PINKHAM NOTCH — After enough years of chasing other top cyclists up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, Erik Levinsohn of Boston and Stefanie Sydlik of Pittsburgh achieved a longtime goal today, winning the men’s and women’s divisions of the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb.
Levinsohn, 29, who had finished second and third in his two previous appearances here (2013, 2018), broke away from the lead pack in the second mile and pedaled relentlessly to Mount Washington’s 6288-foot summit, pressing himself to stay ahead of 21-year-old Drake Deuel, of Arlington, Mass., and breaking the finish-line tape in 53 minutes 42 seconds.
Sydlik, 34, a three-time Hillclimb runner-up (2013, 2017, 2018), led the women’s field from the start and rode unchallenged to the top of the highest peak in the Northeast, ascending the 7.6 miles of the all-uphill Auto Road in one hour 10 minutes 34 seconds.
For their efforts, Levinsohn and Sydlik each won $1,500.
“I’ve wanted to win this race so badly,” Levinsohn exclaimed as he recovered from the climb while sitting on one of the summit’s multitudinous granite boulders and wrapping himself in a blanket to fend off the chill and damp fog. “I never thought I had it today. There was zero visibility at the top, and Drake is so strong I kept expecting him to come by.”
Deuel saw it differently. “I had no chance,” he said. “Erik started so fast, I couldn’t catch up.”
“I went out way, way, way too fast!” insisted Levinsohn, a Boston medical resident who managed to fit his training into a 60-hour hospital work week.
In fact, he had company initially, as Nathan Kenison-Marvin, 37, of Tuftonboro, led for the first mile of the course with Levinsohn, Deuel, and David Talbot, 30, of New Canaan, Conn., in pursuit. By the third mile, Kenison-Marvin had dropped back while Levinsohn powered ahead. Deuel rode smoothly to second place in 54:28.
The race for third stayed close, as Eric Follen, 45, of Sanford, Maine, and Jeremy Rae, 28, of Toronto overtook Talbot before the halfway point, but Talbot recovered after the unpaved section of the road near the five-mile mark and went on to place third in 57:04, with Rae fourth in 57:33. Unluckily slowed by a flat tire, Follen dropped back, while John Jantz of Arlington, Mass., took fifth in 57:52.
Unlike Levinsohn, Sydlik was fairly sure for the whole race that she would take home the top prize. In the weeks before the race, she said, “My training was going really well.” A chemistry professor at Carnegie Mellon University, she can train on Pittsburgh’s steep hills, and she likes what she calls “ride-to-failure” workouts. “You go for at least an hour trying to hold onto the hardest pace you can,” she explained, “and if you’re still going after an hour, you keep going.”
Following Sydlik at a respectful distance but riding well ahead of the rest of the field, former Colby College cross-country runner Lane Marden, 33, of Somerville, Mass., took second among the women with her time of 1:16:31. Gabrielle Vandendries, 20, of Chestnut Hill, Mass., was third in 1:22:29, followed by 48-year-old Becky Paige of Maynard, Mass. (1:22:59) and Michelle Vuolo, 47, of Stow, Mass. (1:25:44).
The first finishers from New Hampshire were Nathan Kenison-Marvin, who placed seventh overall in 1:00:48, and Gabriela Zimbron, 23, of Andover, also seventh in the women’s division, in 1:26:58.
Kenison-Marvin also won the $750 prime, the prize for the rider who is leading the race after one mile and finishes in under an hour and a half. Sydlik won the women’s prime. Deuel and Marder each won $750 for second place, Talbot and Vandendries won $500 apiece for third.