A Japanese adventurer who eight years ago became the second youngest man to complete mountaineering’s Seven Summits challenge has been killed in north western Russia while undertaking a long-distance bike ride that took him close to the Arctic Circle in the depths of winter.
Haruhisa Watanabe, aged 31, died from multiple injuries sustained when he was struck by a car on Wednesday on the Kola Peninsula in north western Russia, around 300 kilometres from Murmansk.
According to the Italian news website, Quotidiano.net, local sources believe that poor visibility combined with the harsh winter conditions experienced in the region, where temperatures at this time of year are around 20 degrees below Celsius and the sun does not rise for weeks on end, were factors in the incident.
The website adds that initially there was confusion about the identity of the cyclist who had been killed, but the Japanese embassy in Moscow has confirmed that documentation found on his body including a passport revealed that it was Watanabe.
In 2004, at the age of 22, Watanabe became the second youngest person at that point to complete the Seven Summits challenge, which involves scaling the highest peaks on all seven continents, including Mount Everest in Asia, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mount McKinley in North Africa.
He also reportedly held the record for the quickest descent by bike from the peak of Mount Fuji in his native country, Japan, where his exploits had made him famous.
What would be his final journey began in June when he rode across China and Central Asia, including Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey, before crossing the Black Sea to Russia and heading north towards the Arctic.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.