New Irish Record Holder's 62 Consecutive Ascents of Fabled Donegal Hill.
As Ronan McLaughlin allows his aching limbs to recover from his Irish record-breaking assault on Mamore Gap last Sunday, the Donegal native has been reflecting on a ride which delivered far more than he had expected.
The Derry-based 33-year-old is used to tough days in the saddle from his years of continental road racing with the An Post-Seán Kelly team but the daunting prospect of climbing the featured and all-too familiar ascent of Mamore Gap more than 62 times produced butterflies for the first time in years.
"I literally never get nervous for cycling events anymore but I was definitely nervous starting the Everesting," he admits. "I had no evidence or data to suggest or prove I was definitely able to ride up Mamore Gap 62.2 times so this was always playing on my mind."
In the end he had little to worry about as his eight hours and nine minutes of cycling up and down the same hill in North Donegal shattered a record that had been set only the previous day.
The current popularity of 'Everesting' - the process of climbing the same hill over and over until the accumulated altitude matches the height of Mount Everest - has led to numerous national and world record attempts in recent months.
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador is the current world record holder and McLaughlin's epic ride not only lopped an extraordinary 2hrs 33 mins off Diarmuid Kavanagh's Irish record, it vaulted McLaughlin to fifth in the all-time list.
Hells 500, the adjudicating body for Everesting, have since ratified McLaughlin's achievement and his performance now ranks alongside a number of past and current world tour professionals in an elite top six.
"It's amazing to break the record and to set such a great time, I really never expected to go so quickly," he says. "When I was starting on Sunday morning my only goal beyond completing the attempt was to go sub 10 hours.
"It really wasn't about recordings or timings, the Everesting challenge gave me a focus and a goal to work on over the past few months when all other events and targets had been canceled."
"It was also the chance to raise funds for the Community Rescue Service which was more important than the actual finishing time."
McLaughlin, one of the leading road riders on the local racing scene with the Dan Morrissey-MIG-Pactimo team, was grateful for a different challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic and he brought a professional's attention to detail to process.
"I'd been planning an attempt at an Everesting since lockdown started in March. I had very good condition then but it would have been very irresponsible to head off on my bike for what I thought would be around 10 hours at the height of lockdown.
"I've been focused on it for the past two months roughly. I've been really focused on it the past four weeks, searching for the right climb, waiting for the right day, working out fuelling strategies, stripping down my bike to be as light as possible, testing different tyres, different setups, testing clothing choices etc., etc.
"Although the challenge and the charity was the most important thing, I understood this is a seriously difficult challenge and I wanted to be sure I left no stone unturned."
By last weekend he was finally ready for the assault on a climb he knows well from Rás Tailteann, not to mention innumerable training rides.
"I hadn't announced I would attempt it until on Saturday evening. I was sure the weather was going to be favourable. However, from the moment I did announce it on social media the support I got really blew me away. I didn't think anyone would really care but people from all around the world dropped me messages of support."
"I had a great team on the day also, my Mum, Dad (Carl and Sandra), Sister Caoimhe and her boyfriend Tiernan, Alan Harkens and Andy Deery were on hand all day to hand out bottles, keep track of the number of laps completed, timings, nutrition, boil spuds, find espressos and help with traffic, I could not even have finished it without her help."
"I had a few difficult moments in the final hour or two but I was so close to the finish at that stage the motivation of finishing it gets you through."
Sunday, July 12th
Total Time: 8hrs 09mins
Elevation: 8946 metres
Climb: Mamore Gap 1.3km
Gradient Average: 11.3%
Total Everesting Distance: 158km
Everesting Top Six in History
1. Alberto Contador (Esp.), 7hrs 27min
2. Lachlan Morton (Aus), 7hrs 29min
3. Keegan Swenson (USA), 7hrs 40min
4. Phil Gaimon (USA), 7hrs 52min
5. Ronan Mc Laughlin (Irl), 8hrs 09min
6. Jaster Albrecht (Aus), 8hrs 19min
Ronan is still raising funds for the Community Rescue Service (CRS) which is a charitable search and rescue organisation operated by volunteers from communities across Northern Ireland. You may know the CRS from the BBC documentary, "The Search" following their work across NI. CRS are the only accredited Lowland Rescue search and rescue organisation in N Ireland and hold full membership of the Association of Lowland Search and Rescue (ALSAR). CRS are the experts in finding and rescuing people if they should go missing.CRS Provide all aspects of search and rescue falling under the remit of Lowland Rescue including ground, inland water, bike, boat, and more. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. All funds raised go directly to the CRS. If funds reach the height of Everest ie £8,848, Ronan will attempt the everesting ride again!
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