PINKHAM NOTCH — Some things you just don’t forget.
Phil Gaimon was just a college student when he first rode in the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. In 2008, the 22-year-old Georgian competing in his second bicycle race up Mount Washington in just two months won the 36th annual Hillclimb.
Gaimon, then a University of Florida senior from Tucker, Ga., crossed the finish line in 54 minutes, 57 seconds.
Gaimon, who now lives in North Hollywood, Calif., returned the following year and won again with a personal-best time of 54:37.
This launched a professional career for Gaimon, who competed against the world’s best over the next eight years. He won the Redlands Bicycle Classic twice, in 2012 and ’15, and finished second to Colombian Nairo Quintana in the 2014 Tour of San Luis (Argentina).
Now 31 and retired from the pro circuit, Gaimon drew worldwide attention in June when he set the new fastest time on the Strava (mobile app) segment that runs up Nichols Canyon Road to Mullholland Drive.
“My phone blew up like I just won the Tour de France,” Gaimon said in the June 30 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Gaimon returned to “The Rockpile” last Saturday and cruised to victory in the 45th Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, covering the 7.6-mile course in 51:13, a new personal record.
Gaiman topped two-time defending champion Eneas Freyre, 41, of Norwalk, Conn., by more than 3 1/2 minutes. Freyre came in second in 54:53, his slowest time in the past three races up Mt. Washington. In 2015, Frye won in 53:00 and again last year in 52:10.
Timothy Ahern, 43, of Woodstock, Conn., rounded out the top three, placing third in 56:26.
The course record of 49:24 was set by Tom Danielson in 2002.
Top female finisher was Aimee Vasse, 39, formerly of Somerville, Mass., and now of Dunedin, Fla. The three-time Hillclimb female champion rode to a fourth title in 1:05:34, placing 14th overall.
Vasse first won in 2004, repeating in 2005 and 2008.
Stephanie Sydlik, 32, of Pittsburgh, Pa., was second-fastest female in 1:06:13, and Andrea Myers, 34, of Danbury, Conn., was third in 1:15:39.
There were 635 cyclists entered in this year’s race, which is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center located in Albany. There were 444 finishers.
Gaimon and Vasse were both pleased with their finishes. Each received $1,500.
“I haven’t been here in (eight) years,” Gaimon told the media following the race. “I forgot how hard this is and the clouds — how special this place is. It can be cruel, nasty, why do they make it so steep?”
“Stephanie was amazing competition," Vasse said of Sydlik, who was just 39 seconds behind her. “She led me mercilessly. She attacked the hill. I didn’t think I could hang, but at the 6.7-mile marker, I got my second wind. It was very emotional for me.”
There was a second record set on the mountain on Saturday. Walter (Wally) Kurz, 80, of Intervale beat the record in his age category of 2:19:45 set by Bill Hawkes in 2002, getting to the summit in 2:16:20.
“This was my first experience with this race,” Kurz said following the race. “It was tougher than I anticipated. I got a leg cramp, but finished. This is quite a hill.”
Other local finishers included Darren Piotrow, 19th, 1:06:57; Joseph Baird, 149th, 1:29:35; Ben Cargill, 155th, 1:29:55; Michael Steward, 206th, 1:36:38; Robert Henney, 219th, 1:38:14; Steven Discordia, 286th, 1:47:52; Suzanne Young, 355th, 2:02:41; Jack Steffen, 365th, 2:07:54; Tod Powers, 398th, 2:20:18; and William Buick, 399th, 2:20:39.
For overall results, go to MtWashingtonAutoRoad.com.
Tin Mountain Conservation Center, according to its website, “is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit environmental education program that promotes an appreciation of the natural environment among children, adults, and families. The hands-on programs in the schools, at camps, and in the community demonstrate responsible stewardship of natural resources through land protection, research, sustainable forestry, agriculture and energy.”