Culture

More than 1,000 cyclists completed an Everesting in May

Everesting saw a huge boost in participation in May as more pro riders attempted to break the record.

Last month the cycling world was captivated by Everesting, as more and more professional riders climbed the height of Mount Everest (29,028 feet) in the fastest time possible.

As it turns out, the pros weren’t alone.

Nearly 1,200 riders across the globe recorded successful Everesting attempts in May, the busiest month ever for the challenge. By contrast, a typical month sees approximately 150-200 riders complete the challenge.

“It’s entered the cycling lexicon, the common cycling vernacular,” said Andy van Bergen, the founder of Everesting and purveyor of the website Everesting.cc. “The coolest thing is that there’s no longer any explainer needed. You say the word, and people know what it is.”

What’s more, cyclists have begun to push the Everesting challenge to even more extreme limits, tackling the climbing challenge on extremely steep hills, or repeating the feat again and again.

“People are doing double Everesting now, even triple Everesting — one guy has even done a quad,” van Bergen said. “We allow a sleep allowance of two hours for a subsequent Everesting attempt, so those types are amazing.”

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Hannah Rhodes recently broke the women’s Everesting record time on a 10.9 percent climb in the UK. Photo: Joel Rhodes-Patterson

Van Bergen, who lives in Melbourne, launched Everesting in June 2014 alongside his wife as a community-based challenge for cyclists across the globe. A longtime rider, van Bergen had a history of pushing his friends to complete extremely hard training rides for bragging rights.

After several years of completing huge rides for kudos, van Bergen sought a challenge that was so tough that even non-cyclists would appreciate the huge effort required to complete it. Climbing the height of the world’s tallest mountain on one single climb sounded like a challenge that even the layperson could understand.

“The biggest ride I ever did was 300 kilometers with 6,500 meters of climbing, and I went into my office and told a friend about it and the guy literally was like, ‘Oh, that’s nice, what else did you do?’” van Bergen said. “I trained a year for this. It’s the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done and you’re asking me what else I got up to?”

In June 2014, van Bergen and 65 or so other cyclists across the globe attempted the first Everesting. About half of those riders completed the challenge, and the Everesting format was born. Van Bergen wrote down firm rules for the original format. Riders had to complete the challenge on one climb and they could not sleep.

Since then, van Bergen and his wife have become the official gatekeepers of the Everesting challenge. Riders submit an e-mail and Strava data from their attempts, and then the van Bergens scrutinize the data to make sure that the rider followed the rules and hit the proper elevation gain.

Often times, he must inform a rider that they missed the mark.

“The hardest ones are when people feel that they’ve completed it and it becomes apparent that they’ve missed out by whatever length,” van Bergen said. “You know how gutted they’re going to be about it.”

Riders sometimes use bad elevation information and do not hit the required gain, or they misinterpret the rules. Sometimes riders hit the 29,028-foot mark by riding a hilly circuit or an out-and-back. Van Bergen is the one who tells them that they have violated the rules.

Such was the case in late May when German pro rider Emanuel Buchmann submitted a supposed record-breaking Everesting file from a climb in Austria. As it turns out, Buchmann’s total time was slower than the current record, held by U.S. mountain bike champion Keegan Swenson. Also, Buchmann had completed his Everesting on two different routes of the same climb, meaning his entire effort was not valid.

“I was gutted because it’s Emu, and it’s such a shame to see that,” van Bergen said. “We have to reject a certain percentage of these and it kills me every time because people have busted their guts to do it.”

Buchmann’s Everesting effort last month fell foul of the official guidance. Photo: Rudi Wyhlidal

The rule requiring a rider to complete the challenge on the same climb stems from mountaineering, van Bergen said. In order to hike to the summit of Mt. Everest, a climber must take just one route; thus, a rider must take just one route to the imaginary summit that he or she seeks.

The explosion in popularity has seen the Everesting record fall again and again; it’s also seen riders tackle the challenge in creative ways. Van Bergen said a rider in Italy submitted a half-Everesting attempt that was completed while doing a wheelie.

A pair of runners submitted an Everesting file that was done on a steep hill in a man’s backyard. Another rider completed the challenge on a hill so steep that the rider accrued just 50 miles of total distance.

The explosion in Everesting attempts has kept van Bergen busy.

“It was always a lot of hours — we would do an hour or two a night and that was enough to keep on top of it,” van Bergen said. “Now I knock off from work and I’m straight into it, and my wife and I work until midnight every night.”

Van Bergen is cognizant that the buzz around Everesting may quiet once racing returns and cyclists across the globe return to their organized events. Pro riders will undoubtedly stray from the bizarre challenge, since completing an Everesting is much harder than even the most brutal Giro d’Italia stage.

Yet Everesting is undoubtedly here to say, and van Bergen said he hopes that the current momentum feeds the stoke of future riders to take on the challenge.

“I get to read the most incredible story of the hardest day they’ve ever done, or they’ve raised an incredible amount for charity, or they’ve overcome some adversity,” van Bergen said. “It’s impossible not to be addicted to the stoke I’m feeding off of.”