By Peter Oliver
As anyone knows who has spent any time in Vermont -- particularly in the quirky crossover season of fall -- the weather you see isn't always the weather you get. Many of the record number of 108 riders lining up in the cool, swirling fog at the start of the Allen Clark Memorial Hill Climb on Sunday morning looked like they were preparing for a winter assault of Everest. Gloves, hats, layers of clothing -- they were ready for serious combat with the elements in the 6.2-mile ride to the top of Appalachian Gap.
What they didn't know was that, just a couple of miles up the road, the sun was out, the wind was down, the temperature was breaching 60, and the radiance of foliage at its peak was on dramatic display. Like a step through the looking glass, from the Himalayas to the tropics.
Perhaps such unexpected meteorological coziness was an inspiration to Kristen Gohr of Reading, Massachusetts, who zoomed up the hill in 28 minutes, 6 seconds, smashing the women's course record. The previous record, held by local speedballer Audrey Huffman, had stood for eight years. So many had tried, but until Gohr clipped out of her pedals at the top of the Gap, none had succeeded in setting a new standard. Gohr collected a $100 cash bonus for her record-breaking ride.
As it turns out, however, setting hill-climbing records is nothing new for Gohr. She also set a women's course record a month ago in the Burke Mountain Bike Race. Such freakishly good climbing ability enabled her to win the women's 30-and-over title in the new, season-long BUMPS series, of which the Allen Clark climb was the final event of the season. The Bike Up the Mountain Points Series included the major hill climbs of the Northeast, from Whiteface to Mt. Washington.
John Bayley of Watertown, Massachusetts, wasn't quite quick enough to better the men's course record of 24:59, but his winning time, 26:00, wasn't exactly chump change. Bayley, too, had a BUMPS title in his sights -- in the men's 40-and-over category -- and his winning Allen Clark ride sealed the deal.
Both Bayley and Gohr were acknowledged, along with other series winners including overall champion Doug Jansen of Pelham, New Hampshire, in a post-race awards ceremony under brilliant, blue skies at Mad River Glen. When you've raced up mountains to the tune of more than 20,000 vertical feet, someone ought to throw a medal around your neck and give you a pat on the back.
Local riders fared most respectably on Sunday, and the most respectable among them was Jim Komarmi, who finished third overall in winning the men's 30-and-over category with a time of 26:52. Komarmi was seen at the post-race awards leaning over his handlebars and musing about how speedy he might have been were he blessed with the thread-thin body of a natural climber rather than a physique more common to a footballer. At 187 pounds, a guy just isn't supposed to be able to pedal uphill as fast as Komarmi. As one bystander suggested, put Komarmi's engine inside a 135-pound body and . . . well, just imagine.
Not far behind Komarmi in second place among the 30-and-over men was Adam Whitney, who crossed the line with a time of 28:32. This presumably gives the Whitney family bragging rights for the year; wife Marilyn Ruseckas came in with a clocking of 32:27, a mere 14 seconds short of winning the women's 40-and-over category.
The event, in support of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and in honor of the late Valley cycling legend, Allen Clark, continues to grow in size and prestige. The number of participants far exceeded last year's total number of 72 entrants. And to be part of the BUMPS series has certainly helped to turn the hill climb, once a largely local event, into something with a far wider reach. Riders this year came from as far away as Colorado and Philadelphia. In expanding the scope and appeal of an uphill bike race, of course, good weather helps, too.
For full race results, go to achillclimb.org.
2009 Stark Mountain Hill Climb results
Hardy souls weather elements -- seven complete duathlon
It was a drizzly soggy October 3, 2009, and 33 hardy souls completed the rugged ascent to the top of Stark Mountain. They were running the 11th annual Stark Mountain Hill Climb sponsored by the Stark Mountain Foundation.
This year's proceeds went to the Green Mountain Club towards the Stark Mountain Foundation's endowment towards the maintenance and repair of sections of the Long Trail located on Stark Mountain in Fayston. This year's sponsors included the Mad River Glen Cooperative, Onion River Sports, Canus Goat's Milk, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Small Dog Electronics.
On Sunday, October 4, 2009, seven of these hardy souls also cycled the annual Allen Clark Memorial (Bike) Hill Climb to the top of Appalachian Gap thereby completing the annual Green and Gold Hill Climb Duathlon.
In the run, Eric Morse of Berlin, Vermont, finished first in a time of 25:28 while the first woman finisher was Kelly Steadman of Waitsfield in 30:58. Both were off the existing course records, 23:51:05 set by Dave Dunham of Massachusetts and 30:09 set by Harriott Shea of East Montpelier. The wet and slippery conditions were not favorable to fast times, nor was the dense fog that had settled in over the top of the mountain cutting out all visibility.
First master was Eric Friedman of Fayston in 34:47 and first senior Brian Holtan of Waitsfield in 31:48. Rounding out the top women were Georgina Milligan (31:45) of Middlebury, Audrey Huffman (33:31) of Waitsfield, Tara Geraghty-Moats (37:37) and Betsy Geraghty (38:28) of Fairlee, and Kate Williams (40:28) of Waitsfield. Tara Geraghty-Moats was first junior woman while her mom, Betsy Geraghty, was first senior woman. Dick Burtt of Charlestown, MA, finished first in the over 60-veteran category and was the oldest finisher.
The top duathlete was Peter Wadsworth (30) from Winooski in a combined time of 66:36.30. In order the finishers after him were Marc Hammond (43) of Waitsfield in 73:44.90, John Himmelsbach (51) of Waitsfield in 74:25.09, Myles Webster (36) of Norwich in 76:22.14, Chris Cote (46) of Duxbury in 76:26.42, and George Gonnella (50) of Pepperell, MA, in a time of 77:11.15.
The course records set in 2006 are Thorin Markinson in 53:25 and Sara Walker in 68:43. No women competed in the duathlon this year, but a new junior champion emerged. Marcus Russ (14) of Westport, Connecticut, completed the run in the top 10 overall and then the shortened junior bike course in a combined time of 55:51.
Complete results can be found on the Stark Mountain Foundation website, www.starkmountain.org.
Complete results for the Allen Clark Memorial (Bike) Hill Climb are at www.achillclimb.org.