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by Dane Cash
May 18, 2020
Photography by Cris Fox
Less than a week after Phil Gaimon stormed to a new record for the fastest Everesting effort, reigning US mountain cross-country mountain bike champ Keegan Swenson broke that record, ascending 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) just over 12 minutes faster than Gaimon’s time.
Swenson completed the effort on Friday in an impressive seven hours, 40 minutes, and five seconds (you can check out the Strava data here) to best Gaimon’s time of 7:52:12.
Having emerged as one of the top mountain bikers in North America in recent years, the 26-year-old has plenty of experience taking on challenges on two wheels, but described his Everesting attempt as “probably the hardest” thing he has taken on in a phone conversation with CyclingTips this weekend.
“Doing a 14-minute climb 29 times over eight hours, its’s pretty mentally taxing,” Swenson said. “And it was also exhausting. A different kind of physical suffering, just long and drawn out. In racing you go hard, all out, on the attack—but with this it was like, well, here’s my plan, I’m doing this and if I blow up, I blow up, but this is what I’m doing.”
Swenson said he had been thinking about giving the attempt a go for the past few weeks, but found himself compelled to come up with a concrete plan and select an ideal climb after Gaimon shattered the previous record.
“Phil went ahead and ripped the record to pieces by doing under eight hours so then I was like well if I”m going to do this and get the record I’m going to have to reassess my plan,” he said. “So I went back to the drawing board. I was talking to my buddy Jonathan at TrainerRoad, he’s a real data nerd, so we ran some numbers on some different climbs.”
They settled on a section of the Pine Canyon Rd. climb in Midway, Utah, that ascends 311.81 meters (1,023 feet) over the course of 2.93 kilometers (1.82 miles). That meant Swenson would be making a little over 28 trips up, which he said he preferred to an effort that would have required more repetitions with less gain for each trip.
Swenson’s parents came out for support and to hand out water bottles, and Swenson rode the climb together with fellow mountain biker (and roommate) Ryan Standish as part of an effort as part of a Bike MS fundraising effort, with Swenson hunting the Everesting record and Standish ascending the elevation of Mount Everest plus one foot for every dollar raised over one thousand, for a total of nearly 32,000 feet.
Over Swenson’s final few ascents it became clearer that he would probably land the record, and when all was said and done he had indeed achieved his objective, maintaining a weighted average power of around 260 watts for just under eight hours.
“It was such a relief man,” Swenson said. “I knew I had the record in the bag at the point so I was just like, ‘It feels so good to be done.'”
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