Wicked Mountains

Hampshire 100/Mt Washington Auto Road Hill Climb “King of the Mountains Double Dare”

My resolution post Pro XCT was to “put the mountain back into mountain biking”.  I had a blast and wrapped up the national series with 3 wins 10 podium finishes and 2nd over all For sure that was a lot of laps and I was jones’n to get out and do some scary stuff on some deep trails.

As I planned the double trouble weekend that bordered on absurd.  I said to myself “Tinker did it last year.” Should’a thought about that one a bit…  Ha ha ha.

Saturday was the 40th annually Mt Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb. A race steeped in legend and lore. It is so hard to get into that someone has to die for a spot to open up and the weather at the top is among the worst weather in the World. Winds exceeding huricane force take place on this mountain an average of 110 days out of the year! http://zielonko.org/bike/new_england/mtwash.htm

I thought to myself pre trip yeah yeah; I know it’s a steep road and what not.  I went with a gear easier than normal 34 with a 12-28 on my 12 pound Cannondale Super 6 EVO. This was however like going to fish for jaws in the little dingy they use in the movie.   BAD IDEA.

Because the road is closed to riders 363 days of the year and I arrived the night before it was going to be a “surprise” to see what’s up there. Yep it was a surprise alright.  Clouds flying at you like fuzzy parade floats at 45 miles an hour. You even brace for impact and then just every thing goes fuzz for a second. The back to blue it’s kind of strange while in an anerobic trance.

Prior to the race I bet friend /coaching client and climbing specialist Cameron Cogburn that I could take him in the double.   He rocked a 4th at Leadville last weekend and has the second best time on Mt Washington ever recorded so I knew it would be good.  We agreed on percent based formula for our bet.

The gun went off and we quicky ground to a near hault on the first 14% pitch.

I realized quickly the legs I had hoped for where still in my checked bag, I suffered hard after the first couple thousand feet of ascent.

Cameron set off in pursuit of Tom Danielsons record.   I set to a hard pace and was moving pretty good for my lack of specific prep.  The first incline was very steep and had mean pitches relegating me to for the rest of the climbing into low back twisting 55 -65 cadence.

I took in the jaw dropping scenery as we approached treeline realizing I was getting 3rd and that was that.  Switchbacks twisted like intestines of some mythic beast…then  the road gave way to packed wet sand.  Dripping in sweat from the intense effort we rounded a exposed switch back and it was like someone opened a door to and arctic wind storm. 45 mile an hour 45 degree gust and I was chilled to the bone in an instant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Washington_(New_Hampshire)

I remembered the wind whisle thru the spokes and the intense pain in both feet.  Some spectators in costum yelled “almost there”!!    expecting to see the top I saw a tower sticking out of a cloud another 1,400 feet vertical feet above..  “o damn”  I paced myself so I wouldn’t fall over in the final 24 percent corkscrew. The crowd was going nuts, it was pretty sick, like a mountain top finish in the Tour.

I crossed the line after 44 minutes and it was like an arctic weather station triage zone! Fans yelling and people wrapped like refuges in complimentary blankets, the wind was raging in the thin air. Would I do it again? yes but with a massive gear swap and after a month of Jenny Craig! Cameron won and was 3+ minutes ahead so I had some work to do! Based off the precent formula I would need to win by almost 20 minutes a near impossible feat.

Mt Washington snow zone

200 miles south in the rolling green mountains of New Hampshire riders were gear up for the Hampshire 100 a test of grit  and single track fortitude.  But we where still a 3 hour drive from the race. I was nervous about having not raced longer than 3 hrs this year and more so because my huge gear workout blasted my muscles to a cramped spaghetti.

6:45 came way too early we set off with the lead group and played it as efficiently as possible. A lead group formed and luckily it was flat for a while letting me wake up my legs. I managed to ride a super steep power line climb and used the technical single track as a wedge to pressure the other riders. It seemed only Christian could follow in this stuff and I vowed to fight for this one having had a bad day yesterday. It was all or nothing.

I pushed hard to open a gap at mile 55 and got a minute gap after pushing an impossible to hold pace.  I decided to make a break for it a really long break!   On the rail trail sections I imagined my chasers working together to close down on my narrow 2 min lead.  Pushing while my legs were still good was the plan get a gap “if I fade out Ill just try to hold on”

Some how and I have no good reason for it other than it was my day… my motor turned full diesel and I could drive the big ring for much of the last 25 miles! I had one hell of a second wind and remembered the race that crushed me last year.

Remembering the bet I had made with Cameron Cogburn the day before that I could take him in the diabolical double.  Last I heard Christian Tanguy was 10 minutes back and Cam in 3rd.   I need 20 minutes to claim the game so I was in full tt mode!   Well; Camerons freehub blew while he was in 3rd a few minutes back, I had no clue so I just put it to the maximum.  We agreed to a re match at the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.

I won by the largest margin I have ever won any race by almost 17 minutes!
I can’t forget the thrill of racing the lead moto down a couple of the sweeping final single tracks and pinning it xc style sliding the turns and going for seconds, It was sweet awesomeness.

16,000 ft of climbing in a weekend within only 8 hrs and 107 miles the big mountain adventure is BACK!  Next stop Shenandoah 100!


Thanks to Team Sho-Air/Cannondale for the bikes and support; Arnie Mostowy and Tom Barton for support on site and Goodales Bike Shop for the bike build!
http://www.northeastcycling.com/Hillclimb_Races.html for those looking for all the dirt on the north east hill climbs.


Strava from the Hampshire 100 – not big climbs but plenty of roots, single-track and deep forest.


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