Riders emerged out of a mist that shrouded the finish line at the summit of southern Vermont's highest mountain, but the cooler temperatures were preferable to the heat and humidity that marked last year's race, several of the bikers reported as they relaxed after the arduous 5.4 mile journey up the mountain.
"I thought it was good weather to race in," said Gerry Clapper, 52, of Avon, Conn. and the overall winner of the race, who posted a time of 40' 36". "I just tried to stay within myself and keep a nice speed going.
Clapper, who finished in second place last year and was competing in the annual Gear Up for Lyme bike race for the third time, opened up a large gap between himself and the rest of the field after the first mile or so, but that tightened considerably at the five mile mark, less than half a mile from the finish, as one challenger nearly caught up with him.
"There was no sense in holding anything back," Clapper said. "So I kicked it and finished."
Second place went to Ian Clark, a 15 year-old from Killington, who finished a scant 11 seconds behind Clapper, at 40' 47". Third place went to Erik Vandendries, 48, of Chestnut Hill, Mass., who checked in with a 41' 55" performance.
The course record is 37 8", and was set in 2011.
"This year we had fog all the way up," said John Sutton of Arlington, one of the several local riders who took part in the annual event, which raises funds for to support the Lyme Disease Association's research efforts and charities supported by the Manchester Rotary Club. "I wasn't riding for time this time -- I thought 'I'm just going to see how I do.'"
This was the sixth time Sutton, 58, has taken part in the event, and he wound up crossing the finish line at the 55 minute mark, good enough for a 46th place overall finish.
"My strategy was to go easy for the first couple of miles and then, if I felt good, then I'd go for it, and I did," he said. "I came to have fun."
Fun comes in different ways, and for two of the riders, it involved a close competition for reaching the one mile mark first. A $500 cash prize goes to that cyclist, provided they also finish the race. This year 18 year-old James Hayes, from Wakefield, R.I., and Doug Jansen, 51, of Pelham, Mass., jostled for the honor, with Hayes hanging on long enough to fend off a fierce challenge from Jansen. Hayes, who will be attending the University of Vermont in the fall and plans to ride on the school's biking team, eventually finished in fourth place overall, with a time of 42' 16". Jansen finished in fifth place overall, with a time of 43' 47".
The top female finisher was Silke Wunderwald,, 42, from Hopkinton, R.I. She finished eighth overall, with a time of 45' 18". Nancy Labb-Giguere, 31, of Belmont, Mass., was the second female finisher, at 50' 19", and 28th place overall, with Madeline Mareckie, 28, of Pleasantville, N.Y. qualifying for third female finisher and 36th overall, with a time of 52'22".
It was Mareckie's first crack at the daunting 12 percent grade of a course that rises more than 3,000 feet from its start point at the base of the mountain, but it won't be the last, she said after the race.
The course was brutal, she said, but in a good way.
"You were absolutely red-lining for the whole time," she said. "It was a physical challenge, but also a mental challenge too. You just had to believe in yourself and keep going. You could not stop. It got to the very root of what cycling is."
Proceeds from the event are split between the Rotary Club and the Lyme Disease Association, which helps fund one of the only centers for research into Lyme Disease at Columbia University in New York, said Race Director Andy Holzman.
The need for more research into the disease was underscored by the association's president, Patricia Smith, who was on hand for the event to thank the participants and organizers for their efforts. On a per capita basis, Vermont ranks second in the nation, after Delaware, in incidences of Lyme disease, and 13th overall, she said.
"It's growing, and the numbers are growing rapidly," she said.