4 from Merrimack compete in bike race up Mt. Washington

PINKHAM NOTCH – Eneas Freyre of Norwalk, Conn., and Victoria Di Savino of Buffalo, N.Y., won the 44th annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb today in a pair of decisive victories.

Merrimacks’ Michael Dailey, Ray Debruin, Daniel Oberlander and Tim Whitaker competed in the grueling race.

Freyre, 40, the defending champion in this all-uphill race to the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, completed the ascent in 52 minutes and 10 seconds, nearly a minute faster than his winning time a year ago and 2½ minutes ahead of his nearest challenger, Eric Follen of Sanford, Maine.

Di Savino, 37, improved even more. She clocked a time of one hour, seven minutes and 32 seconds, or more than two minutes faster than her second-place finish in 2015, to claim the overall victory in the women’s race. Following her at a respectful distance, 53-year-old Elizabeth McClintock of Wellesley, Mass., took second in 1:14:31.

The first male finisher from New Hampshire was Alec Babala, 25, of Nashua, who took seventh place overall in 1:01:47.

On a spectacularly clear day in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Freyre needed less than 2 miles of the 7.6-mile Auto Road course to establish that he would win. For the first mile, he followed Follen.

Follen, 41, however, was focused on a different goal – the $750 premium the race awards to the man who is in the lead at the 1-mile mark.

"I had that premium in mind," Follen said after the race. "Eneas was staying in a certain range of effort, so I sprinted and stayed near my maximum for that mile. I knew I was going to have to recover later, and it would be hard."

Follen indeed won the 1-mile bonus, but in the second mile his effort to match Freyre’s pace continued for only a few minutes before Freyre pedaled ahead and turned the race into a solo display of strength and stamina.

"I compete against myself, with what I think I can do physiologically," said Freyre as he stood on the 6,288-foot high summit of Mt. Washington and recovered from the effort, clearly benefiting from the attention of his wife, Nancy, and their sons Caden, 9, and Rhys, 6.

"It’s a beautiful day," Freyre said. "We’re having fun."

Riding with comparable focus, Di Savino collected the 1-mile bonus without having to think about it. She was the only woman among the first three dozen cyclists as the field of 600-plus riders headed up the ultra-steep Auto Road – its average grade is 12 percent – and on past the tree line, into bright sun on the upper slopes of the mountain.

"I knew I was on a good pace," she said. "I actually thought I was even faster than this. The race was easier for me this year. The only hard part was on the "gravel" – the Auto Road is unpaved between the fifth and sixth miles.

"And it was hotter than last year," Di Savino said.

Tim Ahearn, 41, of Woodstock, Conn., who took up competitive cycling as an experiment six years ago and finished third at Mt. Washington in 2010 and 2011, repeated that performance in 2016, taking third in 54:59, his best time ever here.

"The last couple of years, I just rode my own pace," said Ahearn. "This year I tried to go out with the fastest riders." At moments in the final miles it appeared that Ahearn might be closing on Follen. "On this hill," Ahearn said, "someone ahead of you can look close – but it’s hard to make up any distance."

John Jantz, 25, of Arlington, Mass., took fourth among the men in 57:39. Fifth was Chris Carr, 33, of Golden, Colo., in 58:32.

Alexa Gubinski, 28, of Fairfield, Conn., took third place among all women, in 1:15:46. Andrea Myers, 33, of Danbury, Conn., placed fourth in 1:16:07. Leslie Robinson, 41, of Hanover, took fifth place and was the first New Hampshire finisher, in 1:22:21.

TOP MEN

1. Eneas Freyre, 40, Norwall, Conn., 52:10

2. Eric Follen, 41, Sanford, Maine, 54:40

3. Timothy Ahearn, 41, Woodstock, Conn., 54:59

4. John Jantz, 25, Arliington, Mass., 57:39

5. Chris Carr, 33, Golden, Colo., 58:32

TOP WOMEN

1. Victoria Di Savino, 37, Buffalo N.Y., 1:07:32

2. Elizabeth McClintock, 53, Wellesley, Mass., 1:14:31

3. Alexa Gubinski, 28, Fairfield, Conn., 1:15:46

4. Andrea Myers, 33, Danbury, Conn., 1:16:07

5. Leslie Robinson, 41, Hanover, 1:22:21

Greater Nashua FINISHERS

Glen Fraser, Hudson, 1:22:08 112 7/47

Michael Dailey, Merrimack, 1:51:01 368 50/77

Ray Debruin, Merrimack, 1:43:31 316 47/70

Daniel Oberlander, Merrimack, 1:54:36 392 55/77

Tim Whitaker, Merrimack, 1:46:46 338 63/117

Raniel Babala, Nashua, 1:21:05 107 14/117

Alec Babala, Nashua, 1:01:47 7 4/45

Alex Barba, Nashua, 1:43:10 310 46/70

Jim Hansen, Nashua, 2:06:17 454 66/77

John Hennessy, Nashua, 1:32:50 206 31/77