Dozens of mountain bikers donned snow goggles and braved freezing temperatures to reach the finish line of the world’s highest mountain biking race in the foothills of Nepal’s Himalayas Sunday, seven months after a devastating earthquake hit the country.

The annual Yak Attack, which kicked off in 2007, is a nine-day-long race over about 400 kilometres (250 miles) of rocky and snow-covered terrain, crossing the world’s highest mountain pass, the Thorong La at 5,416 metres (17,769 feet), north of 8,091-metre-tall Mount Annapurna.

Organisers decided to go ahead with the race despite 60 per cent of entrants cancelling this year after a 7.8-magnitude strong earthquake hit the Himalayan nation in April, killing nearly 8,900 people.

“Many were put off by the quake. But we decided not to cancel the race because it would have sent out a negative message about the country,” organiser Phil Evans told AFP.

Twenty-nine people from countries including Britain, the United States, Japan and Sweden took part in this year’s race, with six participants from Nepal. 

Nepal’s national champion Ajay Pandit Dixit bagged first place. “I am very happy to have won,” Dixit, who has won four times before, said on reaching the finish line.

“This is a difficult race and we cycle over a natural route. Even professional riders find it challenging.”

Organisers describe the route as “one of the toughest endurance races” in the world. – Agence France-Presse

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