PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. – Same storyline. Different year.
Massachusetts bicycle racing standouts Cameron Cogburn and Marti Shea are once again defending champions in Newton’s Revenge, an arduous 7.6-mile bicycle race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road to the 6,288-foot summit of the highest peak in the Northeast.
Cogburn, 29 of Cambridge, and Shea, 52 of Marblehead and a former All American runner out of Boston University, are both undefeated in their Newton’s Revenge trips up the Auto Road.
The challenge now is to keep those perfect records intact in the 10th Newton’s Revenge on Saturday, July 11. The race begins at 8:40 a.m.
Shea and Cogburn both rode to impressive wins in the race last July. For Shea, it was her seventh Newton’s Revenge win and for Cogburn his second.
Newton’s Revenge is the first of two bicycle races up the Mt. Washington Auto Road each summer. The 43rd Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, a fundraiser for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, N.H., is set for Saturday, Aug. 15.
The newer race was added to the schedule to accommodate racers who were not able to gain entry to the Hillclimb, which traditionally fills up quickly. The field for both races is capped at about 635 riders. There are still spots available for Newton’s Revenge for this year. Registration and information are available at /
Cogburn and Shea are big fans of the races up the Auto Road and have entered both races again this year. Cogburn, though, says he is riding more for fun than competitively this year and will not make a final decision on whether to race in Newton’s until the days before the event.
Shea has four Hillclimb wins, including last year’s, to her credit. Cogburn won the first two Hillclimbs he entered and finished runnerup to John Kronborg Ebsen of Denmark last year.
“It’s in a league of its own,” Cogburn says of the rugged ride to the top of the mountain and its unpredictable and sometimes nasty weather. “Definitely, there’s nothing like it. It’s basically as pure an athletic race as it gets, I think. . . . I would say it’s the hardest hour, or however long it takes you to go up it, possible. From a racing perspective, it’s perhaps the quintessential climb. It’s so steep and long. If you go over your limit, you can crack.”
Cogburn overcame a tough start to turn in a time of 53 minutes, 12 seconds in his Newton’s Revenge win last year.
He had hoped to take a run at the bicycle race record for the mountain (it’s 49:24 and was set by Tom Danielson of Connecticut in 2002 and can be broken in either race) but those plans were dashed when the chain fell off his bike sprocket in the first mile. Several riders passed him while he fixed his chain and then he gave chase.
Cogburn caught them all and finished 56 seconds ahead of Eric Follen of Sanford, Maine. Cogburn’s best time on the mountain is a 50:48 he posted while winning the 2013 Hillclimb.
Shea, who previously raced out of Manchester, N.H., 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.
If severe weather makes the course unmanageable on race day for either Newton’s Revenge or the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, the weather postponement date for each race is the next day: Sunday, July 12 for Newton’s Revenge and Sunday, Aug. 16 for the Hillclimb.
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. On-line registration for Newton’s Revenge closes on Thursday, July 9 at 5 p.m. On-site registration is available for last-minute entrants on Friday, July 10, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Mt. Washington Auto Road.
Seasoned Mt. Washington veteran Jonah Thompson of Albuquerque, N.M., will be one of the younger entrants in both races this summer. Now 16, Thompson was nine years old the first time he competed in this race. Thompson finished last year’s Newton’s Revenge in 1:09:25, placing 17th overall.
Bicycle racing began on Mt. Washington in 1973 with the Mount Washington Invitational Hillclimb sanctioned by the Amateur Bicycle League of America. In 2006, responding to the excess demand for entry to the Hillclimb, the Mt. Washington Auto Road company created Newton’s Revenge as an additional bike race on the same course.
In 2007, the Mt. Washington Auto Road management and race organizers were forced to cancel that year’s Newton’s Revenge because of horrible weather. Fog, severe winds gusting to 72 mph. and temperatures hovering around freezing hammered the mountain on race day morning, and the following day’s weather was just as bad. Nearly identical conditions the weekend of the Hillclimb that year canceled that race as well. Since then, both races have taken place as scheduled.
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.