Atlee grad and Richmonder Sean Gardner last weekend set the world record in a competition known as Everesting, an activity in which cyclists ascend and descend a given hill until their cumulative climb equals 29,029 feet, or the height of Mt. Everest.
Gardner, who previously held the United States record, rode up and down a 15.5% gradient over .7 miles at Tanners Ridge Rd., about 10 minutes from Luray Caverns. He finished in 6 hours, 59 minutes and 38 seconds, becoming the first person to complete the feat in less than 7 hours.
During the arduous climb, Gardner burned upward of 9,000 calories. To compensate for the loss, he consumed almost 1,000 grams of sugars by way of pop tarts, gummy bears, superfuel drink mixes and gels. His parents, Tim and Chris, provided essential snacks and emotional support during the grueling journey.
“I couldn’t get anyone else to stand on top of a mountain for seven hours,” Gardner said with a laugh.
Gardner competes for pro team CS Velo Racing. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2016 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was a runner at Atlee before picking up cycling at Tech after joining the Hokies’ club team. He began riding professionally immediately after college, and it’s been his full-time gig since.
Everesting has gained popularity during the pandemic while many traditional races are on hold. Gardner said he doesn’t expect the record to stand for long, and that’s OK — the competition has filled in him a competitive void created by the pandemic.
“Setting the new world record, it coming back to Virginia and the United States, I think it will set a fire in quite a few people. I feel like it will definitely come down soon,” he said.
“The finish line of this race is pretty different than thousands of fans cheering for you at the finish line of a regular race. Nobody cheered for me at the finish line, but it definitely fulfilled the competitive vibes.”