In case you came in late here’s the Vuelta Skelta challenge in a nutshell: to climb more than 7,135 vertical metres between September 1 and September 15. That number isn’t random: it’s the amount of climbing in the Vuelta’s two biggest stages combined: Saturday night’s stage 14 (which was won by Daniele Ratto) and last night’s stage 15 (which Alexandre Geniez won).
At the time of writing more than 8,000 people had signed up to the Vuelta Skelta Strava challenge and if the past nine days are anything to go by that number is only going to increase. Nearly 25 million vertical metres have been climbed by those 8,000+ challengers and more than 450 have already completed the challenge.
As seems to be the case with any Strava challenge with a distance or climbing target, there are no shortage of riders willing to above and beyond the Vuelta Skelta target of 7,135m … in a big way.
At the time of writing, the competition is being led by British rider Kendal Noctor who’s managed a staggering 33,894 vertical metres — nearly five times the target. That’s an average of nearly 4,000 metres of climbing per day for nine days. We can’t give you a breakdown of Kendal’s unfathomable effort because his Strava profile is set to private but what we do know is that he’s done nearly 53 hours of riding in the past week, compared with about 12 on a normal week.
Scarily, Kendal isn’t alone with numbers of that magnitude. At the moment there are seven riders with more than 30,000 to their name, and 21 riders with more than 20,000 metres.
On the Australian leaderboard Greg Burghardt is leading the charge with nearly 25,000 metres beside his name. He’s followed by two other riders with more than 20,000 metres, including third placed Canberran “Detlef Jumperz” who’s using the week-long Haute Route in the Pyrenees to great effect.
As we predicted at the very outset, there was at least one rider crazy enough to complete the entire challenge in one ride.
John van Seters — who handily lives at the bottom of the famous 1 in 20 climb in the Dandenongs east of Melbourne — went out on the first day of the challenge and knocked out a lazy 7,222m of climbing over 16 hours and 350km, all on a 7km stretch of road. In doing so he became the first rider in the world to complete the challenge.
John has added more than 11,000 metres to his total since then, including a ride of 5,144 vertical metres on Saturday which featured just about every possible climb in the Dandenongs.
Yesterday morning a few of us from CyclingTips headed down to Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula to clock up some vertical metres and who should be down there but JVS himself.
In what was a “recovery ride” for John he “only” managed seven times up the 3km climb — nearly 2,000m of climbing — but it was great to see him out there, tapping away and adding to his already impressive total. He’s currently sitting on 18,101 metres with 7 days remaining in the competition. The word on the street is that he might have something special planned for the final weekend of the competition.
Of course, John is just one of many riders putting in incredible performances as part of this challenge and there are many great stories out there. So if you know of someone who’s put in a remarkable ride as part of the Vuelta Skelta Challenge, or if you yourself have done something you’re particularly proud of, get in touch with us by leaving a comment below or by sending an email. We’ll feature some of the best stories in our end-of-competition wrap-up next week.
We’ll also be looking for great Instagram photos from the challenge to feature. As you can see we’ve grabbed a few for this post and if you’d like your photo to be featured next time, be sure to use the hashtag #VueltaSkelta when you publish your photos to Instagram.
And finally, just a quick reminder that there’s more on offer in this competition than just the satisfaction of racking up a shedload of climbing in two weeks. In conjunction with Eurosport we’re giving away a Bianchi Impulso road bike. Click here to learn more and to enter the competition. When you enter the competition you also go in the running to win one of 500 cycling caps courtesy of Foxtel.
So how’s your Vuelta Skelta coming along? Are you on track to reach the 7,135 metres? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And if you haven’t signed up already, get on it now.
Happy climbing and in the meantime, enjoy the photos below!