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Cyclist ‘Everests’ on Tak Ma Doon

Written by Fiona

November 21 2016

My Sunday Mail outdoors column revels the impressive feat of Hugh Wardrope, who achieved his “cycling Everest” on the infamous hill, the Ta Ma Doon. Read the pdf or see the story below.

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Cyclist ‘Everests’ on Tak Ma Doon

A cyclist has ridden into the prestigious Everesting Hall of Fame on a notoriously tough local Lanarkshire hill.

Hugh Wardrope rode the Tak ma Doon, from Kilsyth, 34 times non-stop to achieve the required total ascent of 29,029ft (8848m), the same height as Mt Everest.

His non-stop feat earlier this month took an incredible 19 hours over 176.5 miles.

Hugh, 52, of Kincardine, said: “It was a very tough day and after just 11 laps I really started to doubt if I could do it.

“But I somehow managed to keep going and when I finished the ride at midnight it is something I will never forget.”

The aim of Everesting is to ride a hill anywhere in the world to reach the total vertical height of Mt Everest.

Cyclists must “Everest” in a single, non-stop outing, although food breaks are allowed.

In testament to the sport’s tough credentials, only 1300 people have Everested worldwide and just a dozen in Scotland.

What is Everesting?

Everesting is the brainchild of Australian Andy van Bergen. In 2014, Van Bergen, of Melbourne, Victoria, was looking for a new challenge “having already ridden everything long and hard on my bike that I could think of”.

He said: “First I rode every sportive I could find and the harder the better.

“Then in 2009, I formed a group called Hells 500, which annually rides tough routes of 500km. But still I wanted something more epic.”

Van Bergen came up with Everesting after reading about George Mallory, the grandson of the mountaineer with the same name who was part of the first British attempts to summit Mt Everest.

He said: “Mallory’s training to climb Everest 20 years ago involved cycling hill repeats. One time he rode the equivalent of Everest on Australia’s Mt Donna Buang.

“Suddenly I had my new idea for a huge new riding challenge.”

Van Bergen’s own Everesting success was recorded on Mt Buller in the state of Victoria. Each hill climb was 10 miles with 3261ft elevation.

He said: “It was extremely hard and while I rode only nine repetitions to achieve 29,315ft in total elevation each climb in itself was tough.

“The very day I did it word got out and overnight Everesting was born.”

Strava boost for Everesting

The growth has been helped by activity recording GPS app Strava, which is used to officiate Everesting attempts.

The statistics of Scotland’s latest Everest record by Hugh are painful to read.

It took him 15 hour 32 minutes of non-stop cycling on the Tak Ma Doon.

The average gradient of the notoriously challenging hill is 6.3% with a steepest gradient of 20%.

He burned more than 12,000 calories and lost an incredible 8lbs during the huge challenge.

Hugh says: “I used to live in Kilsyth and back then I cycled the hill many times on a mountain bikes so when I decided to do the Everesting challenge I knew there could be only one hill.

“I wanted to claim it for my cycling club, Arria Wheelers, and to personally achieve my place in the Hells 500 site for first Everest of the hill.”

Hugh reports that the first six or so repetitions felt fine but from 11 laps onwards it became extremely tough.

He says: “I was flying for the first six or so reps. It was dark then and the car convoy in front of me made it seem like fun.

“But when daylight appeared, it began to get tougher. I could see the hill and the magnitude of the task became clear.”

Other Everesting cyclists reckon the most difficult part of the challenge is from 7000m (21,000ft) but for Hugh it came much earlier.

He says: “At 11 laps, some 8,000ft in, I was so far away from the prize and having cycled for five hours I was beginning to despair.

“So many people had turned up and cycled alongside and the summit was filling with cars and well-wishers but I was doubting if I could finish.

“I went through a difficult mental period. Physically my climb times were fine but deep down I felt dread.

“This was the toughest part for me so early in the challenge. It floored me mentally for an hour or so until I got my head back into the task in hand.”

Hugh had broken the task into sections to focus on. He says: “I work in an industry where scheduling takes priority so after that tough period I tried to focus on reducing the impact of the task.

“I started by setting my first goal of 10,000ft and then my second of 17 laps at the half-way mark, then after that I broke the remaining laps into two-climb blocks.

“I was a blank in terms of other thoughts as maintaining the physical task was taking up every thought I had.”

Around 50 people turned out to support Hugh, including his wife and young daughter.

Another supporter, Phil Jones, also of Arria, said: “We tried to fill Hugh up with food and water as best we could.

“His wife had made Team Sky rice cakes as the staple diet, along with gels, bananas, tomato soup, pasta and lots of sugary coffee.

“But he ended up reaching saturation point and then he just had gels, along with water bottles made up with isotonic powders.

“It’s incredible to think he lost so much weight in just one day.”

Riders from Arria Wheelers and other clubs, including RCCK, Lenzie Velo and Stirling BC, cycled alongside Hugh all day.

Some did multiple climbs themselves, including one rider who did 11 repeats and another who did 10.

Phil says: “So many riders turned out to offer their support and every single one of them, regardless of how many climbs they did, helped Hugh to his target.”

As Hugh finished he heard the cheers and clapping of everyone at the Tak summit car park.

He says: “I will never forget that moment. I know I couldn’t have done it without them.”

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