If anyone can explain what’s its like to compete in the 7.6-mile Newton’s Revenge bicycle race up the Mount Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch, it is six-time champion and Manchester native Marti Shea.
“Having raced the course and knowing what to expect is a huge advantage for me,” said Shea as she looked to stretch her unbeaten streak to seven wins in the eighth annual race, set for Saturday at 8:40 a.m.
Shea has won the race all six times she has entered. Included in those races is a record-breaking women’s time of 1 hour, four minutes, 12 seconds in 2011. In the Mount Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb — the sibling race to Newton’s Revenge, run on the same course every August — Shea has won three times, including a course record 1:03:14 in 2012.
Now a resident of Marblehead, Mass., Shea is the only biker to win both races in the same year three times and she did it consecutively (2010-12).
Coaching and bicycle tour guiding duties in Europe kept Shea away from the Mount Washington races in 2013. Shea entered both races this year and she’s looking to add more titles to her impressive resume.
“Winning my 10th overall race at Mount Washington would be so cool,” said Shea. “To be from New Hampshire is a big reason I keep coming back. This is where I’m from, this is my home state, my territory. Going all the way back to my high school days (Manchester Memorial) and remembering coaches like Jim Stevenson and Doug Glance, it means something to me when they can see what I’ve accomplished. Because they, along with my parents and others had a great impact on my life at an early age.”
Shea said there’s no blueprint on how to win the race.
“The strategy is different for everyone,” she said. “Some people like to go on a steady pace and some want to go harder. There are even some who start easy through the first half of the race and suddenly go harder in the second half. There’s no single right answer to what strategy works the best.”
Shea said her plan of attack is a simple one. “I race as hard as I can from start to finish,” she said. “In all honesty, I don’t really care if I’m racing against someone or if I’m far ahead of the pack. I know what my capability is, so I just concentrate on my splits and it’s me against the clock to the finish line.”
In 2011, Shea won both the Newton’s Revenge and Hillclimb races with the same time: 1:04:12. “That was absolutely bizarre,” said Shea with a laugh. “I mean how many times does that happen when you win both races and finish with the same times? I mean, right down to the final second. I still find that hard to believe.”
Shea called the course “unforgiving.”
“I mean you can’t stop peddling just to catch your breathe,” she said. “If you break your stride or fall off your bike, you’re in trouble if your goal is to win the race.”
What is amazing about Shea is, at age 51, she believes she can beat her own course record this year.
“When I recorded that 63:14 time, I celebrated early,” she said. “I just didn’t feel like pushing myself that day to the finish line. So as long as it’s not a windy day — which is tough to compete against because it can affect your time and power — I really believe I can record a faster time. For me, it’s improving each year and I never set limitations on myself. I have to go over the edge if I want a faster time. That’s just the way I am.”
Winning nine overall titles could be a mark nobody reaches for a long time.
“I’m proud of it because I work hard at it. One year, I was a couple of hundred yards away from winning the race when my bike chain broke. I literally ran to the finish line with my bike and won the race.”
Shea is the daughter of longtime Ward 7 Alderman William Shea of Manchester and she has a picture posted on her Facebook page of her dad’s reaction after she won the 2010 Newton’s Revenge race.
“It’s a picture of him with his arms over his head celebrating the moment, it’s really priceless,” said Shea. “They’re coming to support me Saturday and that really means a lot. I love my parents and having them there just makes me want to win the race more for them and my entire family.”