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Joyce Endee

Phillip Gaimon defends Mt. Washington crown in Bicycle Hillclimb

Ned Overend, second-place finisher, in hot pursuit for entire race

Sue Schlatter, 46, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, raises her bike in celebration of her women’s division victory at the 2009 Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. Schlatter powered her way up the 7.6-mile course in a time of 1:07:43, a new course record for the 45-49 age group. Dennis Coughlin. (click for larger version)
August 20, 2009
Gaimon, 23, of Tucker, Ga., beat Overend, 53, of Durango, Colo. by 16 seconds on the steep and winding 7.6-mile course up the Northeast's highest peak with a personal best time of 54:37. The pair rode with Kevin Nicol, 42, of Lafayette, Colo. until he fell off the pace near the five-mile mark.

"I just tried to go my pace and hoped he (Overend) would crack," said Gaimon. "I didn't count on it taking so long, but he finally did."

The three were near record pace on the bottom half of the mostly paved road until the trio got into a race-slowing tactical game with riders wheel-to-wheel near timberline.

This was the second time Overend (54:53) has finished second in the Hillclimb, a race he first entered in 2005. He finished fourth that year and came back in 2006, placing second.

"I was hanging back a little bit," said Overend, the former World Mountain Bike champion. "I wanted this to be a fast time."

Gaimon is no stranger to Mount Washington. The pro rider, currently training in Pennsylvania, won last year's Hillclimb after finishing second five weeks earlier in the other bicycle race up Mount Washington called Newton's Revenge. He made some gear adjustments prior to the competition and tried to ride his own race.

"If I played around too much it would have made everyone slower," he said.

What weather!

Mount Washington's notorious weather was nowhere to be found as the 600 registered riders from ages 10 to 74 left the base area under sunny morning skies and a 74 degree temperature.

At the finish, the temperature was near 60 and winds about 20 miles per hour, a balmy day at the 6,288-foot summit. Gaimon led for virtually the whole race with the three increasing their distance from a smattering of other elite riders as the competition left the shelter of the trees for the dramatic barren alpine landscape. Three miles into the competition, Gaimon led the trio on a race for the record, 49:24, which was set in 2002 by Tom Danielson, with an unofficial time of 19 minutes before slowing down.

Nicol, in his first Mount Washington race, stayed with them for about five miles before hitting a personal wall.

"I thought I had the advantage on the steep grades, but when it leveled out, I thought that was my weak area," said Nicol. "I wanted to ride at my own pace, but I cracked."

His time was 57:50.

Two riders with completely contrasting styles, the calm-riding Gaimon broke away from the bobbing Overend after the six-mile mark, gathering a 10 second lead which he extended before the final 22-percent pitch.

"I thought I was going to die there, but Ned was dying more," said Gaimon.

That final pitch was also a dramatic spot for women's winner Susan Schlatter, 46, of Ottawa, Ontario, who ran with her bike after falling in a "little divot" near the last push. The second-placed finisher in the 2006 race, Schlatter finished with a time of 1:07:43.

"The thing with this race is not to lose concentration. Your mind starts to wander," she said.

Schlatter and Marti Shea, 45, of Marblehead, Mass., rode together for about three miles before Schlatter pulled ahead. Shea, the three-time Newton's Revenge women's winner, was attempting to win the Hillclimb for the first time, but finished second at 1:10:12. Third place went to Kristen Gohr, 38, of Reading, Mass.

The excellent weather may have been good for the cheering summit spectators, but not for all the riders.

"This was not good," said Douglas Jansen, 46, of Pelham, who finished 20th. "This was too hot for me. I was very hot for the first few thousand feet of climbing." Jansen is the leading points rider in the BUMPS series, a series of bicycle hillclimbs throughout the Northeast.

Records fell

Though the course records stood, four age-group records fell.

Schlatter's victory gave her the record in the women's 45 to 49 category, besting Shea's record up the mountain of 1:08:42, which was set earlier this season in Newton's Revenge.

Gohr's time was good enough to beat a 1999 mark in the women's 35 to 39 group. In the men's 60 to 64 group, Michael McCusker of Buckland, Mass., finished with a time of 1:15:35, which bested the 1:19:34 set by Arthur Leblanc of Pembroke in 2005. Though Leblanc may have lost that record, he picked up another one. The 65-year-old rider's 1:29:47 put him at the top of the men's 65 to 69 group, shattering the 1:31:22 record set in 2001.

A number of locals also tackled the road to the clouds on Saturday.

The top local finisher was former Kennett standout athlete Peter Ostroski, who placed 18th overall in 1:06:25. Dave Murphy of Jackson came home 31st overall in 1:10:16. Jackson's Steve Vosburgh was 148th in a time of 1:24:46 and 15-year-old Jordan Cargill of Intervale came home 149th in 1:24:49.

Dennis Weeks of Conway was 195th in 1:29:15 and Ben Cargill of Intervale was 280th in 1:37:27. Andy Kramp of Intervale reached the summit in 1:39:22, placing him 296th overall. Rich Laracy of Conway finished 344th in 1:44:24, while Ginger Rober of Bartlett was the top local woman in 1:50:15, placing her 389th overall.

Sean Littlefield of Madison was one spot back in 390th with a time of 1:50:25 and Michael Laracy of Conway finished in 400th place in 1:51:20. Eric Pendleton of Jackson reached the Northeast's highest point in 2:00:35, for 448th place and Jackson's Richard Devellian was 477th in 2:11:40, placing third among riders 70 and older. Richard Marriot of Mirror Lake was 514th overall in 2:45:13.

Complete results are available at www.mtwashingtonbicyclehillclimb.org.

The course, The Mt. Washington Auto Road, rises at an average grade of 12 percent, with a 22-percent grade in the final yards before the 6288-foot summit. The challenge is increased by Mt. Washington's famous high winds and frequently bad weather. In some years the winds have blown riders off their bikes on the upper slopes above the tree line; in others, rain, fog and general chill have made the experience all the more unforgettable. Twice in the 1990s, when the race was held in September, and again in 2007, the Hillclimb was cancelled because severe weather on Mt. Washington made the course unsafe. (Newton's Revenge was also cancelled in 2007.) Entrants are advised in advance that the possibility of a weather-cancelled race exists, but the Saturday race date also includes the option of a weather postponement to Sunday.

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