Yesterday’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb was a fun event. It was the sixth time that I’ve ridden the race. I returned in 2014 after a 13 year hiatus, and wanted to do it again this year. Two weeks after I rode the race last August, I crashed and fractured my scapula. It took a while to heal, but figured this race would be part of my comeback. I’ve now raced it in 2015, 2014, 2001, 2000, 1999, and 1997. My best time was 15 years ago in 2000. I was in my late 20’s and at the peak of my road cycling fitness. My 2015 time was almost the same as my 2014 time, though I don’t know the exact time because the official results have not been posted. I rode 1:17 or so for the second year in a row, which is not bad considering I rode my commuter bike, worked all day on Friday, and we drove up late, arriving around 11:00 P.M. My Seven Axiom SL is my favorite bike, a great bike, and my best option with a 39 x 27 gear ratio. I rode within my limits for the entire 7.6 miles, choosing not to throttle myself. The race is hard enough without blowing a gasket. Before the start, I knew I was going to hike the mountain again on Sunday with my son, and that the final Winding Trails Summer Tri Series race is Tuesday. I couldn’t afford to be hammered for the last race of the season because I’ve got a lot on the line.
In the end, the few images that professional photographer, Joe Viger, captured say it all. The race is sheer suffering and the final 22% pitch is one of my favorite stretches of road on Earth. I was happy to pay for a few of Joe’s photos. He was in the right spot at the right time and I couldn’t take pictures of myself. I had this idea that I was going to ring my handlebar bell on that final pitch, but with the noise from the assembled crowd, no one would hear a thing. Plus, I was pulling on the bars so hard, they could have snapped right off. I totally forgot to try. I’m not sure if I could have even got my thumb into position. The road is that steep.
We had the best weather of my six races on the rock pile. It was mild and partly sunny on the summit, which was a far cry from last year’s cold and damp weather. There was a light breeze and that cooled things off a bit, but it was very tolerable. On the lower slopes, it was warm. Debbie and the kids opted to stay in the valley. I got a ride down from Bill Houle, a fellow I met at the “need a ride” board before the race. After the finish, I hung out on the summit, remaining in my shorts and short sleeves for quite some time. I didn’t even bother going in to the visitors center. I carried my vest and arm warmers up with me, but after the finish, I only put them on to be a bit more comfortable. My teammate, Tim Wern, had a fine ride. We were briefly together after a mile or so, and then he was gone. I also saw Bolton friends, Kevin Glenn and Andy Chambers. They had their own Bolton fan club, including: Laurie Brooks, Bruce Christensen, and the rest of the Chambers Family. Laurie was joined by her sister, Jane Chauvin, and her husband Marc. I saw a bunch of other friends from the New England cycling community.
After we drove down, I rode the 3.5 miles back to our campsite at Dolly Copp. I had ridden to the start early in the morning. The whole round trip with the hill climb sandwiched in the middle of my warmup and warm down was loads of fun. I’ll have to think about returning in 2016. It’s hard to imagine not doing it. I love the road. Maybe I’ll have to get a larger contingent of Horst Engineering Cycling Team mates to join me. Of course, I’ve always wanted to do the Wildman Biathlon, and I think it is the week before Mt. Washington. If I don’t return for the bicycle hill climb next year, I’ll do it again in the future.
I missed having Debbie and the kids on the top this year, but it was great to have the support from these friends. Bruce was particularly fun to be with. About two turns before the finish, he ran alongside me screaming encouragement at the top of his lungs. I felt like a pro for a moment. Of course, that is the point of riding Mt. Washington. It is a glorious hill and an amazing road. Plus, proceeds benefit Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which is a noble cause.