Our story begins with
an introduction by John Zenkus:
Why Mt. Washington?
George Mallory’s response to questions
regarding his attempt to be the first person to reach Mount Everest’s
summit was succinct and simple: “Because it is there.” In the
world of cyclists, there are those who seek out climbs that others avoid,
and if you are such a cyclist, there is one mountain that stands above
them all—Mount Washington. But why Mount Washington? Alpe d’Huez
is certainly more famous. Other European high Alpine passes will take longer
to climb. Even in this country there are climbs with greater elevation
gain. Why then, do 600 cyclists each year donate $300 for the experience
to race up Mount Washington?
The answer is more complex than “because it is there.” It is
not the longest climb, the steepest climb, nor the climb with the greatest
elevation gain. It is simply the climb that is the steepest for the longest
distance. Couple this with above timberline scenery that is unworldly and
weather that is unpredictable and you begin to understand Mount Washington’s
attraction to cyclist climbers.
Rightfully, Spain’s Angliru is feared for its
steepness. But the Angliru is only very steep for 3 miles; yes, a bit
steeper than any 3 miles
on Mount Washington, but overall a 9.9% average grade. Mount Washington
is very steep for almost 8 miles; overall a 12% average grade. In English,
Mount Ventoux translates to “windy mountain;” Mount Washington
recorded the highest wind speed ever recorded on the Earth. Italy has its
Mortirolo, mountain of death; 124 persons to date have died on Mount Washington.
Overall steeper than the Angliru, windier than Mount Ventoux, deadlier
than the mountain of death; this is why for cyclists, Mount Washington
stands above all other climbs. It is not hard just because it is steep.
It is also windy and cold enough to be dangerous.
Thankfully, with the correct gearing the steepness can be handled, albeit
slowly, and in the summer time, on the toll road, racers really don’t
have to worry about exposure, at least until the summit but there the race
organizers always provide racers blankets. However, there remains one factor
racers can never prepare for, the wind. As we shall see, after being absent
the last few years, Mount Washington’s winds returned this year with