PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. – Marti Shea kept thinking, kept hoping, that her balky right knee was going to come around in time to let her chase down yet another bicycle racing championship up the vaunted and grueling 7.6-mile Mt. Washington Auto Road.
It did not.
As a result, Shea, who grew up in Manchester, N.H., and lives in Marblehead, Mass., this week reluctantly withdrew from the Newton’s Revenge race at Mt. Washington this Saturday and at the same time announced that her competitive cycling days had come to an end.
A former All American runner at Boston University, Shea, 52, has dominated Newton’s Revenge and with her on the sidelines and mountainside – she will be cheering on all racers and especially a handful of riders that she coaches – first place for women is up for grabs.
The same holds on the men’s side. Defending champion and two-time winner Cameron Cogburn of Cambridge, Mass., has not been racing competitively this season and has decided not to enter the race.
This is the 10th edition of Newton’s Revenge and Shea has raced in seven of the previous nine and has won each time she entered. She also has won four Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimbs. The Hillclimb is an older, companion race to Newton’s and will be run for the 43rd time on Aug. 15.
Newton’s was added to the Auto Road’s schedule of events to give racers who were shut out of the popular Hillclimb a chance to compete.
There are still spots available for Saturday’s Newton’s Revenge, which begins at 8:40 a.m. Online registration closed on Thursday at 5 p.m., but onsite registration is available on Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Auto Road. More information is available at /
Shea, who won last year’s Newton’s race, has been dealing for years with arthritis and knee issues that finally knocked her out of the race.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “Actually, I’ve beaten the odds for a lot of years. I injured my knee in my 30s windsurfing and snowboarding while taking a couple of bad crashes. I had one surgery years ago and the doctor said it was a matter of time and how I wanted to spend my time and how I wanted to spend my knee.”
She chose competitive cycling, which was more forgiving than running and some of her other passions.
“It was just road biking the last six years or so,” Shea said. “Now I can’t train at the level I need to train at to be real competitive and I don’t want to be a participant. I don’t want to be one of those athletes that doesn’t know when to quit. I have so much to be thankful for. Now I have to go to the doctors and take care of my knee and now is the right time to let the competition go.”
Episodes of severe pain in her knee several times over the last couple of months backed up the decision.
Shea won last year’s Newton’s Revenge in 1:05:53, more than six minutes ahead of her closest challenger, Silke Wunderwald of Hopkinton, R.I.
Shea won the Hillclimb three straight years from 2010 to 2012 and did not compete in the race in 2013. In her 2012 Hillclimb victory, she put up her best time – and the second best of any woman ever on the mountain, 1:03:14. Jeannie Longo of France holds the women’s record of 58:14, which she set in 2000.
Among the men looking to contend for the title Saturday are Chris Yura, 36, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Erik Vandendries, 50, of Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Cogburn won Newton’s last year in a time of 53:12. Yura was fourth in 58;25 and Vandendries was fifth in 1:02:31. Vandendries and Yura switched order in the Hillclimb in August. Vandendries was 11th in 1:01:54 and Yura was 12th in 1:02:08.
If severe weather forces postponement of Saturday’s race, it will be held on Sunday.
The entry fee for Newton’s Revenge is $300, of which a portion supports the activities of the Mt. Washington Valley Bicycling Club. Riders who are already registered for the Hillclimb may enter Newton’s Revenge for $150.
Bicycle racing began on Mt. Washington in 1973 with the Mount Washington Invitational Hillclimb sanctioned by the Amateur Bicycle League of America.
The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb and Newton’s Revenge are two of ten events in the Bike Up the Mountain Point Series, familiarly known as B.U.M.P.S. The series includes Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts and Whiteface Mountain in New York State, and other uphill races. For further information see www.hillclimbseries.com.