38th annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb – 7.6 miles

Forty-two-year-old Nico Toutenhoofd of Boulder, Colorado drew on experience and careful pacing to win the 38th annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb in the White Mountains of New Hampshire today. In this 7.6-mile all-uphill grind to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast, Toutenhoofd rode the first two miles hidden behind more than two dozen other cyclists, then moved steadily to the front, dropping a struggling group of younger riders who were less familiar with the ultra-steep course. After occasional glances back to make sure his lead was secure, he pumped his fist as he broke the tape at the 6288-foot summit in 57 minutes 26 seconds.

His closest rival was another veteran, former U.S. National Mountain Bike Champion Tinker Juarez, of Whittier, Calif. Juarez, 49, who was encountering the Auto Road for the first time, showed that he still has the strength that took him to the Olympics in 1996. Trying to keep Toutenhoofd in sight, he pedaled side by side with Timothy Ahearn, 35, of Woodstock, Conn., then pulled away after the five-mile point to take second in 58:08 – a new record for men aged 45-49 in this race — with Ahearn a delighted third in 58:22.ᅠ

“I really wanted to win,” said Toutenhoofd, who placed second here on his first attempt, in 2008 and then was fourth last year. “Of course how well you place depends on who else shows up, but this year I was better rested.ᅠ Also, this time I rode with a power-meter.”
The new Mt. Washington champion explained that the meter on his bike makes it easier for him to keep his physical effort steady. “My goal was to get from the bottom to the top as fast as possible and ignore everyone else.”

The strongest woman in the field was another veteran rider with ample experience, Marti Shea, 47, of Marblehead, Mass. A four-time winner of Newton’s Revenge race, the other bike race held on the same course six weeks earlier, Shea benefited today from perfect weather to ride her best time ever on the Auto Road, one hour five minutes 42 seconds, also a new 45-49-year age-group record.

“My training peaked at just the right time this year,” said Shea, who has ridden several other uphill races this summer. “I was hurting at the finish, but I felt strong the whole way.”ᅠ Having her parents come to watch the race for the first time ever gave her additional emotional energy. “They’re my support system,” said Shea between repeated enthusiastic parental hugs.

Shea and Toutenhoofd each won $1500, the winner’s prize awarded by the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, for which the race is the major fundraising event of the year.

Second woman was Kristen Gohr, 39, of Reading, Mass. “I wanted to stay with Marti a little longer,” said Gohr, “but she’s a machine. So I focused on my own pedaling.” Gohr finished in 1:08:23, breaking her own record for the women’s 35-39-year age group. Following at a respectful distance for third was Selene Yeager, 41, of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, in 1:17:36.

Two of the younger riders who struggled with the steep grade were Peter Salon and Walker Savidge, both 22 years old and both training in Boulder, Colo., as members of the Garmin-Transitions-Holowesko team that includes Mt. Washington course record-holder Tom Danielson. Salon and Savidge were among the first riders off the starting line, but by the time they reached the extended 18 percent grade in the second mile, Savidge said he knew it would be a difficult day. “Anything over 13 percent, I felt like I was going backward!”

Salon finished tenth in 1:01:16, while Savidge was 13th in 1:02:11.

“Those kids were riding it like Mt. Evans,” said Jake Hollenbach of Winooski, Vermont, referring to a longer but less steep hillclimb in Colorado. “For a while I was following their surges, but then I settled back and got it together.”

Hollenbach, 29, eventually finished fourth (59:31), followed by Timothy Tapply, 35, of Sherborn, Mass. (59:57), and John Bayley, 41, of Watertown, Mass. (one hour 7 seconds). Bayley, a veteran of many Mt. Washington rides, shares with Kristen Gohr the record for the fastest tandem racing pair here – a 1:06:32 they rode in July.

Today’s tandem winners were Jim and Sandy Dannis of Dalton, New Hampshire, in 1:29:35. Peter Maly and Sue Williams of Charlton, Mass., were second tandem in 1:33:31; third were Elaine Skawski and Scott Soutra of Southampton, Mass. (1:36:56).

The fastest local finisher was Peter Ostroski, 21, of nearby Intervale, N.H., who placed 11th in 1:01:31. Equally impressive was 15-year-old Sean Doherty, of Center Conway, N.H., who won the junior division (19 years and younger) in 1:07:48, good for 31st place overall.

The youngest rider in the race was Jonah Thompson, an ebullient 11-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M. Thompson, who made his Mt. Washington debut at the age of 9 and also competed here last year, placed 238th in the field of nearly 600, in a time of 1:28:56. “I loved it!” said Thompson, flashing a smile that revealed red and blue bands on his braces. “The weather was a lot nicer this year. Last year the humidity killed me!”

The oldest finisher was Ray Gengenbach, 75, of Amherst, Mass., in 2:22:59.

In the midst of all the two-wheeled racers was one unicycle, ridden by Eric Scheer, 46, of Peace Dale, Rhode Island, to a 1:40:41 finish, 346th overall. “Riding a unicycle up the Mt. Washington Auto Road is a lot like riding a bike, said Scheer afterward. “Except when you get tired it’s harder to balance.” Describing his training, he added, “In Rhode Island we don’t have any big hills. We have a lot of little ones. So I go up and down, up and down.”

As further evidence of how the day was ideal for racing, several other age-group records fell. Margaret Thompson, 56, of Clinton, N.Y., lowered the 55-59-year-olds’ record she set earlier this year by riding a 1:23:28. Mark Luzio, 55, of Brooklyn, Conn., set the standard for men in the same bracket, 1:06:44, nearly six minutes better than the old record.

Both winners in the 60-64-year age group broke records: Judy Caron, 62, of Concord N.H., lowered her own record by three minutes to 1:39:01, while Mike McCusker, 61, of Buckland, Mass., beat his friend and rival Mark McCarthy by finishing in a 1:11:32. McCarthy, who had set a record of 1:15:08 at Newton’s Revenge earlier this year, settled for second today despite improving his time to 1:13:55.ᅠᅠᅠ

Don Metz, 69, of Lyme, N.H., rode to the summit in 1:28:15 to erase the old 65-69-year record of 1:29:47 set last year by Arthur Lablanc.

Top Finishers
1.ᅠ Nico Toutenhoofd, 42, Boulder CO, 57:26
2.ᅠTinker Juarez, 49, Whittier CA, 58:08
3.ᅠTimothy Ahearn, 35, Woodstock CT, 58:22
4.ᅠJake Hollenbach, 29, Winooski VT, 59:31
5.ᅠTimothy Tapply, 35, Sherborn MA, 59:57
6.ᅠJohn Bayley, 41, Watertown MA, 1:00:07 [one hour and seven seconds]
7.ᅠPaul Runyon, 20, Philadelphia PA, 1:00:41
8.ᅠRandall Jacobs, 27, Waltham MA, 1:00:50
9.ᅠChris Yura, 31, Philadelphia PA, 1:01:15
10.ᅠPeter Salon, 22, Boulder CO, 1:01:16

1.ᅠMarti Shea, 47, Marblehead MA, 1:05:42
2.ᅠKristen Gohr, 39, Reading MA, 1:08:23
3.ᅠSelene Yeager, 41, Emmaus PA, 1:17:36
4.ᅠCarol Meader, 44, Raymond ME, 1:18:32
5.ᅠDominique Coderre, 51, Montreal QC, 1:18:49
6.ᅠNicole Marcoe, 35, White River Junction VT, 1:20:04
7.ᅠMartha Robertson, 52, Peru VT, 1:20:36
8.ᅠKelley Wulfkuhle, 33, Essex Junction VT, 1:21:00
9.ᅠElizabeth West, 44, Westport CT, 1:22:32
10.ᅠMargaret Thompson, 56, Clinton NY, 1:23:27