‘Everesting’ day — Sebago cyclist conquers nearly 17 hour challenge

Jason Yannelli

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

SEBAGO — What would it be like to ride a bicycle up Mt. Everest?

Jason Yannelli found out last Saturday.

Well, sort of.

The competitive cyclist took the Everest Challenge. Starting at 4:30 a.m., he climbed Robinson Hill and Wynn Mountain Road a total of 46 times over 16 hours, 54 minutes, ultimately reaching a grand total of 29,348 feet of elevation, surpassing Mt. Everest, which stands at 29,028 feet of elevation.

The ride put the former Marine into the Everesting Hall of Fame. Jason’s ride was the first official Everest Challenge completed in the State of Maine, there has only been 1,800 done in the world.

Cycling is a sport Jason just recently hopped back into after a 20-year hiatus.

“I started riding and racing when I was in middle school. My father rode and there was a high school racing team, so I joined in middle school. I stopped riding when I went into the Marines in 1997 and took a 20 year break,” he said. “Last year was my first year back riding and racing. I was hit by a car on June 21, my birthday, that ended last year’s big comeback with broken hand and collar bone. So, the Everest (Challenge) was a one year post-crash reward!”

Jason has found cycling to be a great sport to stay in shape, yet not be so physically harsh on one’s body.

“You can cover so much ground and enjoy the scenery of Maine,” he said.

One dislike is the fact that some motorists fail to share the road.

“I ride as close to the edge of the road as possible, but some think its great to buzz you as close as possible,” he said. “I’m sure if they were walking or standing at there mailbox, they wouldn’t enjoy it either.”

Jason returned to competitive cycling racing last year and had a very successful spring in the Scarborough training series, where he won the overall series for the 4/5 category.

“I race all three — road, criteriums and time trials. I’m starting to like time trials the most because its just you racing the clock without knowing how well the other racers are doing until after the finish, so it is a personal test like no other.”

Jason decided to take the Everest Challenge as a means to train for other upcoming races.

The Everest Challenge is a one-day challenge managed by a website called Hells 500. The object is to ride up and down the same hill over and over until the cyclist covers the same elevation gain as Mt. Everest (29,028 feet).

“You can stop to take a rest, but no sleeping. You can’t make a loop or go up and over. It’s pedal to the top, ride to the bottom and turn around and do it again,” Jason said. “The hill I did had 643 feet of climbing and I did it 46 times for a total of 177.5 miles and 29,348 feet of elevation and a time of 16 hours 54 minutes. I changed the gearing to a one-to-one ratio and have been training all winter and spring with around 3,600 miles for the year so far.”

Jason chose Robinson Hill and Wynn Mountain Road because of the location. “We set up a food and water table right at the bottom of my driveway and the hill so I could pull in and refuel and go,” he said.

Next on the cycling agenda are some small local races and then the big focus race — the 45th Annual Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, slated for Aug. 19-20, with a practice ride on July 16. Last year, there were 538 finishers with Eneas Freyere of Norwalk, Conn. posting the fastest time over the 7.6-mile course in 52 minutes, 10 seconds.

“It will be my first time, so I used the Everest Challenge as training for that,” Jason said.

As a way to train and also welcome others into the cycling circle, Jason leads a group ride on Sundays, starting at 3:30 p.m. at Food City in Bridgton and traveling around Long Lake. All are welcome.

“For new cyclists, I would tell them to find a local group ride, don’t worry about their pace because a good group ride will stick together and the new riders can gather a bunch of knowledge from the more experienced riders,” he said.

Jason grew up in Bridgton and now resides in Sebago with his kids Grace, Everett and Olivia and his girlfriend, Alanna.

One way he has stayed connected to the military after 10 years with the Marines, Jason now rides for United States Military Endurance Sports — a veterans only team that is worldwide, which includes cyclist, runners, triathletes and adventure racers. To be a member, one must be a veteran, active duty or signed up and attending a military academy. The team’s slogan is “Fit for Duty, Fit for Life.” USMES membership is regionally based. Each region (16 total) has a coordinator that identifies focus events in that region and is every member’s first line of leadership for questions, support and mentorship.

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