Six-time world champion Marco de Gasperi will compete in Mount Washington Road Race
Posted Monday, 21 May, 2012
Italian mountain-running star Marco de Gasperi will come to the White Mountains of New Hampshire next month to make his first appearance in the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race. A six-time winner of the World Mountain Trophy, de Gasperi leads a men’s field that includes most of the strongest American men in the sport of mountain running, since this year’s run to the summit of Mt. Washington is the selection race for the U.S. national mountain running team that will compete in the 2012 World Mountain Championships in September in Italy.
The Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race is a 7.6-mile grind up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, which climbs 4650 feet to the top of the highest peak in the northeastern United States. Now in its 52nd year, the race will welcome a field of approximately 1200 runners to test themselves against the relentless grade of the historic road. Besides the severity of the climb – an average grade of 12 percent, with an extended stretch at 18 percent and a startling 22 percent slope at the finish – the race also challenges runners with the mountain’s unpredictable weather and famously high winds.
For several years, organizers of the race have dreamed of getting Marco de Gasperi to run Mt. Washington. Having won the world championship six times (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2007, plus the juniors’ race in 1996) and having finished in the top ten on five other occasions between 2002 and 2011, de Gasperi is generally recognized as either the best mountain runner in the world or one of the best two – the other being Jonathan Wyatt of New Zealand, who holds the Mt. Washington course record of 56 minutes 41 seconds. (Wyatt has been injured and will not compete this year.) De Gasperi recently confirmed that he can get enough time off from his training and work responsibilities in Europe to run both Mt. Washington and the Cranmore Hill Climb, which is held a week later in nearby North Conway NH.
While DeGasperi’s record elsewhere makes him the clear favorite here, the men’s race will be a fierce contest among all the Americans, whether they are trying to stay with de Gasperi or only to beat their countrymen to the top of the mountain and secure a place on the U.S. team.
Leading this large contingent is Mt. Washington’s defending champion Rickey Gates, of Woody Creek, Colorado. In 2009, Gates won here in 59 minutes 58 seconds, becoming only the fifth man to break the one-hour barrier on the Auto Road. Last year he won again, in one hour one minute and 32 seconds. Gates will have to contend with Tommy Manning of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who finished just ten seconds behind Gates last year after leading the race until the sixth mile.
Another threat comes from Max King of Bend, Oregon, the reigning world mountain champion. In 2010, King finished fifth at Mt. Washington, in his only appearance here, just behind Gates and a step ahead of Manning. Last September he beat deGasperi and the rest of the men at the 2011 World Championships in Tirana, Albania, becoming only the second American world champion. (The first was Jay Johnson of Boulder, Colorado, in 1989.)
Others with a chance at making this year’s U.S. team include Matt Byrne of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who was third last year at Mt. Washington; three-time former winner Simon Gutierrez of Alamosa, Colorado; Joe Gray of Lakewood, Washington, who has earned a place on the national team in both his previous Mt. Washington efforts (2008 and 2010); Glenn Randall, of Mesa, Colorado, who finished fourth here last year; and several who have never raced here before but whose times in races elsewhere suggest that they may be in the thick of the contest next month.
The latest entry into the men’s field may be the biggest threat of all, at least among the first-timers. He is Tim Chichester, of Mount Morris, NY, who last month was the second American finisher (and eleventh overall) in the Boston Marathon. This will be Chichester’s first appearance at Mt. Washington.
The women’s field this year is not so large as the men’s, largely because the selection race for the U.S. women’s national team is later this summer – the Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, NH, on July 8. Nevertheless, it may provide as good a race as the men’s contest, since it will feature the return of the top three finishers from last year – Kim Dobson of Denver, Colorado; Brandy Erholtz of Evergreen, Colorado, and Kasie Enman of Huntington, Vermont.
Last year Enman won the women’s world championships in Albania, as she became the first female American gold medalist in the sport and joined with King to produce a stunning double-gold victory for the U.S. team. Also returning this year, after missing the 2011 race, is Laura Haefeli of Del Norte, Colorado, who in 2005 led the American women’s team to their first-ever medal (bronze) at the world championships.
The women’s record at Mt. Washington was set in 2010 by the young Ethiopian runner Shewarge Amare, a time of one hour eight minutes 21seconds. Amare is not expected to return this year.
The 2012 World Mountain Championships will be held on September 2 in Ponte di Legno, in the Italian Alps. Six men and four women will make up the U.S. team. The U.S. junior team (runners under the age of 20) will include four male and three female runners.
NORTHEAST DELTA DENTAL
With its headquarters in the Granite State’s capital and its eyes on the summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States, Northeast Delta Dental has been the primary sponsor of the Mount Washington Road Race since 2001, when the company first linked its professional interests in healthcare to one of New England’s most celebrated challenges to human fitness. The company’s President & CEO, Tom Raffio, made a very respectable ascent himself last year, reaching the 6288-foot high finish line in one hour 50 minutes and 51 seconds. On the occasion of the 52nd “Run to the Clouds,” Northeast Delta Dental has assumed a new level of commitment to the race, which now officially bears the company’s name as part of its title.
With this significant increase in support, this year the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race will contribute half of the race’s net proceeds to the Coos County Family Health Services in nearby Berlin, NH. This community-based organization provides personalized, comprehensive health and dental care and social services to everyone, regardless of economic status.
Since 1995, the Northeast Delta Dental Foundation has funded over $45,000 to support the center’s school-based oral health education, fluoride rinse, and preventive dental services. The center’s status as the new beneficiary of the race is a reminder of the Auto Road’s and Northeast Delta Dental’s extensive ties to the region, and to the race’s commitment to the well-being of the larger community. The race expects that this year’s funding will be used especially to enhance the Coos County Family Health Services’ oral health programs.
The field for the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race is filled by means of an online lottery, with places reserved by invitation for elite runners.