The Kangamangus Highway- Crank-the-Kanc

Crank the Kanc, NH – Tomorrow is the annual “Crank the Kanc” bicycle time trial hill climb that occurs each May on New Hampshire’s beautiful Kancamaugus Highway, a stunning scenic byway through the state’s White Mountain National Forest. The race is just over 21 miles with over 2300 ft. of net elevation gain. The descent is spectacular as well as you can see in this 2017 video:

The “Crank the Kanc” is a time-trial hill climb that is perhaps a little lesser-known. However, the trial not purely a hill climb. This trial sets out near Conway, New Hampshire and follows Route 112 (Kancamagus Highway) to the Kancamagus Pass top. The course is climbing gradually over the first ten miles before it nearly levels off for a 5-mile stretch.

The last four miles of the 21-mile-trial are pretty steep and average some 7 degrees with short sections that are much steeper. There are several spectacular viewpoints along the track, so make sure you’ll enjoy them on your way down. I did the Kancamagus Highway several times, but never the timed event.

Locally, the trial is often referred to as the “Kanc” and it is the true backbone to so many fantastic cycling rides through New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Over the last decade, much of the Kanc was reconstructed. West of the Kanc pass, the road was resurfaced and is truly spectacular for bombing down. Some lower sections east of Kanc pass still require some work but the sections that were reworked offer widened roadways making the Kanc ride much safer and enjoyable.

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Hillclimbers’ Training

Having participated in numerous hill climb cycling events over the past seven years, I felt compelled to capture some philosophical perspective on the subject. In this seven-year period, I estimate hill climb participation has quadrupled in the northeastern part of the country. Not too long ago, Mt. Washington would not reach the 600 rider limit.

In 2006, a second race was added when the August event sold out in three hours. Also in this seven-year period, annual events have begun at Ascutney, Whiteface, and Equinox with pre-registered riders numbering in the hundreds. Many riders are doing their first climb each year. Other riders are looking to improve their previous best times. I hope this guide will help these riders to attain their goals.

One of the best places to obtain additional information on any northeast hill climb is the Mt. Washington Hillclimb Racers Forum. Although this forum exists to support Mt Washington racers, anybody may post on this open forum. It has become the gathering place of northeast hillclimbers in cyberspace. Questions on gearing, tires, weight, training, weather and many other topics are eagerly answered here.

Ten topics were selected for discussion below. They are not necessarily in order of importance. Some of the topics such as Training or Diet could never be covered in adequate detail here, so references are given to authorities on these topics. If you have any questions on this material, feel free to contact me.

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Advice for Hillclimbers – Rest and Diet


If you train hard, you must also rest hard. Some of the lunchtime riding group at work are perplexed by my riding habits. I may ride a pace they like in the winter or very early in the season, but as the season progress, my hard rides get harder, and my easy rides get easier. It doesn’t all get harder. You see, the harder you train, the more important recovery becomes, especially for somebody like me in their 40’s.

The lunch crowd likes neither end of my riding spectrum once winter passes. My hard is too hard, yet my easy is too easy. I often will do block training days, where two or three days in a row involve intensity work. Then I need two days of recovery. I rarely take days completely off, so I go out for short recovery rides and stretch afterward on my rest days.

The pace I ride at is one half my 30-minute power, which is roughly 60-65% of my max heart rate. This is a very easy pace and takes focus with HRM to keep it that easy  But if I go harder than this, I don’t recover as well, and go into my next intensity block with sore or tired legs. I find maximum adaptation is gained when doing intensity work on fresh legs.  For many riders, taking one or two days per week completely off the bicycle may be the best way to recover.

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