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August 18. 2012 9:54PM

Shea is queen of the mountain once again


For the third year in a row, Marti Shea of Marblehead, Mass., won the women's division of the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. (Dennis Coughlin photo)

GORHAM — The most successful women's mountain cyclist in Mount Washington history, Marti Shea, is now the second fastest.

A Manchester native, Shea, 49, now of Marblehead, Mass., turned in a personal best performance of 1:03:14 and won her third consecutive Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimb here Saturday.

Shea, a standout athlete at Manchester Memorial High School and a former all-America distance runner at Boston University, is also the only women's winner the Newton's Revenge competition, staged here annually in July, has ever known. She now has nine bicycle triumphs over the 7.6-mile Auto Road to the mountain's 6,288-foot summit. Shea's Saturday time was second only to the 58:14 turned in by course record holder Jeannie Longo in 2000.

Times were quick in the men's field as well, as 2012 Revenge winner Cameron Cogburn, 26, of Cambridge, Mass., became the first male to sweep the summer races on the mountain and the second fastest man ever, winning in 52:28.

Tom Danielson, of East Lyme, Conn., is the lone male who has pedaled quicker. His course record of 49:24, set in 2002, is one of three faster times that he has posted.

The race featured seven different cyclists completing the steepest mountain bicycle hillclimb in the world in under one hour.

Leroy Popowski, 37, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was second in 53:47 and Peter Hurst, who started in the second wave, finished third in 54:03.

Race results coolrunning.com.

New Hampshire's top male finisher was 17-year-old Chad Young of Newmarket whose bid to finish under one hour was denied by two seconds. He was eighth.

Weather conditions were ideal as a slight breeze barely stirred the 45 degree summit temperature.

Shea's victory tied her with Michigan's Amiee Vasse, who also has won three times. The all-time winningest rider in Hillclimb history is Tyler Hamilton with four. Though he retains his victories, his times have been disallowed because of revelations of the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Shea generally rides alone during a race, saying that Mount Washington is more of a time trial and it's vital to ride your own race at your own pace. But that was not the case, Saturday. She and Erik Vandendries (16th, 1:02:52) rode together for most of the race.

“Erik was sitting on my wheel the first half of the race and I was on his the second half,” Shea said. “We are pretty similar in style and strength, and I knew if I could hang with him, I'd have a PR (personal record). The lack of wind was the big thing. It's usually windy and cold, or there's no wind and it's too hot. Today was ideal.”

Shea, who has won all seven races in the Bike Up the Mountains Series (B.U.M.P.S.) this season, trimmed nearly a full minute off her best-ever Mount Washington time.

Cogburn, meanwhile, used a patient start and a constant pace to secure his second victory of the summer here.

Popowski, who made his first appearance at Mount Washington, and three-time U.S. Mountain Bike champion “Tinker” Juarez, 51, Whittier, Calif., led the field through three miles. But at the top of Quarter Mile Straight, 21 minutes into the race, Cogburn took control.

He led by 100 meters at 4,000 feet, 50 seconds at Cragway Turn (4,700 feet) and more than a minute at Hairpin Turn (5,500 feet).

“Those guys went out super hard,” said the race winner. “I just smiled to myself. I knew they couldn't hold it (the pace). I tried to stay calm. I was comfortable. My advantage was the July race. I stood a lot and strained my back then. I didn't stand today.”

Cogburn considers himself a bonefide threat to Danielson's course record.

“I just go really hard,” he said. “If I can do it in training, I can do it in the race. My goal is to break the record. I think I can take three minutes off this time, but to get everything to come together is tough.”

Popowski admitted, “I didn't know what to expect. I'm used to starting races at 6,000 feet (Colorado) over a 6-8 percent grade. This was a lot steeper. To ride a sustained grade (12 percent) for seven miles was a different experience. And the air is thicker here, too. It was almost like I was chewing the air.”

Philip Wong, 32, of Beverly, Mass., who owns a number of podium finishes here, was fourth in a PR-54:12, and Juarez, who has a pair of runner-up finishes, ended fifth (55:10).

Ottawa's Sue Schlatter, 49, who finished six seconds behind the race winner and defeated Shea with her victory in 2006, was the second woman to the summit in 1:06:13.

Pete Ostroski of Intervale and Quentin Turnbull of Concord posted top 20 finishes with respective times of 1:01:59 (15th) and 1:03:01 (17th). Jeannie Allyson of Durham and Cynthia Coffin of Center Harbor were ninth and tenth in the women's division with times of 1:23:24 and 1:24:13.

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Mark Labore may be reached at mlabore@unionleader.com.


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