Conquering Mt Contador
CYCLING WEEKLY|August 27, 2020
When Alberto Contador set a new Everesting world record last month, many suspected he had put it beyond reach. Then along came Ronan McLaughlin...
David Bradford

When Ronan McLaughlin answers my call, speaking from his home on the outskirts of Derry, Northern Ireland, he asks me to call back in five minutes – he’s just putting his 18-month-old daughter Sophia to bed for her morning nap. Such duties have become a well-rehearsed part of the 33-year-old’s daily routine, as becomes clear when I ask about his training during lockdown.

“Initially I struggled a lot. My wife Rachel is a nurse, so she was on the front line. I was trying to work from home while running ‘daddy daycare’ at the same time, so training was restricted to maybe 20 minutes before Rachel went to work or in the evening once Sophia was asleep.”

There was a flurry of Everesting record attempts over the summer (see box), but this was no spur-of-the-moment decision for seasoned road racer McLaughlin.

“I’d been interested for a couple years, but in normal seasons the opportunity was never really there to go and do it.”

Along came lockdown and suddenly his schedule was clear. Despite having good early-season form, McLaughlin decided to bide his time and build a meticulous plan. But how do you prepare to rack up 8,848 metres of ascent – totally unlike anything else you’d normally do on a bike?

“I wanted to keep it fun, so I started off with lots of VO2 max work and hard efforts, and integrated that into chasing Strava segments,” McLaughlin laughs. “Admittedly it wasn’t the most technical of approaches.”

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