At 79 years old, Bill Humphreys returns to cycle up Mount Washington 50 years after racing in the inaugural event

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 08-16-2023 12:49 PM

When the first Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb took place, the trail was mostly made of gravel and dirt. John Allis, an Olympic cyclist who’d participated in the Munich Games in 1972, took first in the event. One of his competitors was Bill Humphreys, who will once again participate in the event this Saturday for the MWARBH’s 50th anniversary.

Both Allis, now 81, and Humphreys, now 79, will be there for the arduous uphill climb. Humphreys will be back on his bicycle for the fifth time in this race.

Though Allis will not be racing himself, he’s credited as one of the key figures in helping to increase interest in cycling across the country. He was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1993 and coached women’s cycling at Harvard University for almost two decades.

“When I first got into racing, it was not well-supported in the U.S.,” Allis said in a statement through the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, the host of the event. “I am happy to have witnessed the growth in popularity of a sport that has given me so much — great experiences, friendships and opportunities to share this life with my fellow teammates, riders and those I’ve coached.”

Humphreys, meanwhile, followed a less conventional path.

He took up cycling after having his driver’s license suspended because of too many tickets for speeding. By the time he was 28 years old, he’d joined the very loosely organized world of bike racing.

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Fifty-one years after his foray into racing, he’ll once again climb the more smoothed-out auto road of Mount Washington to 6,288 feet in elevation, the highest peak in the Northeast. The course is just under 7.5 miles in length, and cyclists will gain 4,678 feet in elevation.

PJAMM Cycling, “the leading global resource for cycling climbing around the world,” calls Mount Washington the third-most-challenging bike climb in the United States.

And on Saturday, a year shy of his 80th birthday, Humphreys will embark on this climb one more time.

“I’ve lived an incredible and audacious life, not always making the right decisions, so I am grateful to still be alive and to be able to do this again,” Humphreys said in a statement through the TMCC. “There will be many flashbacks flowing through my mind as I take this trip up memory lane.”

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