Cardiff student Illi Gardner breaks women's Everesting record

Run-ins with sheep and support from dad helped her set a new fastest time

Illi Gardner
(Image credit: Cams Basso/Strava)

Cardiff student Illi Gardner has broken the women's Everesting record, taking nearly 20 minutes off of Emma Pooley's previous fastest time.

Gardner climbed the required 8,848 metres in a time of 8-33-47, 19 minutes and 49 seconds faster than Pooley's 8-53-36 set in July 2020.

She chose the climb of Bwlch y Groes in Snowdonia in north Wales for the feat, which is less than a kilometre long with an average gradient of 17.4 per cent, and is second highest public road mountain pass in Wales, with a summit altitude of 545 metres (1,788 ft).

The 21-year-old posted her ride to Strava (opens in new tab), with the data since being verified and confirmed that she has officially broken the record, her stats showing she rode a total distance of 107.57km, producing a weighted average power of 209W.

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Her average speed was 12.6km/h as she repeated the short climb over and over again, reaching a maximum speed of  60.8km/h on the descent.

Photos on her Strava post show foggy conditions out on the road, the temperature sitting at 13°C during the effort, where Gardner was supported by her dad.

"Everest on Bwlch y Groes - not sure I'd recommend," Gardner said afterwards.

"Had a little breakdown at 45 reps when both weather and legs took a turn for the worse - and squirrely sheep nearly ruined the day! Thanks dad for sitting in the fog for nine hours."

Gardner is currently in her fifth season as a road racer, and currently rides for Cams Basso, juggles her cycling with studying visual effects at the University of Cardiff.

Pooley's previous best time was achieved on the 13 per cent average Haggenegg climb in Switzerland on Wednesday, riding a total of 130km up and down the 6.7km-long climb to rack up the required amount of climbing metres, knocking 15 minutes off the then women's record. 

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.