whooP! what a week that was. i was fortunate enough to be asked to represent the Taiwan Cyclist Federation as their Foreign Rider & Media co-ordinator during the recent 2013 Taiwan KOM Challenge. this involved having to host the official opening ceremony at about 2 hours notice, dealing with stress levels that went almost as high as the mountain the riders climbed itself, meeting tons of very nice folks and generally having a pretty fantastic time.
it also, inevitably, involved a night out at the end on the town with a handful of journos and a handful of top international riders, including Simon Clarke of Orica-GreenEdge and Tiffany Cromwell of Orica-AIS. what happens in provincial town in the middle of Taiwan stays in provincial town in the middle of Taiwan, but let’s just say that a certain female rider can handle a gin & tonic as well as she handles her bike…
the actual race day started off ominously grey and overcast, and within minutes of the start the rain that i said would definitely NOT be falling was, you guessed it, falling. luckily it soon cleared up though and as the riders hit the start of the 90km climb that goes up to 3,275m, starting up through Taroko Gorge, it cleared up to reveal the rather incredible beauty of the area.
people taking part in the event would ask me about the climb, and though i did my best to relate it all, it really is a case of you have to see it to believe it. ‘terrible’, ‘incredible’, ‘unbelievably hard’, ‘awesome’ – the adjectives just tumbled from riders’ lips like the water that cascades from the waterfalls that fall from the mountains along the route.
watching from the car as the cyclists made their way up the hill, i was struck by the fact that these folks on bikes were bringing a whole new dimension to the raw beauty of the gorge. they looked so goddam beautiful.
below are some links to articles written by the journalists who came to the KOM (some of whom rode the event). also are some images from them and other contributors.
it was just a real pleasure to be involved in all this. crankpunks, one and all. i salute you.
Andy van Bergen from CyclingTips, writes the heck out of it.
interview here by Andy from Tiffany Cromwell of Australia.
“It’s a much nicer atmosphere than a lot of sportifs I’ve done elsewhere – there seems to be real camaraderie, lots of smiles. Lots of handshakes,” writes Gordon. “Lots of laughter ahead of such a monster climb.”
Gordon managed to check out some of the local culture too:
“Taiwan really is a stunning place, and I’ve barely seen any of the island. Today’s press event was a photo and video call held by the seaside in Hualien. The sun’s heat and light was benevolent rather than oppressive as the riders’ minds turned to tomorrow’s torture.
First things first, I got to try two new things today thanks to our driver. One – a new method of shopping. Approach a roadside shack and slow your driving as you increase the volume and vehemence of your shouting. Stick a $TWD1000 note out the window. An elderly man will scuttle out and hand you your cigarettes and correct change. It takes seconds, and means minimal disruption to your day!
Then I tried Bin Lang – the betel nut, it’s the “Taiwanese Red Bull x 10,000”, a cross between candy and chewing gum. It’s a stimulant, so really good for long-distance drivers and 24-hour party people. It’s a huge part of the culture and is controversial in that ‘betel nut beauties’, scantily-clad young women, used to sell Bin Lang from roadside kiosks, but that was bad for Taiwan’s image …
… when someone spits out the red betel nut juice some people get the idea that you’ve been working so extra hard, you’re putting up blood.”
the race also got great coverage in Taiwanese and Chinese newspapers:
want to see more images? go check out the Taiwan Cyclist Federation KOM Challenge page!