The postman who will climb Everest from his home in Bandon
The things people do in a global pandemic.
Shortly after dawn on Saturday, Declan Fitzgerald will sit onto his Turbo Trainer to begin a marathon session of mental and physical endurance.
For the following 14-plus hours the Bandon Cycling club member aims to climb the equivalent of Mount Everest from the dis-comfort of his own home.
Fitzgerald, like thousands of club cyclists around Ireland, are using systems like the online platform Zwift to either train or race due to the restrictions imposed in the time of coronavIrus.
His iPad hooks into the Turbo Trainer and in turn replicates the gradient resistance of any given course along with producing computer generated images of what the rider would ‘see’ on the route.
The challenge Fitzgerald has set himself is one of the most fiendish that the tech can throw at him.
“It all came about by accident,” the postman, who does his rounds in Kilbrittain, explained with a hearty laugh.
“I was doing one of Cycling Ireland’s Zwift League races one morning when the chain popped off my bike. By the time I got it sorted the rest of the field had moved on so I just spotted a climb on the screen and off I took and did it twice and enjoyed it. And that planted the seed.”
But in a way the seed was already there. Fitzgerald had read about a group in Australia, the Hells 500, who according to their website “are the creators and custodians of the Everesting concept.
Pick any climb, anywhere in the world and ride or run repeat after grinding repeat until you have notched up 8,848m vert. In one activity. Complete the challenge to get your name in the Everesting Hall of Fame and earn the right to wear the grey stripe jersey.”
Fitzgerald added: “So I am working off their rules for my challenge. The hill that I am doing it on is the Alpe de Zwift which is based on the Alpe d’Huez.
“That is a 12.4km route but for every 12.4km, you are climbing 1,038m.”
(His total climb on the day will be 8,848 metres while covering 225km, the average gradient he will face will be 8.5% with a maximum of 15%).
Think about the steep hills in your locality, the ones you grimace about having to walk, run, or cycle.
Now you get the picture of how Fitzgerald’s entire challenge is looking.
“The most important thing about it is pacing. I could do it once off in about an hour but I have to do it eight and a half times to reach my target.
“So I will aim to do each climb in about 80 minutes. I have done it up as far as six times in practice which takes roughly 10 hours so I am aiming for 14-plus hours on Saturday.
“You can take breaks if you want, but I am going to keep those to a minimum. I plan to take a 10-minute break after every three climbs just to change my gear because the amount of sweat that comes off is something else even with the fans going around me.”
Though social distancing means he wouldn’t leave his home, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have support this weekend.
“I will have my pit crew around with my wife Ger, my kids, Megan, Caitlin, Ryan, Mel, Kellie and my grandson Eoin.
“A few of the lads from the Bandon Cycling Club will be joining me virtually on the day. We will be able to chat via text, or through the headsets if we have enough breath left!”
But it’s more than just about conquering Everest for Fitzgerald.
“I’m raising funds for Pieta House. Their main Darkness into Light fundraiser a few weeks ago was hit by all the social distancing rules. There isn’t a house in Ireland that hasn’t been impacted by suicide or mental health issues so it is a good charity to support.”
For details on how you can contribute go to www.Idonate.ie/DecFitzy.