Location: New Hampshire
Distance: 7.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 6288ft
There are a number of Mount Washington’s on the East Coast. but only one lays claim to the highest peak in the NorthEast, and that is “The Rock Pile” in N.H.
Described as “the toughest hillclimbs in the world” the Auto Road Hill Climb had been a goal of mine for some time so after a good season of racing I woke up at 8am on a cold Sunday in February to join the registration rush for the following August’s event (online registration usually fills up within the first half hour of being posted!).
After reading the forums and adding some special training to my schedule I made a few adjustments to my bike to prepare for Mt. Washington. I, like many others, may not have properly respected the “hors categorie” rating of the beast and thought I could get away with a modest 30-25 chainring combo. After all, it was “only” a 7.6 mile course up a hill…
As soon as we hit the first slope it became clear to me that I had made a mistake. 🙂 In the Garmin charts below you can see what a drag it is being overgeared.
Unlike most mountain roads that undulate and give you opportunities to recover between efforts, Mt. Washington is maniacally consistent from bottom to top. This means you have to find creative ways to prevent redlining or popping. I, rather surprisingly, found myself slowing down slightly and recovering while pedaling out of the saddle on the 18% sections.
The course itself is amazing, and the fans made it feel like a stage race at the ‘Tour. There are groups of them on the switchbacks cheering and many who drove up before the race wrote messages on the road in chalk.
You are greeted at the top with a blanket, a medal and a bottle of water. Once you catch your breath you can wander around the top and enjoy the view and the clouds blowing by between your feet (literally).
This race isn’t *long* but it is difficult on an epic scale and like a marathon or triathlon it is a race you enter to finish, not to win. Though I missed the cutoff time for the “top notch” category by 3 minutes, largely due to the gearing misjudgment, I have no regrets and will return.
For more information on the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hill Climb visit the official site: mtwashingtonbicyclehillclimb.org
northeastcycling.com has great analysis of all of the great climbs in the area including a comparison of Mt. Washington vs. the other great climbs around the world.