Newton's Revenge will draw a crowd
Close to 200 cyclists have registered for Saturday's annual Newton's Revenge, the first of two 7.6-mile bike races held each summer at the Mount Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch.
The race will start in Gorham in four waves, beginning at 8:40 a.m. with the elite cyclists. After they depart from the starting line, five-minute intervals with three successive age groups will follow suit up to the 6,288-foot summit.
One of the organizers of the race, John Stifler, explained that Newton's Revenge is an extension of the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, which will be held Saturday, Aug. 17.
"The Hillclimb can accommodate a maximum of 600 cyclists," said Stifler. "Once that event is filled, we begin registration for Newton's Revenge for many more of those cyclists who weren't able to register for the Hillclimb. We also encourage cyclists to register for both races. Because the distance is the same for both races, any record set at either race is the official record."
As of Thursday, Stifler said 188 cyclists, two tandem teams and one unicyclist are registered for Newton's Revenge.
There will be a new men's champion Saturday. Last year's winner, Cameron Cogburn of Cambridge, Mass. (55:59), will not be back to defend his title.
"It's my understanding he is focusing on his graduate work at MIT," said Stifler. Tim Tapply of Sherborn, Mass., who was runner-up last year (58:59), and third-place finisher Chris Yura of Bryn Mawr, Pa. (1:02:46), are back and considered the co-favorites.
"Both are always in the top five," said Stifler. "I would also throw in Tim Ahearn, who is another terrific cyclist." Ahearn is from Woodstock, Conn.
The men's course record belongs to Connecticut native Tom Danielson, who set the mark (49:24) in 2002 in the Hillclimb. In 2010 Danielson won Newton's Revenge and nearly broke his own record, finishing in 49:32.
Stifler wasn't sure if six-time Newton's Revenge winner, 49-year-old Marti Shea, a graduate of Manchester Memorial and Boston University who resides in Marblehead, Mass., would be in the field Saturday.
"She is registered to race Saturday, but it's my understanding she was recently in Italy and has other commitments planned around this weekend," said Stifler. "Marti has won every Newton's Revenge race we've held it since 2006, excluding 2007 when the race was canceled because of the weather."
Shea's fastest time at Newton's Revenge was recorded in 2011 (1:04.12), but she eclipsed that mark last season in the Hillclimb at 1:03.14. The women's course record belongs to Jeannie Longo of France (58:14) set in 2000 in the Hillclimb.
"If Marti doesn't compete, then the women's title is up for grabs," said Stifler.
Paula Brunetto of West Cornwall, Conn., the only female back who placed in the top 50 last year (44th overall, 1:19.00), surfaces as a leading contender to the title.
Another cyclist to watch is 27-year-old Lea Davison of Jericho, Vt., a 2005 graduate of Middlebury College, who is a five-time mountain biking national champion.
Stifler said 13-year-old Jonah Thompson of Albuquerque, N.M. will make his sixth straight appearance in the race Saturday.
"Jonah is perhaps the greatest bicyclist in America under the age of 15," said Stifler. "He rides all over the country, has his own sponsors and is the real deal. He works hard in cycling and because he doesn't weigh that much, he had an advantage biking to the summit. He will beat 75 percent of the adult cyclists on Saturday."
Last year in Newton's Revenge, Thompson placed 38th in a field of 201 in 1:18:21.
Temperatures at the starting line Saturday will range around 70 degrees and drop off to 40 at the finish line.
"Hot weather is not as bad for cyclists as it is for runners," said Stifler. "With everything being equal, cooler temperatures are better than warmer. Outside of what the competitors can control, the top priority for the cyclists on Saturday will be the wind. It's always a factor."