Another fine day on the hillclimb circuit. Tropical storm Hanna threatened to put a damper on the Burke Mountain hillclimb race. Leaving the house before 6am, it was already raining. We soon drove out of it. Warming up, a few sprinkles started to fall. I figured it was just the beginning, as surely we'd be finishing the race and returning from the summit in a deluge. But no. It stopped before the pavement even got wet.
A shity Easton Ascent II wheel was not going to ruin this race. I repaired the rear wheel that failed for the third time during the Mt Washington race, but it is barely rideable. There is 2:1 unevenness in spoke tension and the wheel still is not true. More spokes will surely snap. I will use it as a winter training wheel. I still used the front Ascent II wheel. It is radially laced but transfers no torque. I never had a problem with it. For the rear, I used the Rolf Prima Vigor off my training bike.
Approximately 50 riders showed up for the climb. When I first arrived, I thought I had good shot at overall win. Then somebody said "Hey Doug, Steve Gatzos (BRC) is here." Great, now I knew who had the $500 prize cinched. Steve has won many hillclimbs this year and was third overall on Mt Washington. Then I saw Charlie McCarthy (Metlife). He won Burke overall last year. Now I was bumming, as that left only one spot left for cash payout. Surely there was some other fast guy here to fill another top-three spot. There was. John Bayley showed up on a beautiful new De Salvo. Then I ran into Charlie Casey. Charlie beat me here last year when I broke a spoke, and he beat me more recently on Mt Washington a few weeks ago, again when I broke a spoke. But my Mt Washington time was a PR. Strangely, I beat Charlie on Mt Equinox by good margin the last two years. Hard to say how this was going to play out, but I was pretty sure I was looking at 5th place overall. It's funny how hillclimbs are like this. You can look around the parking lot before the race and pretty much know how its going to play out. You really don't have to do the race. You can just survey the competition, claim where you'll finish in that group, then go home without actually having to do the race to prove it.
On the women's side, Karen Smyers was present. She has won numerous gold metals, including Ironman Hawaii. She brought some monster gears to the race, I think 34x27. I would stall out on the long 18% section with this gearing. I did not know who she was before the race, other than she told me she was a triathlete. At 46, she beat most of the guys there. Doh! Despite being a small, somewhat obscure race, a lot of talent certainly was present.
We started on Mountain Rd this time, taking out the neutral finish down the base area access drive. The clock didn't start until the Moose Crossing sign last year. Now we were lined up about 50 meters before the sign. Thus the race was slightly longer for comparison purposes. The first half mile or so is very gentle, starting out at a few percent grade and gradually hitting 8-10 percent before the Toll Road. Once bearing left on the toll road, it is all steep all the time.
The 18% section with most riders names written on it. Nice touch!
McCarthy, Gatzos and Bayley pulled away in a three-some when the going got steep. I traded places with several riders for a while until we got to the 0.3mi long 18% grade section. Chalk on the road said it was 22%. Regardless, my 30x27 min gear did not seem to go low enough on this. I was pretty much doing linked track stands for an eternity. After dropping a couple young guys that went out too hard, Charlie Casey started to ride away from me. Now I was in 5th place and struggled to hold it for a while. Eventually, the two closest guys behind me faded out of sight.
The summit came unexpectedly fast. I crossed the line in 26:39, a nice PR with 44 seconds off last year's time. Charlie Casey was less than a minute ahead I believe. A new course record was set too, with Charlie McCarthy breaking 24 minutes. Steve Gatzos was just behind him, with John Bayley following to fill the top three spots. McCarthy actually signed up as part of co-ed team, so that bumped me up to 4th in the solo rider division, just one spot shy of cash payout. Co-ed team winner gets $2000 cash and prize award. It is simply the fastest combined time of a man/women team. I didn't stick around for awards, but I suspect McCarthy and his teammate won it. This put Gatzos in for $500 first place solo prize.
It never rained during the race, descent, or lunch afterwards. In fact, it was partly sunny and quite warm. The food at the Tamarack Grill was excellent. Race organization and support was superb. I honestly believe more riders aren't doing this race simply because it hasn't been "discovered" yet. It is one of my favorite hillclimbs on the New England circuit. Many thanks to Keone and his team for putting on such a wonderfull event! Burke will be part of next year's Bumps Challenge.
On White School trail with clouds socking in summit of Burke.
With skies still partly sunny, Dave Penney and I skipped out on awards in favor of riding the famous Kingdom Trails. It hadn't rained in a while up there, so I suspected trails were going to be in the best shape I've seen them in some time. They were. I was so psyched to be riding in primo conditions when I expected rain earlier in the day, that I was rejuvenated from the race. The legs had tons of snap left in them. Most of my KTA rides start on Burke, go up Camp Town, then ride all of the Moose Alley stuff, dropping about 1200ft of vertical in 10 miles on singletrack. Not only did I clean everything (first time), I did it all in the middle ring (first time). Despite these trails becoming more technical as the years of use wear on them, the path seemed to flow with magical smoothness under me. Some days you have those rides where you are just on. This was one of those days.
Burke Hillclimb route in green, singletrack fest in red.
About an hour into our ride, we noticed you could no longer see the summit of Burke Mtn. Overcast was getting heavy. This was followed by patters of rain. Davie was getting tired, and I knew I couldn't ride on my emotional buzz forever either, so we worked our way back. In tradition of all my KTA rides, we finished bombing down Kitchel. The roads were getting wet as we rode back up Mountain Rd to the ski area. That was my most enjoyable New England trail ride this year. Probably the most fun I ever had at KTA. We did a big 17 mile loop with a couple thousand feet of climbing in less than two hours. It pretty much rained the entire way back home, often torrentially. East Burke was just far enough north to stay out of it for planned activities.
Close up of Camp Town going up on right side of Burke Toll Rd, Moose Alley coming down on left side.