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Ups and Downs of Extreme Austrian Cyclist

By Adam Marsal

Jacob Zurl (27) from Austria is no average cyclist. He is an extreme cyclist and holder of a Guinness record: The most vertical meters cycled in 48 hours. His courageous attempts never stop surprising the worldwide sporting audience. But he doesnť achieve his goals every time.

Where we are struggling, Jacob is getting even more excited. In 2014 he completed the fastest ever ride of the Himalaya’s road Leh Manali Highway. It took him 40 hours in high altitude conditions to break the record. The route from Manali to Leh belongs to the most dangerous highways of the world. You can bet on poor road conditions, extreme weather (in the day up to 35°C and in the night down to -15°C), ruthless traffic and the high altitude with a lack of oxygen.

Jacob Zurl during world's 1st non-stop Himalaya cycle 2014 (photo Raoul Kopacka) 7

One song for a ride

One particular moment stood out for Zurl during his ride in 2014. The scariest moment was at the first mountain pass, when Jacob saw a truck falling down the ravine. The driver had luck and came uninjured out of the destroyed truck. For Jacob the hardest moment was at the middle of the project where he cycled for very long time above 4500m. He felt bad, he had a headache, vomited and his oxygen saturation was only at 70%. To give you an idea of the severity of this, an oxygen saturation rate of 75 tends to result in a stay at the intensive care unit. Exhausted but happy he made it to the top while listening the same song Free from Natalia Kills over and over again in his earphones.

Jacob Zurl showing off near Tsemo Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

Another goal

But recently Jacob wasn’t so happy. In December 2015 he wanted to be the first man who would ride 1400 km the length of Cuba non-stop. He planned do this without stopping to sleep while dealing with heat and humidity, poor road surfaces and limited infrastructure of the Caribbean island. Jacob’s goal was to do this in less than 55 hours – a journey that is usually completed by experienced cyclists in two weeks! To increase his body tolerance for island’s heat and humidity he used a sauna over many weeks. He also had to consider the possible impact of this extreme ride on his health, particularly heart and lungs. He remembered that it took many weeks for him to recover after his Himalaya ride.

Jacob Zurl fixing his bike near Leh palace, Ladakh

Sick at Cuba

Shortly after Jacob arrived to Cuba, he was feeling dizzy, had headache and was slightly nauseous. Very fast his body temperature increased up to 39°C and he had to receive a medical assistance in the hospital of Santiago de Cuba. After a hard decision he had to announce to all his fans, that his world record non-stop Cuba cycle had to be unfortunately cancelled.


Speaking about the cancellation Jacob said: “I am both disappointed and frustrated after all the effort and time the team and I put in training, preparing, raising funds and working out the logistics, a particular challenge in Cuba, of this venture. I am particularly disappointed for all the people who have supported me and I hope I can make it up to them by embarking on an new world record in 2016.”

Jacob Zurl during world's 1st non-stop Himalaya cycle 2014 (photo Raoul Kopacka) 6