20-year-old breaks UK Everesting record

The Cumbrian brings the national record closer to the nine-hour barrier

A 20-year-old Cumbrian has set a new UK Everesting record.

Riding the same climb as the previous record-holder Hannah Rhodes, Tom Stephenson set a new best time of nine hours, two minutes and 25 seconds, six minutes quicker than Rhodes.

>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<

Stephenson, from Barrow-in-Furness and a member of the Lakes Road Club, set out on Sunday June 14 along with his older brother Sam for their Everesting attempt on the Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District.

The climb has an average gradient of 10.9 per cent, with Stephenson riding a total of 170km in nearly nine and a half hours, averaging 18.1km/h and reaching a max speed of 90km/h while descending.

Tom Stephenson’s Everesting attempt (Strava)

“My brother and I had planned on Everesting for a while, but with no real intention of breaking any records,” Stephenson told Cycling Weekly. “However, due to the rise in popularity and the UK record changing hands multiple times in the past few weeks, we felt now was the time to strike!”

>>> The Strava dilemma: Is it money well spent?

The brothers had been training towards a full calendar of racing including the Fred Whitton, Dirty Reiver and the Torino-Nice Rally until the coronavirus pandemic derailed the majority of sporting competition. Like many, they turned to more individual racing pursuits, able to be conducted while social distancing.

“Also, our grandad passed recently,” Stephenson added. “So we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to raise some funds for the local hospice who cared for him – this provided the extra motivation needed.” The brothers have so far raised over £1,600 on their JustGiving page.

Neither brother had done any specific training in the run-up to the ride apart from clocking plenty of miles, saying they were nervous, excited as well as confident in the days beforehand. “I’d done the number crunching and knew I should be very close to the current record if all were to go to plan!” Stephenson said.

Stephenson says the mental aspect was the hardest part of the ride, having to maintain record pace without any power data becoming increasingly difficult as he completed repetitions of the climb. “I had to block out any negative thoughts and have faith that the legs had it in them,” Stephenson said.

“Keeping on top of fuelling and hydration was also very challenging as we faced temperatures upwards of 25 degrees and 93 per cent humidity,” he explained, the ride having started under clouds. “The only respite was having cool water poured over our backs by our dad at the top!”

Tom and Sam Stephenson (Mike Stephenson)

Stephenson says his primary emotion after stepping off the bike after nine hours was relief that the suffering was over, having to then wait for a number of days to have his record verified by Hells 500.

While the 20-year-old now holds the UK Everesting record, Rhodes, who had taken the record 10 days earlier, still holds the world record for a female rider.

Her effort beat former pro Lauren De Crescenzo’s previous best time by nearly 50 minutes.

The overall record is held by US national mountain bike champion Keegan Swenson, who set a time of seven hours and 40 minutes, which looked to have been bested by EF Pro Cycling’s Lachlan Morton until he lost his Everesting record due to faulty altitude data.

Morton chose the 1.9km-long, 11 per cent Rist Canyon climb in Colorado for his attempt, which Strava says rises 213 metres up, but actually only gains 200m of altitude.