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Vasse and Miller take top honors at the 2018 MWARBH

Rain, fog, heavy clouds and thunder today delayed the start of the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb by two hours, but by late morning the famously unpredictable weather of New Hampshire’s White Mountains calmed enough to allow 397 cyclists to race to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern U.S. Leading the way to the mountain’s 6288-foot summit were Aimee Vasse, 40, from Longmont, Colo., and Barry Miller, 30, from Beverly, Mass.


Vasse, already a four-time winner of this all-uphill bicycle race who moved to Colorado last March to train at higher altitudes, pushed herself from the start of the 7.6-mile race and led from wire to wire, placing first among all the women in the field in a time of one hour 4 minutes 5 seconds. She not only recorded her fastest time ever on the Mt. Washington Auto Road but became the only cyclist, male or female, to win this race five times.


Her closest rival, Stefanie Sydlik, 33, of Pittsburgh, Pa., finished more than five minutes behind, in 1:10:32. Third was 48-year-old Kristen Roberts, of Reading, Mass., in 1:12:07.


“Today I think I went out a little too hard,” said Vasse as she warmed up with a blanket at the summit after her finish. “I got some cramping in my legs, and the headwind was tough for me. But Mt. Washington is fun. It’s my favorite race. I love New Hampshire!”


Miller similarly went out quickly, leading the men through the first mile before he was overtaken by Eric Levinsohn, 28, of New Haven, Conn. Dropping the rest of the field, the two dueled from the lower wooded slopes of Mt. Washington to the treeline and beyond, before Miller finally broke away in the sixth mile and pedaled alone to record a finishing time of 53:34.


Levinsohn crossed the finish line second, in 56:03, but ultimately he placed third in the race. In the Hillclimb, racers start in waves at five-minute intervals. While Miller and Levinsohn started in the elite first wave, Drake Deuel of Cambridge, Mass., started in the second, five minutes later, and then made up enough of that five-minute gap to record a net time of 55:38 and become the official runnerup.


Like Vasse, Miller started quickly, partly because the race awards a $750 bonus prize to whoever is in the lead at the one-mile mark. “After that,” he said later, “I tried just to settle into a rhythm. Then Eric came up pretty fast. He’s incredibly strong, and I didn’t think I could stay with him, but somehow I didn’t fade. When we got to the dirt section, I saw I had the lead, and I kept the momentum up.”


Vasse also won the $750 first-mile bonus, and she and Miller each won $1500 for winning the race.


The first New Hampshire finishers were Darren Piotrow, 19, of Jackson, who placed seventh overall in 1:01:31, and 55-year-old Johanna Lawrence of Nashua, tenth among all women in 1:25:54. Piotrow rode with the sponsorship of the Chad Young Foundation, named in honor of a promising cyclist – Chad Young, of Newmarket, N.H. – who set the current junior (under 20 years) course record in this race, and who died in an accident during a cycling race last year.


For spectators at the finish line, the most inspiring story of the day was that of Brian Hall, 56, of Hampton, N.H., who has suffered from Parkinson’s disease since he was 15. Despite severe movement impairments caused by the disease, Hall secured permission from the race’s sponsor and beneficiary, Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H., to compete in the Hillclimb by riding an e-bike, which contains a motor that assists the rider’s pedaling efforts. Hall completed the climb in less than two and a half hours, finishing ahead of several able-bodied cyclists.


“I was shocked at how hard it was,” said Hall as he recovered from the effort. “I skied Mont Blanc in 1992. I feel the same sense of euphoria and accomplishment today – I feel like I’m reborn.”


The oldest finisher was Giuseppe Marinoni, 81, of Laval, Quebec. Marinoni finished 308th overall in 1:56:31, breaking the former age-group record for me 80 and over by more than 20 minutes.


On the men’s winners’ podium, Miller was flanked by Ivy League cyclists. Deuel, who started bike racing only this summer, has competed in rowing as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Levinsohn recently finished medical school at Yale and is doing his residency at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.


The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is the main annual fund-raising event for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H., which provides environmental and recreational education for children, schools and families in communities in the White Mountains and the Mt. Washington Valley.


by John Stifler

Gaimon wins Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb; Vasse top female

Gaimon wins Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb; Vasse top female


PINKHAM NOTCH — Some things you just don’t forget.

Phil Gaimon was just a college student when he first rode in the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. In 2008, the 22-year-old Georgian competing in his second bicycle race up Mount Washington in just two months won the 36th annual Hillclimb.

Gaimon, then a University of Florida senior from Tucker, Ga., crossed the finish line in 54 minutes, 57 seconds.

Gaimon, who now lives in North Hollywood, Calif., returned the following year and won again with a personal-best time of 54:37.

This launched a professional career for Gaimon, who competed against the world’s best over the next eight years. He won the Redlands Bicycle Classic twice, in 2012 and ’15, and finished second to Colombian Nairo Quintana in the 2014 Tour of San Luis (Argentina).

Now 31 and retired from the pro circuit, Gaimon drew worldwide attention in June when he set the new fastest time on the Strava (mobile app) segment that runs up Nichols Canyon Road to Mullholland Drive.

“My phone blew up like I just won the Tour de France,” Gaimon said in the June 30 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Gaimon returned to “The Rockpile” last Saturday and cruised to victory in the 45th Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, covering the 7.6-mile course in 51:13, a new personal record.

Gaiman topped two-time defending champion Eneas Freyre, 41, of Norwalk, Conn., by more than 3 1/2 minutes. Freyre came in second in 54:53, his slowest time in the past three races up Mt. Washington. In 2015, Frye won in 53:00 and again last year in 52:10.

Timothy Ahern, 43, of Woodstock, Conn., rounded out the top three, placing third in 56:26.

The course record of 49:24 was set by Tom Danielson in 2002.

Top female finisher was Aimee Vasse, 39, formerly of Somerville, Mass., and now of Dunedin, Fla. The three-time Hillclimb female champion rode to a fourth title in 1:05:34, placing 14th overall.

Vasse first won in 2004, repeating in 2005 and 2008.

Stephanie Sydlik, 32, of Pittsburgh, Pa., was second-fastest female in 1:06:13, and Andrea Myers, 34, of Danbury, Conn., was third in 1:15:39.

There were 635 cyclists entered in this year’s race, which is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center located in Albany. There were 444 finishers.

Gaimon and Vasse were both pleased with their finishes. Each received $1,500.

“I haven’t been here in (eight) years,” Gaimon told the media following the race. “I forgot how hard this is and the clouds — how special this place is. It can be cruel, nasty, why do they make it so steep?”

“Stephanie was amazing competition,” Vasse said of Sydlik, who was just 39 seconds behind her. “She led me mercilessly. She attacked the hill. I didn’t think I could hang, but at the 6.7-mile marker, I got my second wind. It was very emotional for me.”

There was a second record set on the mountain on Saturday. Walter (Wally) Kurz, 80, of Intervale beat the record in his age category of 2:19:45 set by Bill Hawkes in 2002, getting to the summit in 2:16:20.

“This was my first experience with this race,” Kurz said following the race. “It was tougher than I anticipated. I got a leg cramp, but finished. This is quite a hill.”

Other local finishers included Darren Piotrow, 19th, 1:06:57; Joseph Baird, 149th, 1:29:35; Ben Cargill, 155th, 1:29:55; Michael Steward, 206th, 1:36:38; Robert Henney, 219th, 1:38:14; Steven Discordia, 286th, 1:47:52; Suzanne Young, 355th, 2:02:41; Jack Steffen, 365th, 2:07:54; Tod Powers, 398th, 2:20:18; and William Buick, 399th, 2:20:39.

For overall results, go to

Tin Mountain Conservation Center, according to its website, “is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit environmental education program that promotes an appreciation of the natural environment among children, adults, and families. The hands-on programs in the schools, at camps, and in the community demonstrate responsible stewardship of natural resources through land protection, research, sustainable forestry, agriculture and energy.”

Article by the Conway Daily Sun