Holy smokes - figuratively and perhaps literally. If that's the faint aroma of smoking rubber you think you detect hanging on the fall air, you just might be right. Cyclists in the October 3 Allen Clark Memorial Hill Climb absolutely burned up the pavement, registering what can only be described as smoking good times. As a group, the riders in this year's race were easily the fastest ever in the 6.2-mile gut-busting time trial up the east side of App Gap, with 31 riders bettering the magical 30-minute barrier.
The speediest among the speedy was Charles McCarthy, a one-time Valley
resident now slumming in East Middlebury. McCarthy covered the distance
in 24 minutes, 27 seconds, breaking the previous course record by more
than 30 seconds. That should give students in the Ripton Elementary
School good reason to rise up in the classroom and give a hearty cheer
for Mr. Mac, as McCarthy is known among his protégés on the far side of
The record breaking, however, was hardly just a guy thing. In fact, two women in this year's race broke the previous course record. Marti Shea of Marblehead, Massachusetts, a flyweight of a woman who floats uphill on a bike as effortlessly as a moth on a thermal updraft, crossed the line in 26:47, smashing by more than a minute the previous women's record, set just last year by Kristen Gohr.
Gohr also bettered her own record time this year in finishing in 27:45. But, too bad for Kristen, a great climbing talent - she just picked a bad lifetime to be such a good hill climber. It is her misfortune to be living in the age of the virtually unbeatable Shea, winner this year at the prestigious Mt. Washington hill climb among other races where the road tilts unmercifully upward. Her Allen Clark win helped her secure the championship title for the season-long BUMPS series, which includes all the major hill climbs in the Northeast.
A total of 122 riders entered the event, but not all of them were especially fast and the number isn't altogether accurate. A singular Hubbard, Taylor, was registered, but actually three Hubbards participated in the ride, combining as a family unit to record by far the slowest time of the day (and one of the slowest Allen Clark rides ever). Here's why: Old Father Hubbard had schemed up the lunatic idea of towing most of the family, about 120 pounds worth of daughters Ella and Grace, up the mountain behind him in a trailer.
While other riders had been doing everything possible to pare every fraction of an ounce from their superlight climbing machines, Hubbard, with Grace, Ella and the not-so-light trailer in tow, probably weighed in at something close to a six-pack of Marti Sheas. The going was spectacularly slow, but give the family credit - they made it all the way to the top. Afterwards, Grace happily declared that the ride had been "comfortable." Her father's body language suggested that he was not at all in agreement.
Hubbard et al. might have been the slowest among the local riders, but they weren't alone. Third overall among the women behind Shea and Gohr was Audrey Huffman, with Joannie Kavanaugh, Melanie Simon and Cindy Shepard not far back. Among the men, Terry Kellogg was the fastest of the local boys, with Bob Dillon, Mark Fleckenstein, Marc Hammond, Jon Jamieson and Mike Riddell also putting in respectable times.
And when the smoke cleared, the good news was that this year's race also brought in a record take for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, the event beneficiary. Yes, the event might be about talented riders setting new athletic standards. It might be about keeping Grace Hubbard comfortable. But mostly it is about bringing in money for a good cause. Full results are at achillclimb.org.