By courtesy Mount Washington Hill Climb
The race billed as ‘an extreme sporting event before there were extreme sports’, the Audi Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimb, was held Sunday in unusually fair weather conditions – particularly for the mountain known by Native Americans as “the home of the storm.” While neither the men’s nor women’s records fell, both divisions found themselves worthy winners, as Saturn pro Tim Johnson and first-year racer Karen Bockel (Gatorade/Olbas) emerged victorious in the 7.6-mile, 12 percent average grade event.
The men’s race was over nearly before it started, as Johnson put into practice lessons learned in last year’s race.
“I remembered that, last year, Scottie Weiss was with me right up until the final mile or so, and I was a little nervous about that,” said Johnson. “So this time, I went hard from the gun, and was pretty much by myself from about a mile in.” By himself, indeed. Johnson was never challenged, and ended up finishing with a sterling time of 53:31, nearly four and a half minutes ahead of runner-up Greg Ruckman. The battle for the other podium spots, however, was far more intense: Ruckman and Weiss were together till the final 100 meters or so, when Ruckman managed to pull away for second, just three seconds up on Weiss. Greg Sieniewicz (Ready Pac-Knapps) and Jesse Anthony (Saturn Developmental) rounded out the top five.
The women’s race, on the other hand, was nowhere near as clear-cut. Without defending champion Jeannie Longo and Canadian phenom Genevieve Jeanson in the field, it was unclear as to who would be the next woman to claim the Mount Washington title: 1997 Mount Washington winner Marilyn Ruseckas, recent Mount Evans winner Karen Bockel, pro mountain biker Kerry Barnholt … or maybe even Wheelworks/IF’s Aimee Vasse, who led for much of the race. While not quite as leg-breaking a tempo as that set by Longo or Jeanson last year, Vasse’s efforts were enough to whittle the competition down to just one other rider: Gatorade/Olbas’ Bockel.
Bockel explained what happened next: “I was a little worried, because it took all I had to stay with her on some of the steep sections. But then, when it flattened out just a little in the final three-quarters of a mile, I attacked and managed to get a gap.”
That gap increased to 34 seconds over Vasse by the finish, where Bockel crossed the line at 1:09:20. Paula McNamara (VeriZon Wireless) was third, with Barnholt and Ruseckas placing fourth and fifth, respectively.
1. Tim Johnson, Saturn, 53:31; 2. Greg Ruckman, unattached, at 4:25; 3. Scottie Weiss, Zaxby’s, at 4:28;
1. Karen Bockel (G), Gatorade/Olbas, 1:09:20; 2. Aimee Vasse, Wheelworks/IF, at 0:34; 3. Paula McNamara, VeriZon, at 2:43.