Climbers get their day on Mount Washington

Phillip Gaimon, a 22 year-old Georgian cyclist competing in his second bicycle race up Mount Washington in just two months, won Saturday's 36th annual Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb.

Gaimon, a University of Florida at Gainesville senior from Tucker, Georgia, crossed the finish line under overcast skies with little wind at 54 minutes, 57 seconds, nearly two minutes ahead of his closest competitor in the field of 600 up the gruelling 7.6 mile Auto Road to the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet.

"It definitely helped being here in July because I did that race in all the wrong gears. I put on some special stuff for this race," he said about his second-place finish in Newton's Revenge on July 12, the other bike race up the Rockpile.

The second place finisher, at 56:40, was Nico Toutenhoofd, 39, of Boulder, Colorado, who rode on a borrowed rear wheel after he had a flat about 15 minutes before the race's start. Third place, at 57:33, was Steve Gatzos, 32, of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Toutenhoofd and Gatzos drafted each other for much of the race before Toutenhooftd broke away on the dirt by the five mile mark.

Gaimon was the first winner in two years as last year's Hillclimb was cancelled due to inclement weather. More than half of the field had signed up for last year's race, and were granted entry for the competition.

"I just wanted to ride my own race and beat my time from the last race," said Gaimon who hopes to turn pro next season. "Winning Mount Washington is definitely going to be great on the resume."

On the women's side, diminutive Brazilian native Flavia Lepene, 31, of Blacksburg, Virginia, had a winning time of 1:08:52 with part-time McGill University student Magali Tisseyre, 24, of Montreal, placing second at 1:10:07. Former pro racer and mother of twins, Kristie Reynolds of Exeter, New Hampshire, finished third at 1:17:12.

Lepene, the 94-pound, 5-foot tall female winner, used online mountain profiles and car race videos up Mount Washington to learn the course.

"I paced myself and went hard on the steepest sections," she said. "I wanted to take advantage of my weight."

She did, as second-place finisher Tisseyre proclaimed with an extended handshake to her after the finish, "You're fast." She later said, "If I tried to follow her, I would die."

Mount Washington's legendary wild weather was absent at the start of the race with mostly cloudy skies, 61 degree base temperature and 46 degree summit mark at the start. Top racers competed with little wind; the finicky weather reserved for later finishers who dealt with bouts of rain and hail near the summit.

This year's racers ranged in age from 9 year-old Jonah Thompson of Albuquerque, New Mexico to 75 year-old Steve Swenson from North Conway, New Hampshire. This competition was wide open with several past winners - Tyler Hamilton, Tom Danielson and Aimee Vasse - not returning.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Mount Washington hill climb.

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