Monday, July 28, 2008

George Street Challenge/Major Taylor Race

Sunday July 27, 2008:

George Street in Worcester, Mass was, for the 7th straight year, the place to be for the annual uphill time trial race in honor of Major Taylor, the 1899 world champion and Worcester resident.
Uphill barely describes it. It looks intimidating just standing at the bottom. It goes 90 feet up within a horizontal distance of 500 feet. That's almost 18% folks! Check out this profile of the course:

Data for some other famous climbs:

Mt Washington - 12% for 7.6 miles with pitches up to 22%. OK, that one is tough. Record time =49 minutes, 24 seconds (Tom Danielson)

Alpe d'Huez - 7.9% for 13.8 km (about 9.5 miles). Record time was by a doper so who cares (under 40 minutes is good).

Mur de Huy, Belgium (La Fleche Wallonne) - 9.3% for 1.3 km (just under a mile) with pitches up to 26%. The Fleche goes up this three times every April, including the finish at the top but I haven't found any mention of fastest times up the Mur. Here is what it looks like:

So, George Street isn't the longest at 500 feet, but it is the steepest sustained pitch. It should be called the Mur de Wormtown (I wish I had thought of that yesterday while I was doing the announcing at the race, so it goes). Here is a picture from last year that gives some indication of the steepness of the course:

143 riders, the most ever in the seven year history of the race, rode the hill with new record times in most categories. This is a real bike geek's event with all types showing up to try their skills. It is the only race where the shaved leg crowd mingles with the fixed-gear messenger types, the bikes-not-bombs types (you know who you are and so does the NSA), BMXers, and cyclo-tourists, and those well past their prime, whenever that was, including myself. There were also more spectators this year than ever before, a lot more than we see at most of the USCF 'offical' events.

The new course record was 22.83 seconds set by Rich Hollenbach of Wallingford CT. I didn't do quite so well, but I have a good excuse. Actually, several good excuses. The best one is mechanical failure (of the bike, not me). I plan to remedy that with an all new drive train in the next week or so. But enough about me.

Instead, you might take this opportunity to learn a little something about bicycle racing history and the fine example that Major Taylor set in his day. It's all there at All the results from the race are posted there as well. As for the full story of the race, I'll leave that to the professionals at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette:

Thanks to Lynne Tolman of the Major Taylor Association, Peter Howard of Barney's Bikes in Worcester, and the fine folks of the Seven Hills Wheelmen for putting on a great event once again. See ya next year!

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