Larry Warbasse claims what could be the world's toughest Strava KOM

The 89.5km Mauna Kea climb in Hawaii rises from sea-level to 4,214 metres with steep gravel sections on the way

Larry Warbasse in the Coppa Bernocchi 2023
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Larry Warbasse ended 2023 on a high – literally – after setting a new Strava KoM on one of the world's toughest climbs.

The Mauna Kea volcano climb in Hawaii is 89.5km long, beginning at sea-level and topping out at a dizzying 4,214 metres. Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale rider Warbasse completed it in 4.59.04, taking just 15 seconds off the previous best time set by former pro rider Phil Gaimon in 2016.

They are the only two riders to have broken the five-hour barrier for the climb, which averages 4.7%, with a final 21km averaging 9%. There is even a 10km dirt section that averages 12% and comes at the 3,000m altitude mark that Warbasse was forced to walk at times. No wonder this climb has the super-tough reputation it does.

Warbasse dedicated his Strava activity to the outgoing record holder Gaimon, simply titling it 'Sorry Phil', with a few suitable emojis (a laughing face and three crowns, if you're asking). "That was brutal", he writes underneath.

Larry Warbasse Mauna Kea KOM Strava file

(Image credit: Strava)

Gaimon apparently held no grudges though, replying in the comments: "That's the ride that convinced me to give YouTube a try because it was so damn cool I wanted to share it. Glad you got to ride it. Nice job." Gaimon did, however, point out in a separate comment that when he did it there was a "wall of snow in the last 5k".

Warbasse, whose climbing credentials are well proven with most of his best results – including a stage win in the Tour de Suisse 2017 – coming on big days out in the hills and mountains, wrote extensively about his ride up Mauna Kea on social media.

"I’ve been coming to the Big Island for years, but I never attempted to ride up Mauna Kea, it just seemed too hard. But this trip, I figured it was about time to give it a go…," he wrote.

He describes negotiating the gravel section, saying: "It’s pretty loose and not entirely rideable without wider tires… at one point I had to walk for a few minutes" before the climb "magically turns to pavement again."

But then the climb gets steeper, Warbasse wrote, saying: "It was like hitting the last few km of Tre Cime Lavaredo after riding up one of the steepest hills of the Strade Bianche that went on for 10km.. But somehow after feeling like I was never going to make it by sunset, I got to the top."

He did, however, say that he was in no hurry to repeat the feat, and who can blame him?

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1