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August 8, 2019
Photography by Cameron Wurf and CyclingTips
Everesting – a masochistic endurance cycling phenomenon established by Andy van Bergen of the Hells 500 collective – has been steadily growing in prominence and popularity over the past five years. The effort is hard, but the rules are easy: in a single ride, participants need to do repeats of a climb until they reach the equivalent height of Mt Everest. To date, there have been 3,850 successful Everestings in 90 countries, covering an accumulated 1,059,867.4km and 35,804,348m of elevation gain.
Each of these Everestings has a remarkable story behind it. This weekend, however, on the slopes of the Col de la Madone in the French Riviera, there was one particularly interesting Everesting. You see, this was when Everesting went pro, with Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Cameron Wurf (ex-Cannondale, current pro triathlete) quietly joining the ranks.
Cam and Richie have form when it comes to extreme rides together, but as Wurf told CyclingTips, this may have been their most extreme yet…
CyclingTips: Whose idea was this?
Cameron Wurf: Everesting the Madone was Richie’s idea, not mine. We’re always in Tasmania for his birthday, so I said that if we’re going to do this thing, it has to be on my birthday – so that’s how I spent my 36th birthday.
Most days during the Tour de France, we were in contact regarding logistics for this ride. It sounds like basically everyone in the peloton and the team staff knew we were doing it, so I’d say Richie definitely talked about in the bunch as well. I know Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) wanted to do it, but unfortunately he had a criterium he couldn’t get out of.
Why the Col de la Madone?
Richie climbs the Madone just about every single day in training, and he also holds the record for the climb – he absolutely smashed Lance’s old record by over two minutes. When he signed with Trek-Segafredo, he started talking about it even more as he was now riding a Trek Madone. It made sense – do the Everesting challenge on the climb that the bike was named after!
You two have form in this kind of thing…
I guess we’ve always liked doing long days. “Epic ones”, as some people would describe them. Last year in April we did a 6,000m climbing day which took around 10hrs; this was a natural progression from that. That was a big loop, however – not up and down the same climb ten and a half times.
We had some company early on. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) did a couple of laps with us, and Rigo (Rigoberto Uran – EF Education First) was flying up and down doing some efforts for a couple of laps. Also Richie’s mates Jimmy, Stu and Rick Delaney did a few laps.
Our wives & Richie’s son Luca set up a picnic about halfway up the climb for a few laps, as well. It was great to see them and have a quick bite to eat before they headed back to the beach.
That all happened in the first five laps, though – for the back half we were all alone.
Any dark moments?
On the descent of the fifth climb, I double flatted and we also realised we would be finishing in the dark. At this point we had a choice – either carry on, no matter what, or bail.
It was my birthday, and I couldn’t bear to quit… I can accept failing, but I won’t quit. I would’ve understood if Richie wanted to bail, but he said “no way, if you’re doing it I’m doing it.” That was the only time the thought or discussion of quitting came up.
On the last descent before our final climb it was absolutely pitch black and we had no lights. The descent of the Madone is far from straightforward – it’s sketchy in the daylight, let alone the dark. We knew it was stupid and reckless, but we had no choice.
On a really hairy section I said to Richie, “can you imagine what it would be like to be in a war zone when it’s pitch black and someone is trying to shoot you dead?” Richie replied “I was just thinking the exact same thing”. In moments of difficulty, I always try and think of someone having to deal with a more challenging situation and it helps me get on with it.
What was the game-plan?
We didn’t really didn’t have any set plan for this ride, but we lapped within a minute or so for every lap which was pretty remarkable – we took it pretty steady. But Everesting was definitely a challenge – especially on that climb.
I thought it would just be a long day, but on the Madone you’ve really got to apply some pressure to keep the momentum going and the descent is quite tricky. Basically there is no respite or opportunity to switch off and it was like that for 14+ hours. Pretty tough, for sure!
I wasn’t really keeping an eye on power or anything – I just tried to avoid getting dropped by Richie, whatever it took. [Ed: Both Cam and Richie’s rides are on Strava. Cam’s weighted average power was 223w for the entire 271.33km, 14+ hour ride.]
How about food?
We just used the food we’d normally have for any training day: Coke, Mars Bars, gels, Clif bars, some sandwiches and obviously a lot of water. Also my coach and Richie’s former coach Tim Kerrison brought us a bag of apple juice and some protein bars, and even hooked us up with a pizza for lunch. We definitely didn’t go hungry.
To celebrate finishing, I went straight home, had a warm shower and smashed some takeaway Pad Thai. Richie and I met up for breakfast the next day and inhaled quite a few milkshakes & croissants. When in France!
So, what’s next?
Well, we haven’t ruled out a 10,000m day but if we do that we will do a wide variety of climbs. I live in Andorra which perhaps could be the perfect place for that. For now, though, I’ll just focus on the Kona Ironman World Championships – that’s a fairly large challenge in itself! [Ed: Wurf currently holds the course record for the bike leg]
As for Richie, perhaps simply getting through this one was a huge win for him physiologically. To finish 11th at the Tour is pretty phenomenal if you ask me, and just reinforces what he’s capable of. He was on his bike every day last week so I’d say he was far from tired. I’d say he was happy to get through it and the monkey off his back finally, if you like. We’ll see a much stronger Richie Porte over the next 12 months.