Phillip Gaimon defended his title at New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb on Saturday, as Canadian Sue Schlatterer easily won the women’s division.
After near-record-setting spring and summer rains, Mother Nature
blessed the 37th edition of one of the toughest hillclimbs in the country with a warm and near-perfect day.
At race-time the temperature at the base of the Auto Road (1565 feet) was an unusually warm 75, while the summit (6,288 feet) posted a balmy 60, with wind speeds at just 20 mph.
The men’s elite group for this year’s 600-rider field was packed with a
highly competitive crew, consisting of last year’s winner, 23-year-old Phil Gaimon, 20-year-old Christopher Hong, and 2008 runnerup Nico
Toutenhoofd, 40. Joining them were former world mountain bike champion and 2006 runner-up, 54-year-old Ned Overend and Kevin Nicol, a 42-year-old from Lafayette, Colorado.
In the women’s elite group defending champion, Brazilian Flavia Lepene and Massachusetts’ Marti Shea were favored.
As always, the age of the field spanned a wide range. The oldest rider to line up for this edition was 74-year-old Ray Gengenbach of Amherst, Massachusetts; while the youngest was Jonah Thompson of Albuquerque, New Mexico, just 10 years old.
The starting canon went off at 8:35 and the elite group took off, led by
Gaimon and closely followed by Toutenhoofd, Nicol and Overend. By the 2,000
foot mark Toutenhoofd had dropped away and the trio of riders consisting of
Gaimon, Overend and Nicole had opened a gap from the main field that would
stand for the duration. At 2.5 miles the trio settled into an order that
would hold for the next 3.5 miles with Gaimon in front, Nicole a close
second and Overend about 50 feet behind.
Though it seemed as if Overend was working harder than the two leaders, it
quickly became apparent that was a matter of his style. Gaimon and Nicole
rarely came out of the saddle, while Overend would bob and weave and
occasionally stand but always stayed right behind the two leaders.
At 5.25 miles Gaimon noticed Nicole showing some signs of distress and put
together a surge. Unable to follow, Nicole dropped behind. Overend was able
to match Gaimon, though still with that elusive 50-foot gap in place. By the 6.5-mile mark, Nicole was more a minute behind and Gaimon began to open up a gap on Overend. Coming up to the final steep hairpin, which reaches a grade of 24 percent, Gaimon pushed hard coming in at 54:37, extending his lead to 16 seconds over Overend and 3:13 over Nicole.
The time represented a personal best for Gaimon, but it was unfortunately well off the course record of 49:24 set by Tom Danielson in 2002.
In the women’s Elite category Sue Schlatter clocked in at 1:07:47, over two
minutes ahead of Shea (1:10:12).
Shea was the winner of this year’s Newton’s Revenge, a race on the same course earlier in the season. In third was Kristen Gohr, of Reading, Massachusetts, who hit the line at 1:11:09.
Defending champion Lepene finished well of the day’s pace.
While Gaimon had a personal best, beating his last year’s time by 20
seconds, Overend was 12 seconds slower than his own 2006 time, which had established the master’s record.
Gaimon, who has been training in Pennsylvania this summer said he hasn’t built his entire season around Mt. Washington, but he did bring a bike set up for the event.
“I don’t train specifically for this race but I made a number of tweaks to the bike, including stiffer wheels and gear adjustments,” Gaimon said. “I kind of wish I had a water bottle on the bike, though.”
Gaimon will be attending the US Pro Nationals at the end of the month.
Asked about how he felt about his performance in this year’s race, Overend
said he was a little disappointed by missing out on a new record.
“There are two possibilities in a race – you win or you set a PR, but when I’m getting faster, why would I quit doing this?”
1. Phillip Gaimon, Tucker, GA, 23, 54:37
2. Ned Overend, Durango, CO, 53, 54:53
3. Kevin Nicole, Lafayette, CO, 42, 57:50
1. Sue Schlatterer, Ottowa Ontario Canada, 46, 1:07:43
2. Marti Shea, Marblehead, MA, 46, 1:10:12
3. Kristen Gohr, Reading, MA, 38, 1:11:09
Recent Mount Washington Winners:
1st man: Phillip Gaimon, 54:57
1st woman: Flavia Lepene, 1:08:52
(The 2007 race was not held due to bad weather.)
1st man: Tyler Hamilton, 52:21
1st woman: Aimee Vasse, 1:08:31
Tyler Hamilton, 51:11
Aimee Vasse, 1:12:38
Justin England, 58:50
Aimee Vasse, 1:10:44
Tom Danielson, 51:05
Genevieve Jeanson, 59:58
Tom Danielson, 49:24 (course record)
Genevieve Jeanson, 54:02 (course record)
Tim Johnson, 53.13
Karen Bockel, 1:09:20
Tim Johnson, 55:46
Jeannie Longo, 58:14