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Newton's Revenge: The other bike race up Mt. Washington

July 11 race is held on same course as Mt. Washington Bicycle Hillclimb

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June 24, 2009
Pinkham Notch — Marti Shea, women's winner of the Newton's Revenge bike race up Mt. Washington both years the race has been held, hopes to go three-for-three in 2009, as she leads the field of women entered for this year's race on July 11.

Meanwhile, the men's race looks like a contest among half a dozen riders, none of whom has won here before, but entries are still being accepted, so the actual winner may not yet have appeared. All riders, approximately 100 registered so far, can score points for themselves in the BUMPS hillclimb series on eight hills in the Northeastern United States this summer.

Newton's Revenge is a 7.6-mile race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, which rises at an average grade of 12 percent to the top of the highest mountain in the northeastern U.S., at 6288 feet above sea level and 4650 feet above the starting line off Route 16 at Pinkham Notch. It uses the same course as the better-known Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, to be held this year on Aug. 15. Registration for the Hillclimb filled in February; registration for Newton's Revenge continues until July 9 or until the maximum field of 600 riders is reached.

3 for 3 winner?

Shea, 46, of Marblehead, Mass., is a seasoned cyclist who years ago turned away from the mainstream racing circuit to avoid the culture of performance-enhancing drugs that seemed to pervade top levels of bike racing. As a race not sanctioned by, and therefore operating independently of, all national and international cycling organizations, Newton's Revenge appealed to her immediately. She won the inaugural race in 2006, placing 7th overall in a time of one hour nine minutes 28 seconds, then won again in 2008, placing 16th overall — there were more high-level male riders last year – in 1:14:22. (The 2007 Newton's Revenge was cancelled because of extremely dangerous weather on the upper slopes of Mt. Washington.)

In the men's race, the presumptive favorites so far come from the short list (six riders) ranked in the race's Top Notch category, reserved for proven highly competitive cyclists. They constitute the first of four waves of riders to leave the starting line at successive five-minute intervals. This year's Top Notch group includes Dennis O'Connor from New Hampshire, Dan Holin and John Bayley from Massachusetts, David Gladstone from Connecticut, and two Canadians, Pierre Reid and Jean Sylvain. Of these, Reid, a 52-year-old rider who lives in Westbury, Quebec, appears the likeliest favorite. Last year he placed ninth overall, in 1:09:45. Gladstone, 47, of Middletown, Conn., has ridden Newton's Revenge twice, placing 25th each time. Last year he was just 14 seconds behind O'Connor, of Oxford, who made the ascent in 1:18:08 to Gladstone's 1:18:22. Bayley was half of the winning tandem team at last year's Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, in 1:17:14.

As noted above, the 2007 Newton's Revenge was cancelled by severe weather. Such cancellations are rare, three in the Hillclimb's 36-year history, including two when the race was held in September, plus one in Newton's Revenge, but the Mt. Washington Auto Road management and race organizers remind would-be entrants to prepare for weather-related postponements or cancellations. If the weather on July 11 creates conditions too severe, Newton's Revenge will be postponed to Sunday, July 12.


As an independent, unsanctioned race, Newton's Revenge holds open registration for both amateur and professional cyclists. The registration site is http://www.bikereg.com/events/register.asp?eventid=5731. The entry fee, which covers an array of logistical operations as well as souvenirs, blankets, support and a superb lunch, is $300 for individual riders, $450 for tandems. Proceeds benefit the Mt. Washington Observatory and local charities.


Professional cyclists have repeatedly called Mt. Washington a tougher hill to climb than the most difficult ascent in the Tour de France. Pedaling in lower gears than anyone normally uses anywhere else, ambitious riders climb 4,650 feet in altitude, usually while buffeted by Mt. Washington's notorious high winds, clouds, fog and other elements.

As the "other" race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, Newton's Revenge opens for registration only after the Hillclimb has filled to its capacity of 600 entrants. In recent years, the Hillclimb has filled completely the same morning that its registration opens, on Feb. 1. This year, despite the sluggish economy and a $50 increase in the entry fee, now $350, the Hillclimb filled in two days.

Race day details

Sponsored by Polartec, with additional sponsorship from Coca Cola, Michelin, Hammer Nutrition, BikeReg, VDO and the local Red Jersey Cyclery, Newton's Revenge starts on July 11 at 8:40 a.m. when the first of four waves of riders sprint from the starting line through 400 meters of flat road, then begin the grueling ascent. Three successive waves of riders follow at five-minute intervals.

On race day, the Auto Road is open beforehand just for support vehicles to drive to the summit with dry clothing and food for the cyclists. In case of prohibitively bad weather on the 11th, the race will be postponed to July 12. Should the entire weekend be canceled by weather, entrants will be refunded half of the $300 entry fee.

Bike Up Mountains Points Series

Newton's Revenge and the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb are two of nine events in the Bike Up the Mountain Point Series, familiarly known as BUMPS.

The series begins with a race up Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks on June 20 and concludes on Oct. 10, with the two races up Mt. Washington and five other hillclimbs at various locations throughout the summer. At the conclusion, the King and Queen of the Mountains prizes are awarded to the man and woman accumulating the greatest number of points in five of the nine races. In view of the "hors categorie" (beyond category) steepness of the Mt. Washington Auto Road, points earned in Newton's Revenge and the Hillclimb are doubled. For further information see www.hillclimbseries.com.

Benefit for Observatory

The Mount Washington Observatory, which receives significant contributions via the proceeds of Newton's Revenge, is a private, non-profit scientific and educational institution. Its mission is to advance understanding of the natural systems that create the Earth's weather and climate, by maintaining its mountaintop weather station, conducting research and educational programs and interpreting the heritage of the Mount Washington region. Newton's Revenge will also benefit other local charities.

For more information, visit www.newtonsrevenge.com.

Martin Lord Osman
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