PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. — Former University of Maine track standout Dereck Treadwell has won a grueling bicycle race up the steep Mount Washington Auto Road on his first try.
Treadwell, a 36-year-old triathlete from Laurens, N.Y., outpedaled a bunch of race veterans to win Newton’s Revenge in 57 minutes, 41 seconds, Saturday.
Because of his novice status, Treadwell was obliged to start five minutes behind the “Topnotch,” or elite first wave of riders, and ride much of the race solo before eventually passing all but a half dozen of the Topnotch group and recording the fastest net time of the day.
“I was surprised (the race management) didn’t let me into the Topnotch group,” said Treadwell after the race, warming up inside the summit building on a classically chilly summer day on the mountain.
According to the race’s rules, however, he did not qualify for that group, given too few previous bike races.
“I went out too hard, but I caught people pretty quickly,” said Treadwell an Old Town High School grad who was an All-American runner at UMaine.
Treadwell’s competitors were a bit surprised at how quickly he caught them.
“He came by me,” said Tim Mather of Marlborough, Conn., who started in the Topnotch group, “and he was dancing on the pedals!”
The top women’s finisher was 48-year-old Marti Shea of Marblehead, Mass., who finished in 1:04:12, her fifth time in as many attempts. She pushed her bike across the finish line after the wind blew her over on the final turn. Shea still managed to ride her best-ever time for the nearly 8-mile course.
Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet.
Treadwell was seeded in the second of the race’s four waves of starters. Quickly dropping the rest of his wave, he pedaled smoothly ahead, but out of sight behind the experienced lead pack. Chris Yura of Philadelphia, Tim Tapply of Sherborn, Mass., and Gerry Clapper of Avon, Conn., led the way for the first six miles of the race, with dogged pursuit by local favorite Austin Orth of North Conway, Irish-born John Bayley, who lives in Watertown, Mass., and another newcomer, Duncan Douglas of Rochester, N.Y.
For a while it was Douglas who appeared to be the story of the day. A 45-year-old National Guard reservist and doctor who missed last year’s race because he was serving in Afghanistan, Douglas followed Yura, Tapply, Clapper and others while they battled for the lead. He remained several seconds behind, as Bayley and then Orth moved forward where the Auto Road’s pavement turns to dirt before the five-mile mark.
As clouds buried the upper slopes of the highest peak in the Northeast, Yura maintained a small lead with a mile and a half to go, but Tapply and Orth were gaining on him, and Douglas was picking off one rider after another. Just before the ultra-steep final 70 yards to the summit, Douglas took the lead from Tapply, then held off Orth’s final charge to cross the finish line with 1:02:09 showing on the clock.
Half a minute later, however, the picture changed, as Treadwell’s tall red-clad frame emerged from the mist and wheeled across the line. The clock showed 1:02:41, but his actual time would be five minutes faster than that – making him the winner in what would have looked like a runaway if he had started in the first group.
Still, Treadwell said he was slightly bothered by leg cramps in the final yards.
“I thought about getting off the bike and running the last part,” he said. “I probably would have gone just as fast!”
In fact several riders finished on foot – including Shea, who pushed her bike across the finish line after the wind blew her over on the final turn. She still managed to ride her best-ever time for this course, breaking the record she set last year (1:05:42) for women ages 45-49.
Treadwell added that he hopes to return to the White Mountains in August to compete in the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb on the same course. “I’m a licensed pro triathlete,” he remarked, “and I was going to do the Lake Placid Ironman, but I’m having too much fun cycling.”
On a day that was warm at the Auto Road base but cloudy, cold and windy at the summit, nearly 200 cyclists finished the race, including two on unicycles and two pairs of riders on tandem bikes.
Emily Guffin, 19, of Freeport set a record for junior females (19 and under) by finishing in 1:37:03, breaking Anneke Reed’s 2009 record by 11 minutes.
Treadwell, a 1998 UMaine grad, won five North Atlantic Conference crowns and two New England titles while competing in cross country and track. He gained All-America status in 1996 when he finished 11th in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Championships.
Treadwell, who also competed in the 1,500 at the 1996 Olympic Trials, set nine UMaine records.