Just weeks after setting a U.S. National Everesting record, but missing out on the world no. 1, Sean Gardener is now the official world record holder.
Sean accomplished the feat of riding 8,848 vertical meters (the height of Mount Everest) in a time of 6 hours, 59 minutes, and 38 seconds, under the seemingly insurmountable 7-hour barrier, and over four minutes faster than the previous record set in July by Ronan McLaughlin. The self-described “average level pro cyclist” also beat out world-famous pros including Alberto Contador, Phil Gaimon, Ronan McLaughlin, and Lachlan Morton to claim the top spot.
“It’s pretty cool to be up with those names on the leaderboard,” Gardener told Hammerhead. “I am hyped to be the first to break 7 hours and can't wait to see what setup/climb the next person who takes the record will use.”
To achieve the record, which was verified by Everesting administrators, Hells 500 on Saturday night, Gardener rode 51 repeats of a strenuous climb on Tanners Ridge Road in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park tackling a mostly straight 1.1 kilometer stretch of road and averaged a 15.5 percent gradient. The result was reaching the vertical requirement in under 120 kilometers. And all of this effort comes just 19 days after breaking the U.S. record, an accomplishment that Gardener felt was more difficult.
“This effort was definitely easier than last time,” said the CS Velo Racing team member. “I really dialed in my pacing and nutrition strategy, so I was able to avoid the inevitable bonk until the final 20 minutes.”
Another key piece of his success was using the Karoo.
“The Karoo is the best in the business when it comes down to finding Everesting climbs,” said Gardener. “The steepest climbs usually are found far in the boonies with unreliable GPS service and unknown roads. The mapping features on the Karoo made scoping out climbs like this one possible without a second thought of getting lost in the middle of nowhere. The GPS accuracy of this device was also a huge factor in this competition and I was able to go the whole time without any second thoughts of dropouts.”
Of course, support came in many forms, with locals cheering the 26-year-old on as they drove past. “The most unexpected part of the experience was the support I got from passing motorists,” he said. “[Locals] seeing me do 50 laps probably thought I was crazy.”
As far as the reason for setting out to tackle the record, Gardener revealed it was due to a lack of competition this year because of COVID. “With nowhere to steer the competitive spirit people have been finding alternative ways and I saw a bunch of other cyclists and teammates do this competition and thought it sounded ‘fun,’” he said. “Long steady efforts and mountains are my go-to cycling strengths so figured it would be a good fit.”
With seasons cut short and races canceled, cyclists like Sean are determined to find new ways of using technology to compete and push their own limits. “This competition makes it possible to compare yourself against people from all over the world and brings the cycling community together for competition against others,” said Gardener. “But more importantly gives people a sense of internal competition.”