the weather had turned on a dime. They refer to it as unpredictable, and they are right. It was clear and calm from start to finish for my 7.6 mile run of the 2008 Mt. Washington Hillclimb bicycle race. Things took a turn for the worse, though, just as I met our driver, Joe, at the finish line. The rear door of the van opened up for a great view of the racers as they headed for the finish. Soon the hail was so fierce, however, that I had to close the door and peer out through the fogged glass as I wiped it with a towel. My run was uneventful; the weather almost too good to play any factor. Bernie would have the bragging rights this year. Joe and he were soaked from the rain and were pelted by the hail. Adding insult to injury, lightning lit up the sky. As I sat there watching the remaining racers conquer the summit, I thought back to prior years. This was the twenty fifth consecutive year that I had entered this race. I am always quick to qualify that for three of those years the weather had resulted in cancellation; last year my car went up, but I didn’t. One other year, the race was shortened to half the usual length. That leaves twenty one years that I have completed the race; twenty one years of varying weather, training, sponsors, race companions, and stories. My only remaining pre-marriage tradition, I tell anyone who will listen. That got me thinking about the early years…

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Field filled Friday morning & Waiting list and Newton’s Revenge (July 12) now open

Anyone wanting to ride a bicycle up the Mt. Washington Auto Road this summer has two choices: Get on the waiting list for the 36th annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, to be held on August 16, and hope someone will give up one of the places in the field; or sign up for Newton’s Revenge, the other race up the same road on July 12.

Regarded as the most difficult all-uphill bicycle race in the world, the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb each year fills its entry list to capacity on February 1st, the day that registration officially opens. Thanks to on-line registration, it takes less than an hour before riders claim all 600 available places.

This year the race filled in just eleven minutes. That is less than half the time it took in 2007 for eager cyclists, sitting at their keyboards in the dead of winter, to click their way into this grueling 7.6-mile race to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States.

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Field of 600 will make a steeper climb than the Tour de France

As the Tour de France concludes, cyclists in North America are gearing down ” ‘way down ” for next month’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. The race, a 7.6-mile ascent to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, is steeper, and widely regarded as more grueling, than the famous climb up the Alpe d’Huez in the mountains of eastern France. On August 16, 600 riders will battle the Auto Road’s 12 percent grade and the unpredictable Mt. Washington weather, as they grind their way to the 6288-foot summit.

For 385 of those riders, the satisfaction of reaching the top of Mt. Washington will be a year overdue. These riders all were entered in the Hillclimb that was to be held a year ago, but the 2007 race was canceled by extremely inclement weather, including severe winds, precipitation and ice on the course – prohibitively unsafe conditions. These cyclists’ one consolation was the knowledge that they would get priority in applying to enter the Hillclimb in 2008.

The Hillclimb’s popularity speaks for itself. Registration each year opens on line at 6 a.m. on February 1, and within minutes the field is filled to its 600-rider capacity. The size of the field is limited by the ability of the road crews and race officials to monitor the safety of all participants, and by the number of vehicles that can be parked at the summit to bring cyclists back down the hill after the race.

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Later starting time, same four-wave start, for this year’s race.

After years of getting up before dawn to prepare themselves for the 7.6-mile grind up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, the cyclists competing in the 36th installment of the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb will get an extra hour of sleep – or an extra hour of warmup time, depending on their preference  before the start of this year’s race.

The 2008 Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb will start this Saturday at 8:40 a.m., when the first wave of cyclists begins the 4650-foot ascent of the highest peak in the Northeast. Following this elite group -the race’s official name for them is Top Notch – three successive waves of other riders, including tandem bicycles and older and younger competitors, will follow at five-minute intervals.

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WEATHER CANCELS BIKE RACE – AGAIN.

Sleet, rime ice, 72-mph. gusts of wind and temperatures hovering around freezing conspired this morning to cancel the 35th annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. Six hundred disappointed cyclists received that news at 7 a.m., as they stood in the shelter of a large tent at the base of the storied Auto Road and reluctantly acknowledged that it was unsafe to expose either the would-be competitors or the race’s support crew to such conditions.

The cyclists had come from all over New England and from as far away as the West Coast for the chance to race the 7.6 miles to Mt. Washington’s summit, in what is called, all too aptly, “the world’s toughest hillclimb.” Now they’ll wait another year for the chance to test their legs and their machines against the 12 percent grade, the 4650 feet of altitude gain, and the always blustery Mt. Washington winds.

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The Ride – Photos by Carol Bult

From Carol Bult: Hi Mary,

I can’t even begin to tell you how special this summer has been for me in terms of cycling up Mt. Washington. Last year I was part of Lili’s support team and had never even thought about riding up the rockpile. But Lili is quite an inspiration and an awesome coach and she worked with me all last winter and spring to get me ready. Sometimes I can’t even believe I was able to make it up the mountain four times this summer! Every ride was different and special in its own way. And equally as memorable was meeting cyclists from all over and experiencing the support and encouragement of other riders and volunteers and Mt. Washington event staff. I’m still amazed (and very thankful!) that you and your staff would get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning for the practice rides and the make up rides. I hope everyone there knows how much it is appreciated!

Here is the link to the photos and Lili and I took on September 1. Let me know if you have any problems with it.

Link to Photos

See you next year, Mary!

Cheers,

Carol

2007 Race Report- by Todd Brown

The 2007 MW race was cancelled Aug 18th due to summit winds of 55 mph with gusts to 94 mph and 32 degree temps. Fortunately, the race organizers rescheduled the ride for today, Sept 1. The winds on the summit have been unusually mild for the last week giving great hope to those of us looking to lower our PR’s (1:10.51) on the Rockpile.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature obviously has been conspiring with the Mountain and the wind was expected to increase from 10-15mph Friday to 30-45mph for Saturday am:(

During a wonderful dinner in Gorham Friday night, 5 of us Rockpilers enjoyed piles of pasta while getting Blackberry wind updates from the Mount Washington Observatory.

While ordering dinner the sustained winds were 21 mph, appetizers 24 mph, check please….29 mph!! The worry was that if winds were in excessive of 30 mph, any thoughts of setting PR’s would be history. Morning wakeup at 4:30am and right to The Weather Channel…39 mph…arrrrgghhhh! By the time we left the hotel an hour later…43 mph…with gusts over 50 and summit temp of 35 degrees…forget about PR’s…are we even going to be able to climb the mountain?

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A RACER’S LETTER

Mt. Washington Race, At The Top I’ve always wondered, what was the attraction, the call, of riding up Mt. Washington . I had seen my brother, my brother in law , repeatedly do the suffering and training that was required to prepare you for the climb, and wonder what is it that requires you to give up so much time doing a specific type of hard effort, taking away time that could be spent on other, more enjoyable types of riding, or racing. After awhile, and with much prodding, I began to consider, then train, for a climb that had intimidated me for many years. I did my first climb in 2004, alongside my brother in law, with my sister waiting at the top. It truly was an exciting day, the wet weather couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. There was a feeling of camaraderie with all the people, highly motivated to do the climb, all around me. There is genuine joy in seeing the face of someone you just met 2 hours ago, after they have completed the climb. It’s a fast way to make friends. After the race, however, I was ambivalent about the experience. I was proud of myself, but at the time I wasn’t itching to sign up for it again.

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