2003 Mt. Washington Hill Climb Race Report

The Mt. Washington Hill Climb is considered the toughest hill climb in the world. Here are the stats:

Summit Elevation: 6288 ft.
Base Elevation: 1565 ft
Elevation Gain: 4727 ft.
Length: 7.6 miles
Grade: avg.12%; extended 18%; final 100 yds. 22%
Road surface: 65% paved, 35% packed gravel

After realizing last year that I was a strong hill climber, I set this race as a big goal for the season.  I trained hard all winter, did lots of hill repeats at Bolton Valley and App Gap, and built up a super lightweight 13 lb. “climbing” bike.  A special thanks to Ian and Paul from Fitwerx for setting me up on the ultimate Mt. Washington bike.

In preparation for the big race I did the practice ride four weeks ago.  It was a perfect day: sunny and winds out of the west at about 5mph. Weather conditions on Mt. Washington don’t get any better than that! In my first run up the mountain, I clocked a time of 59 minutes, and this included a 1 minute stop at mile 6.5 to fix a slipped rear skewer!  I was pleased with the effort and knew I was ready.  I used my 30×25 for almost the entire ride.  This gearing worked pretty well, but since I am a spinner, I could have used a little more on the steeper sections.  For the race I decided to throw a 27 on.

Race Day!

We got to the base of the mountain around 5:45am.  We were going to give my friend Kevin a ride down so we used his car as base camp.  I unloaded my stuff into Kevin’s car and we sent Crystal up the mountain early to get a parking spot at the top.  I had gone through meticulous preparation in making sure I had everything I needed, but I made a critical mistake and sent my spare bike and wheels up with Crystal not thinking I would need them.  I went through my standard 45 minute warm-up and then pulled up to the start.

This is where things start to get interesting. As I put my foot down, I get this weird sensation that my rear tire feels a little soft.  My heart sinks.  I reach down and squeeze the rear tire….definitely too soft!  I quickly run over to one of the cars and grab a pump from someone.  I pump the tubular back up to 130 and run the tire over my fingers…there is a piece of metal lodged in the tire that is causing the tire to leak.  There was no way this wheel would make it an hour to the top. As a year’s worth of preparation flashes before my eyes, I go to plan B:  I need a new wheel and fast… the race starts in 3 minutes!  I see Phil Wong’s teammate Greg and he says Phil has a spare wheel in the car.  I throw the wheel on quickly glancing at the cassette hoping that it might be a 25…no such luck- it is a 23 and there is no time to switch to my 27!  This race just got a whole lot harder!

I get back over to the start line and take a few deep breaths to try and calm myself down. “BANG” The gun goes off.  Tom Danielson, Phil Wong, Drew Miller, and Genevieve Jeanson take off.  I let them go as my plan was to go a little more conservative in the first half as I overcooked the first 3 miles of the practice ride. After the first mile Scott Fiore comes by me and I get on his wheel. We pull back Miller by mile 1.5 but the other 3 are quickly pulling away from us.  I was glad to have a wheel to stick on as the first 2 miles were pretty rough; at times I was struggling to stay on Scott’s wheel. By mile 3 I start to feel a little better and I pull by Scott to take over the pace work.  He sticks on my wheel for the next mile but by mile 4 I have started to put a gap on him.  Mile 4 is also our first western exposure as we come through the tree line the wind starts to pick up!  As if this climb is not hard enough, now we have to deal with the wind!  The next 400yards are tough with a full western exposure on our faces.  I estimate the winds are blowing 15 to 20 at this point. I continue on and for the next mile the winds are not an issue as we are protected by the face of the mountain.

As I come through mile 5.5 I am greeted by a blast of wind, fog, and rain.  Conditions just went from bad to UGLY! The winds are now blowing 30-40 mph but they are now more of a side/head wind! Visibility is about 30 feet, and taking your hands off the handlebars to grab some water was not an option!  With the wind and my 23 I am really starting to bog down.  I am having trouble getting my heart rate up and I begin to think this climb is never going to end. I hit mile 7 and the weather has continued to get worse.  Winds are blowing 50mph and I can barely see anything in front of me now.  Keeping the bike tracking straight is really an issue.  I hit the 22% grade at the finish and my legs are about to explode.  I can feel my rear tire slipping on the super slick pavement, but I make it to the top and finish.  What an incredible ride!

Conditions at the top are CRAZY.  Within a minute of stopping I am freezing cold.  It had to be 45 degrees up there!  Crystal runs over and gives me some warm dry clothes to put on.  I finished in a time of 1:01:40 and was 4th place overall.  I was the 3rd Male so I made the podium presentation at the bottom!

My podium shot with Tom Danielson!
My podium shot with Tom Danielson (center)!
22% On a Really Bad Day!
22% On a Really Bad Day!
22% On a Nice Day
22% On a Nice Day

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2003 Mt. Ascutney Hill Climb

This past weekend the team headed to Massachusetts for the Tour of the Hilltowns Road Race. It is a straight shot down I91, so I decided to head down a day early and do the Mt Ascutney hill climb on Saturday. It would serve as a good warm-up for both Sunday’s race and Mt Washington in a few weeks. I had never done Ascutney, but I figured it could not be any worse than my Mt. Washington ride the week before!

Ascutney is a beast of a climb rising 2200 feet in only 3.7 miles. I went off in the lead group and after the first half mile I had opened up a gap. By the time I got to the first mile marker I was out of sight. I felt good and continued to power up the climb in my 30×25 gearing. I won with a time of 25:43! I found out later on in the day that the record was set last year at 25:29….now I know what to shoot for next year.

Mt. Ascutney State Park Bike Climb
                        Bicycle Hillclimb - 3.7 MI.
  July 26, 2003     Mt. Ascutney State Park Auto Road     Brownsville, VT
          Timing By: Granite State Race Services
PLACE DIV/TOT  DIV   TIME    RATE NAME                   AG S RACE# CITY/STATE              SPE
===== ======== ===== ======= ==== ====================== == = ===== ======================= ===
    1   1/16   M2034   25:43   8.6 Andrew Knight          25 M   375 South Burlington VT
    2   2/16   M2034   28:01   7.9 Kurt Hackler           26 M   348 Bolton MA
    3   1/45   M3544   29:14   7.6 Matt Seaton            38 M   477 Belmont MA
    4   2/45   M3544   29:21   7.6 Rojean Boivin          36 M   309 L'ancienne-Lorette PQ
    5   3/45   M3544   29:54   7.4 Doug Jansen            40 M   365 Pelham NH
    6   1/30   M4554   30:00   7.4 Virgil Luca            45 M   383 St Leonard PQ
    7   4/45   M3544   30:24   7.3 Kevin Bessett          37 M   306 Williston VT
    8   3/16   M2034   30:57   7.2 Gregg Ferraris         25 M   338 Southington CT
    9   5/45   M3544   31:00   7.2 Keith Guinta           40 M   347 Fairfield CT
   10   4/16   M2034   31:06   7.1 Edgardo Torres         29 M   447 Norwalk CT
   11   6/45   M3544   32:01   6.9 Brett Rutledge         41 M   428 Westboro MA
   12   5/16   M2034   32:09   6.9 Hunter Pronovost       25 M   419 Cheshire CT
   13   6/16   M2034   32:23   6.9 Samuel Wheeler-Marteni 32 M   461 Belmont MA
   14   7/45   M3544   32:27   6.8 Bob Miller             44 M   395 Norwich VT
   15   2/30   M4554   32:30   6.8 Jack Hutchinson        54 M   364 Deerfield NH
   16   8/45   M3544   32:34   6.8 Richard Powell         43 M   416 Hanover NH
   17   9/45   M3544   32:57   6.7 Rich Marquardt         37 M   388 Henniker NH
   18   1/8    M0119   33:10   6.7 Josh Typrowicz-Cohen   17 M   452 Norwich VT
   19  10/45   M3544   33:15   6.7 Dennis Oconnor         42 M   402 Orford NH
   20  11/45   M3544   33:18   6.7 Charles Foley          40 M   340 Glastonbury CT
   21   1/15   M5564   33:34   6.6 Bob Bortree            56 M   311 Stowe VT
   22  12/45   M3544   33:48   6.6 Paul Charron           36 M   320 Essex Junction VT
   23   3/30   M4554   33:50   6.6 Roger Costales         48 M   325 S. Burlington VT
   24   7/16   M2034   33:53   6.6 David Day              33 M   329 Antrim NH
   25  13/45   M3544   33:58   6.5 Daniel Doherty         41 M   332 Ctr. Conway NH
   26   4/30   M4554   34:00   6.5 Robert Tobia           45 M   479 Peru VT
   27   5/30   M4554   34:04   6.5 Kevin Haley            45 M   349 Vernon NJ
   28  14/45   M3544   34:14   6.5 Eric Brandhorst        41 M   313 Carlisle MA
   29   6/30   M4554   34:14   6.5 Fish Frusciante        52 M   342 Epping NH
   30   7/30   M4554   34:33   6.4 Jim Odorisio           46 M   404 Chittenden VT
   31   8/30   M4554   34:43   6.4 Steve Lavoie           46 M   470 Loudon NH
   32  15/45   M3544   34:53   6.4 Andrew Watson          35 M   459 South Deerfield MA
   33   9/30   M4554   34:54   6.4 Lloyd Crawford         50 M   326 Hawley MA
   34  10/30   M4554   35:23   6.3 Ry Perry               53 M   411 Contoocook NH
   35  16/45   M3544   35:25   6.3 Robert Swinburne       35 M   442 Brattleboro VT
   36                  35:49   6.2 Dale Apgar                M   482 Hanover NH              CLY
   37  17/45   M3544   35:52   6.2 Bob Zock               35 M   466 Sutton NH
   38                  36:14   6.1 Jay Prewitt                   417 Portsmouth              TAN
   39                  36:19   6.1 Anne Marie Prewitt            418 Portsmouth              TAN
   40  11/30   M4554   36:26   6.1 Jim Arnold                M   302 Cornwall VT             CLY
   41  18/45   M3544   36:44   6.0 Steve Vosburgh         39 M   458 Jackson NH
   42   8/16   M2034   36:47   6.0 Neil Favreau           34 M   337 East Burke VT
   43   1/7    F3544   36:58   6.0 Dominique Codere       44 F   324 Mt. Royal PQ
   44   2/7    F3544   37:05   6.0 Heather Mckendry       38 F   391 Eaton NH
   45  19/45   M3544   37:08   6.0 John Murphy            40 M   398 West Hartford CT
   46   2/15   M5564   37:09   6.0 Rol Hesselbart         57 M   358 Heath MA
   47  20/45   M3544   37:30   5.9 Clayton Dennis         41 M   330 Westport MA
   48   2/8    M0119   37:30   5.9 Nicholas Crawford      16 M   327 Hawley MA
   49  12/30   M4554   37:36   5.9 Joseph Bracchitta      45 M   312 Greenwich CT
   50   3/15   M5564   37:39   5.9 Ken Peterson           59 M   412 North Brookfield MA
Record 25:29 by Alan Obye in 2002.
   7/26/2003 12:20AM

Full Results