Youth and confidence were no match for age and experience at this year’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb.
Nico Toutenhoofd (Hotel San Jose/Mellow Johnny’s), 42, and veteran mountain biker Tinker Juarez (Cannondale Factory Racing), 49, blew away everyone else, including two 22-year-olds from Garmin-Transitions, the same team that includes the Auto Road’s course record-holder, Tom Danielson.
In the women’s race Marti Shea (Destination Cycling), 47, won by almost three minutes in another vet-stacked field: there was no rider under 30 in the top ten.
Toutenhoofd ignores early surge
In this 7.6-mile grind up the highest peak in the Northeast, Toutenhoofd rode the first two miles hidden behind 30 other cyclists, including Garmin’s Peter Salon and Walker Savidge, who seemed poised to prove their climbing ability here as Danielson had done before.
Using standard road gearing, however, and not having seen the course beforehand, Salon and Savidge realized by the second mile that this was going to hurt. The road’s average grade is 12 percent; its steepest extended section is 18 percent, and the finish is 70 meters of a kick-in-the-face 22 percent. “Anything over a 13 percent grade, I felt like I was going backward,” Savidge said later.
Meanwhile, Toutenhoofd, who had placed second in the hillclimb in 2008 and fourth last year, was watching his power meter. Cranking at a steady 350 watts, he moved into the lead in the third mile and maintained more than a 30-second gap over Juarez and Timothy Ahearn, 35, of Woodstock, Conn. Toutenhoofd’s time to the 6,288-foot summit, 57:26, was well off Danielson’s record 49:24, but that wasn’t the point.
“I really wanted to win,” said Toutenhoofd. “Of course it depends on who else shows up, but my goal was to get from the bottom to the top as fast as possible and ignore everyone else.”
With decades of mountain experience, Juarez was the only rider to start out with the lead pack and then not blow up, despite being new to this course. Sun-tanned, wind-wrinkled, and sporting a mass of curls and dreads under his helmet, the former national mountain biking champion pedaled side by side with Ahearn, then pulled away after the five-mile point to take second in 58:08, with Ahearn third in 58:22.
Shea wins women’s race
The strongest woman was another veteran, Marti Shea, 47, of Marblehead, Mass. A four-time winner of Newton’s Revenge race, the other bike race held on the same course each summer, Shea benefited from perfect weather to ride her best time ever on the Auto Road, 1:05:42.
“I was hurting at the finish,” said Shea, a former all-American runner, “but I felt strong the whole way. My training peaked at just the right time this 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.” Gohr finished in 1:08:23, followed at a respectful distance by Selene Yeager, 41, of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, in 1:17:36.
Salon finished tenth in 1:01:16, while Savidge was 13th in 1:02:11.
Fourth-place finisher Jake Hollenbach of Winooski, Vermont, offered a parting perspective on the way the young pros lost to the geezers. “Those kids were riding it like Mt. Evans,” said Hollenbach. The Colorado hillclimb is higher and longer; Mt. Washington is just steeper than some people still want to believe.
- 1. Nico Toutenhoofd, 42, Boulder CO, Hotel San Jose/Mellow Johnny’s, 57:26,
- 2. Tinker Juarez, 49, Whittier CA, Cannondale Factory Racing, 58:08
- 3. Timothy Ahearn, 35, Woodstock CT, 58:22
- 4. Jake Hollenbach, 29, Winooski VT, AXA Equitable, 59:31
- 5. Timothy Tapply, 35, Sherborn MA, QT2 Systems, 59:57
- 6. John Bayley, 41, Watertown MA, 1:00:07
- 7. Paul Runyon, 20, Philadelphia PA, Tri-State Velo, 1:00:41
- 8. Randall Jacobs, 27, Waltham MA, Wheelworks, 1:00:50
- 9. Chris Yura, 31, Philadelphia PA, 1:01:15
- 10. Peter Salon, 22, Boulder CO, Garmin-Transitions/Felt-Holowesko, 1:01:16