Australian cyclist, 50, scales heights of Jebel Jais - 9 times

Dean Mason cycled a total height greater than that of Mount Everest in less than 24 hours.

Beginning at 3.30pm on Thursday, March 30, and finishing 370km later at about noon on Friday, March 31, Mason climbed a total of 9,020 metres. Victor Besa for The National
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DUBAI // For keen cyclists, a weekend bike ride is the perfect way to unwind after a busy working week and the ideal opportunity to get out into the open air.

However, for Australian Dean Mason recent weekends have been spent training for his latest cycling endurance challenge of riding to the equivalent height of Mount Everest - here in the UAE.

The 50-year-old Dubai account manager has cycled nine times up the UAE’s highest peak - Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah - to set an unofficial record for the highest climb by a cyclist in the UAE of 9,020 metres.

The total height exceeded that of Mount Everest, which is 8,848m, and took Mason less than 24 hours to complete.

Beginning at 3.30pm on Thursday, March 30, and finishing 370km later at about noon on Friday, March 31, Mason climbed a total of 9,020 metres on his Italian-made Pinarello Dogma bike.

“I enjoy a challenge, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “Jebel Jais is spectacular, one of the most scenic places in the UAE. That makes it easier to do this kind of thing.

“On the bike, I had hours to think about life and, for a couple of laps, I had music on. It was beautiful in the early morning so I didn’t really need anything else to motivate me.

“I just had to concentrate on each pedal stroke but it was tough in the heat, particularly the last lap.”

Completing his fourth ascent proved the most difficult point to overcome, as exhaustion set in and the realisation he was just half way through the challenge.

As the scorching desert heat stripped him of every ounce of fluid, one of the biggest problems he faced was to stay hydrated as he continued to climb in 38C temperatures, with little shade or shelter.

Each ascent, with a 5 per cent gradient, took about an hour and a half to complete. The cooling descent to the base of the mountain took just 20 minutes before turning around and resuming the gruelling climb to the top.

His progress was recorded on a Garmin GPS receiver, monitored by a friend who was on-hand to offer support and supplies.

“I felt tired half-way and realised things were only going to get more difficult, so that took a lot of extra mental strength,” said Mason, a father of two.

“On my seventh lap, in my mind nothing would stop me. I went through different stages of fatigue but, mentally, it got easier towards the end, despite me being more physically tired.

“I never felt in any danger; the roads were in good condition and there was not much traffic. I didn’t have a single puncture, and that is a good sign about the quality of the road. Afterwards, mentally, I was drained.”

Amazingly, Mason was back on his bike the day after, as he went out for a 40km warm down cycle.

Mason, from Melbourne, is no stranger to endurance challenges. In his younger days, he cycled 3,900km across Australia and last year pedalled the 1,200km from Dubai to Salalah, Oman.

His efforts have impressed his fellow riders at his weekend cycling club, Team Oryx.

The group was founded by Ahmed Al Jubouri, a Briton of Iraqi descent who moved to the UAE more than a decade ago and set up the Team Oryx cycling team in 2015. It now has more than 60 members.

“Dean is a very strong guy but at the age of 50, it is an incredible achievement,” he said.

“I’ve asked around the cycling community and no one else we know of has done the same climbs to this altitude up this particular route, which is the highest climb in the UAE.

“There are three factors to consider: the heat, completing it within 24 hours and the total height he has cycled. It is very impressive.”

nwebster@thenational.ae