Mt. Washington Auto Road
America's oldest and continuously-operating attraction
August 17, 2019 -- 8:30 a.m.
- Hardcore cyclists prepare for Saturday’s all-uphill grind
- Sydlik is women’s favorite
- Follen, Levinsohn top men’s field
- Last-minute entries accepted
Pinkham Notch, N.H., August 13, 2019 -- for immediate release
This Saturday in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, more than 400 cyclists will test themselves in the 47th annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, the all-uphill bike race that professional riders have called as difficult as the most challenging climbs in the Tour de France. Any well-trained cyclist wishing to compete in the race to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, but not already registered for it, can still sign up at www.bikereg.com/mwarbh. Starting time Saturday is 8:30 a.m.
A 7.6-mile ascent of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, the Hillclimb attracts hardcore amateur cyclists, aspiring professional riders, mountain bikers, triathletes, extreme sports enthusiasts and other cyclists with strong legs and determination. Among the elite riders in the field, the favorite on the women’s side is Stefanie Sydlik, 34, of Pittsburgh, Pa. The male rider likeliest to reach Mt. Washington’s summit first is either Eric Follen, 45, of Sanford, Maine, or Erik Levinsohn, 29, from Boston, with a possible challenge from John Jantz, 28, of Arlington, Mass.
Sydlik, Follen, Levinsohn and Jantz are Category 1 riders, which means they hold the highest certified ranking among all licensed amateur competitors in cycling. Sydlik, who competed in college at M.I.T. and earned a PhD in organic chemistry, has been the runner-up in this race three times, including each of the past two years. In the absence of Aimee Vasse, a former professional rider who won in 2017 and 2018, Sydlik can claim the most experience and the fastest previous Mt. Washington time (one hour and six minutes) of any woman in this year’s Hillclimb.
Follen is in a similar position, having finished as runner-up in each of his previous years to Eneas Freyre, who is not entered in this year’s Hillclimb. In 2015 Follen clocked a time of exactly 54 minutes, and he nearly matched that in 2016, when he finished in 54:30.
Those times would have been fast enough to win the Hillclimb in many years, and a similar time this year may ensure a victory. Much depends, however, on how Levinsohn can improve upon his time in the 2018 Hillclimb, when he placed third in 56:03. Jantz, who took fourth last year in 56:43, is also likely to ride at or near the front.
Other threats in the men’s race are last year’s runner-up 21-year-old Drake Deuel, from Cambridge, Mass., who beat Follen in June in the Purgatory Road Race in Sutton, Mass., and Jeremy Rae, 28, from Toronto, Ontario, a former all-American track star at Notre Dame who is making his Mt. Washington debut this year.
The first male and female finishers will each win $1500, with $750 for the second- and $500 for the third-place finishers.
The Auto Road’s steep grade – an average of 12 percent, rising to 22 percent at the finish – and Mt. Washington’s unpredictable weather have given this race its reputation as one of the toughest sports events in the world. The race starts at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road, off New Hampshire Route 16, and finishes at the mountain’s summit, 6288 feet above sea level and 4650 feet above the starting line. Riders depart in five waves, beginning at 8:30 with the TopNotch, or elite, group and continuing at five-minute intervals in groups sorted by age.
Spectators can hike up the mountain before the start or may buy tickets to ride to the summit in one of the Auto Road stages.
The Hillclimb is the main annual fundraising event for the non-profit Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which provides environmental and recreational education for children, schools and families in communities in the White Mountains and the Mt. Washington Valley. The standard entry fee is $350. For most riders, all but $25 of that amount is a tax-deductible charitable donation. For elite riders in the race’s TopNotch category, the tax-deductible amount is $200.