As I write this we are on our team bus from Taipei, Taiwan’s capital to Hualien, host city for the Taiwan KOM Challenge. Last year Oliver and I came to participate in the event, this year we have a team of Alpine Cadence riders with us for a week long adventure culminating in the big event.
The event itself is now very much on the global cycling map. A unique race, almost entirely uphill from sea level all the way to Taiwan’s highest road pass, Wuling at 3275m. An epic and challenging 105km event attracting 700 riders ranging from top pros chasing the prize money on offer right down to plucky amateurs just trying to finish within the 6.5 hour cut off time.
Recent winners have included Vincenzo Nibali and Emma Pooley, this year’s start list will include the likes of multiple world champion Mariana Voss. There’s no other event we’ve come across yet where anyone who fancies the challenge can rock up and race against the best. Bring it on!
Oliver and I arrived in Taipei almost week ago to check out local roads and sights to see in the city. I really wanted to create a trip that would give our team of riders the best chance to do well in the KOM event but still sample a good dose of Taiwanese life and culture while we are here. Two days of riding in the Taipei area combined with city sightseeing, then on to Hualien for the 3 nights prior to the event with some gentle ‘tapering’ rides on the cards around that area.
Our 2 days in Taipei have been a great balance of superb riding and city sights. The riding North and West of the city is great, taking in the Yangmingshan National Park and over to the spectacular North Coast with it’s numerous beach’s and fishing ports. Each day we road 90/100kms with 1500/2000m climbing. These would be our biggest 2 days on the bike in the lead up to the event. Might as well remind the legs of what they’ll need to do at the end of the week and and exercise like that nicely overrides or at least distracts our bodies from jetlag issues. We quickly adjust!
Those 2 rides went really well. The riding in the city is surprisingly good. A fantastic network of spacious bike paths along both sides of the Keelung River means hassle free, flat riding for as long as you need. Really quiet too, meaning that unlike some bike paths you can ride safely at a good speed. The city roads themselves are quite an experience. Dedicated lanes for bikes/scooters and a very clear and well organised system. Busy for sure but a real feeling of courtesy and respect from other road users and a safe and enjoyable experience. Once beyond the city perimeter we found ourselves in lush jungle almost immediately. Formosan Macaques would gives us some friendly company and very little traffic. Here and everywhere we would ride in the next few days the road surfaces were superb. Fast, low roll resistance tarmac everywhere, makes you feel good!
The North Coast provided fabulous ocean views and perfect friendly coffee stops. Wide roads and almost too good to be true quietness, lovely!
The selection of climbs we did varied hugely in their gradients, a bit of everything to keep us on our toes. Sometimes constant, sometimes rampy, no real trend to the roads apart from that were all great! The toughest section we dealt with was the 2kms at 11% up to Mount Datun that would give us a good simulation of what to expect in the latter stages of the KOM event.
Off the bike Taipei delivered too. Using the efficient metro system we visited to impressive Taipei 101, once the world’s tallest building. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall was a highlight too and a reminder of Taiwan’s recent history.
Eating in Taiwan is a joy! Shilin Night Market provided a fabulous and authentic local eating experience. To contrast that that we even treated ourselves to afternoon tea at the exclusive Taipei Grand Hotel to feel like celebrities for an hour or so!
We leave Taipei with great memories, wonderful bike rides, plenty to see and do off the bike and great eating. Now time to head to the event.
Hualien is 180km down the east coast from Taipei. A spectacular 4 hour drive taking in wonderful views of the Pacific as we hug the dramatic, steep coastline in the second half of the trip.
On arrival in Hualien we’ll be checking into the modern and spacious Parkview Hotel, a very pleasant and comfortable environment for us in the lead up to Friday’s exploits. With a couple of fairly big days in our legs it’s time to take it easy. Any riding we do in the next 3 days will be shorter and not too much climbing. We want to enjoy the area that we are in and keep the legs turning but essential that we go into Friday’s event as fresh as we can.
The hotel is big and will accommodate the pre race presentation on Thursday and the top pro riders who are lining up for the event. Cool to be rubbing shoulders with the those guys as we line up for our extensive breakfast buffet.
Our Alpine Cadence Team is 9 strong. Oliver and I are doing the event for the second time after a very good experience last year. We are joined by 7 other riders all of whom have shared Alpine Cadence adventures with us in the past. Duncan Carrier (GBR), Alastair Roberts (GBR), Stephen Blackburn (AUS), Michael Barnes (USA), Ruari Grant (GBR), Peter Waldron (AUS) and Fenton Curley (IRL) all signing up with various aspirations and goals for the event. We’re a pretty strong bunch although I say it myself. With the generous dishing out of podium trophies for different age categories we stand a good chance of getting a bit of tangible reward in this event. Ruari is our best hope having won the prestigious Haute Route event 5 times including this year’s Haute Route Alps. Stephen is a rider with a huge amount of experience and could do very well in the 50 plus category. Alastair finished 8th in last year’s Haute Route Pyrenees too. All in all a strong bunch with hopefully no one troubled by cut off times at the back of the field.
Next blog will share more information as to the event itself and how we prepare in the last couple of days leading up to it.
See you soon!