Škoda takes four cyclists including Bartosz Huzarski to India to tackle the fearsome Khardung La – twice the height of the Col du Galibier

A retired professional cyclist has smashed a Strava KOM in the Himalayas – on a road that tops out at an altitude of 5,359 metres, just over twice the height of the highest point of this year’s Tour de France, the Col du Galibier.

Former Bora-Argon 18 rider Bartosz Huzarski, aged 37, had to combat snowstorms, an unrelenting 5 per cent gradient over 40 kilometres, the final 10 kilometres of which was on dirt roads and oxygen deprivation on his way to claiming the KOM on the climb of the Khardung La in India.

The Polish rider, who swapped his road bike for a mountain bike for the event, had been challenged to tackle the ascent by Škoda along with three other riders for the Czech car manufacturer’s Catching Breath project, showcased on its We Love Cycling website.

The company supplied two support vehicles, one of which showed the pacing of the former KOM holder on the climb, the Austrian rider Christoph Kluge.

Huzarski, who took 2 hours, 36 minutes and 16 seconds to ride the climb, beat Kluge’s record by almost half an hour and one of his riding companions, Eva Lindskog from Sweden, also got within the Austrian’s and holds the QOM on the ascent.

“From the mental side it was really hard, you know there’s not much oxygen; every move you spend extra energy so I was mostly sitting on the bike,” said Huzarski.

“And approaching 5,000 metres it wasn’t even possible to stand up. There was so little oxygen.”

Besides the video above of the cyclists taking on the ascent, Škoda has also produced a 25-minute documentary showcasing the riders’ preparations and their acclimatisation to the Himalayan environment, and there is also a wealth of information about the project on the We Love Cycling website.

Huzarski’s final verdict? “Never, ever again.”

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.