Stefanie Sydlik, a three-time runner-up at the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, is the favorite to win this year’s race, which is set for Saturday.
Sydlik, 34, of Pittsburgh, Pa., who graduated at M.I.T. and earned a PhD in organic chemistry, has finished second the past two years. In the absence of Aimee Vasse, a former professional rider who won in 2017 and 2018, Sydlik can claim the most experience and the fastest previous Mount Washington time (one hour and six minutes) of any woman in this year’s Hillclimb.
The male rider likeliest to reach Mount Washington’s summit first is either Eric Follen, 45, of Sanford, Maine, or Erik Levinsohn, 29, from Boston, with a possible challenge from John Jantz, 28, of Arlington, Mass.
Follen is in a similar position to Sydlik, having finished as runner-up in each of his previous runs up the mountain to Eneas Freyre, who is not entered in this year’s Hillclimb. In 2015 Follen clocked a time of exactly 54 minutes, and he nearly matched that in 2016, when he finished in 54:30.
Those times would have been fast enough to win the Hillclimb in many years, and a similar time this year may ensure a victory. Much depends, however, on how Levinsohn can improve upon his time in the 2018 Hillclimb, when he placed third in 56:03. Jantz, who took fourth last year in 56:43, is also likely to ride at or near the front.
Other threats in the men’s race are last year’s runner-up 21-year-old Drake Deuel, from Cambridge, Mass., who beat Follen in June in the Purgatory Road Race in Sutton, Mass., and Jeremy Rae, 28, from Toronto, a former all-American track star at Notre Dame who is making his Mount Washington debut this year.
The first male and female finishers will each win $1,500, with $750 for the second- and $500 for the third-place finishers.
The Auto Road’s steep grade — an average of 12 percent, rising to 22 percent at the finish — and Mount Washington’s unpredictable weather have given this 7.6-mile race its reputation as one of the toughest sports events in the world. The race starts at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road, off Route 16, and finishes at the mountain’s summit, 6,288 feet above sea level and 4,650 feet above the starting line.
Riders depart in five waves, beginning at 8:30 a.m. with the or elite group and continuing at five-minute intervals in groups sorted by age.
The Hillclimb is the main annual fundraising event for the non-profit Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which provides environmental and recreational education for children, schools and families in communities in the White Mountains and the Mount Washington Valley. The standard entry fee is $350. For most riders, all but $25 of that amount is a tax-deductible charitable donation.
Race registrations are still available at www.bikereg.com/mwarbh.