SHELBURNE — Johan Gibcus used the fastest biking leg of the day to reel in four competitors ahead of him to win the 29th annual Wildman Biathlon on Saturday morning. The acclaimed cyclists topped a field of 53 athletes, who ran, biked and ran some more in what has routinely been billed as of the toughest multi-sport events in New England.
Gibcus, 39, of Worcester, Mass., won the race in two hours, 24 minutes and 57 seconds. He finished nearly nine minutes ahead of his closest challenger.
William Buck, 26, was second overall in 2:33:39, while Greg Palken, 23, of Northborough, Mass., rounded out the top three in third in 2:34:27.
Fran O’Donoghue, 54 of Wallingford, Conn., took top honors for the women, winning the race in 3:01:47 (good for 19th overall). She beat eight other females.
Erica Labella, 38, of Hancock, was the second women to finish, crossing the finish line in 3:08:28 (20th overall), while Bridget Freudenberg, 39, of Colebrook, was third and 21st overall in 3:11:33.
The Wildman Biathlon consists of a 10K run in the picturesque town of Shelburne, a 22.3-mile bicycle trek through Gorham towards a three-mile hill climb up the Polecat Ski Trail to the finish line at the panoramic summit of Wildcat Mountain, a presenting sponsor, located in Pinkham Notch.
The Widman, according to its website, “challenges runners and bicyclists with a run, bike ride and climb. Athletes from all over the United States, Canada and some years even other countries, come to the White Mountains to compete as an individual or as teams in the Wildman. For 29 years, athletes have been challenging their endurance amid some of the most spectacular scenery in the Northeast.”
Saturday, found runners climbing in the clouds as fog engulfed the area in the morning.
Gibcus, who rides for the Grinta Cycling Team, found himself in fifth place after the 10K run, nearly five minutes behind Tom Hanlon, 19, of Derry, who raced out to the early lead. Hanlon, who covered the course in 35:43, ran a 5:46 per mile pace as he finished four minutes ahead of Buck (39:44) in the 10K.
Andrew Benson, 32, was third in the 10K in 40:00, followed by Palken, fourth in 40:25, and Gibcus, fifth in 40:33.
Gibcus quickly shaved time off the those in front of him in the 22.3-mile bike portion of the race. He cruised to the second transition area in 1:05:36, finishing 3:45 ahead of Buck, who reached the Wildcat parking lot in 1:09:21.
Palken was third fastest on the bike in 1:11:39.
Hanlon, who led after the 10K was 21st in the cycling stage in 1:27:47.
Gibcus was the lone athlete to crack 40 minutes in the three-mile climb. He ran at a 12:57 per mile pace to finish in 38:49 for the win.
Palken was second quickest up the mountain in 42:23, while Peter Goransson, 32, of Eliot, Maine, was the third fastest in 42:26.
For the women, it was Labella who led after the initial 10. She turned in a time of 44:15, just ahead of Erin Kelly, 35, of Jaffrey, second fastest female in 45:00, and O’Donaghue was third at that stage in 48:15.
O’Donoghue took the lead for good on the bike, covering the course in 1:26:17. Freudenberg was second in 1:29:45. Kelly was third in 1:37:53, followed by Caryn Etherington, 60, of Middlebury, Vt., fourth in 1:38:15.
Labella was the fifth fastest woman on the bike, reaching Wildcat in 1:39:43.
On the final leg, Labella was fastest in 44:31, but it wasn’t enough to catch O’Donoghue, who was second fastest up the mountain in 47:16. Freudenberg was third in 53:32.
In team competition, nine teams participated. Top honors went to the Kibbee/Kibbee team in 2:49:24. The team won the race by less than two minutes, thanks to winning the climb portion by nearly 10 minutes.
Landry/Landry/Landry was second overall in 2:51:16, while Howard, Carvey/Carvey was third in 2:58:26.
The Wildman Biathlon, according to the website, “is a fundraising event to benefit Coos County RSVP, a program of Tri-County Community Action Program, Inc. RSVP matches individuals age 55 and older with volunteer opportunities at non-profit and public agencies in their communities. The corps of 375 volunteers gave more than 57,000 hours of service at 67 sites throughout Coos County last year.”