At 8:45 AM this past Saturday, September 11, we began sending the first of 116 riders up Mount Greylock for the NCC’s 11th episode of this classic uphill time trial. We send riders up in 20 second intervals, and as they lined up and were individually counted down, 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… go!, I realized that the train had left the station and the race was underway. It would take just over an hour for all the riders to depart, and a bit more than 2.5 hours for everyone to reach the summit.
For those that don’t know, Mount Greylock is the tallest peak in Massachusetts standing 3,491 feet above sea level. The route we take from North Adams involves 2,742 feet of climbing with an average gradient of 6.2%. That said, there are sections that reach an impressive 17%! Most riders will complete the climb in just over an hour, some take more, and a very few will do it in under 45 minutes. It is indeed a beautiful route with incredible vistas near the summit, though you’d be hard pressed to find a rider in this race that noticed the amazing view while they were suffering to complete the final few kilometers. Thankfully, they all get to descend and take a few moments to appreciate the beauty.
This year was a little different (isn’t everything in 2021 “a little different”?) in that as of a month ago, we were going to do an asynchronous, self timed event. We would post it on BikeReg, let folks know where to send their (unofficial) times, and we would tally up the results and post them. Everything changed on August 7th, when our good friends Mike McCusker and Tim Mahoney messaged me from the top of Mt Ascutney (having just summited the hill climb there) saying that we need to do Greylock in person. That was all it took; the three of us met on Sunday evening (August 8th) and began planning.
With some impressive teamwork, and some help from our local North Adams contact Amanda Chilson, we pulled together the necessary permits, hired the fine folks at Granite State Race Services to time the event, started ordering supplies, secured insurance, enlisted volunteers, the list goes on… All that behind the scenes stuff is important, but not very interesting! What makes it all worthwhile is when everyone shows up at the base, begins to file through registration, and starts lining up for the start. It’s at that moment that the event transitions from a bunch of paperwork and emails, to a real live happening with actual people. There is an impressive roster of returning riders, and many new faces each year. We even had a rider this year that just happened to be riding by and stopped and asked “what’s going on?”. After a short explanation, he asked “can I register?”… “of course” we said. A quick Venmo transaction, a little paperwork, and Rich had a number and was lining up with the others. (I saw Rich later at the summit and he said it was fantastic and he’ll be back next year)
Hill Climb events attract all sorts of riders, both young and “less young”. Riders with fancy climbing bikes, riders with mountain bikes, riders with sneakers (I’m talking about you Amanda!), riders hoping for a PR, and riders just glad to make it to the summit. This year was certainly different in that we didn’t share a post race meal at the base, we didn’t have podiums and medals for category winners, and we didn’t have t-shirts (that’ll all be returning next year BTW). That said, we still managed to capture the essence of this event which is the climb itself, and the amazing camaraderie at the summit with riders sipping a cup of hot cocoa with a medal around their neck, some enjoying a well earned boasting about a personal record or a category win, and everyone talking about next year.
Kudos to all finishers, you are all amazing!
… see you in 2022.
I leave you with this amazing shot of Brody Lester (age 7) and Bill Ingraham (age 80) lining up at the start of the 2021 Greylock Hill Climb. You rock!