Event Review

REVIEW: The Taiwan KOM Challenge 2013

by Stefano Dall'Aglio

A few months ago I was invited by the Taiwanese Cycling Federation (TCF) to attend the KOM Challenge Taiwan 2013. Completely in the dark with regards to what I was saying yes to, I kindly accepted the invitation to attend, and let my imagination fly away into the unknown both in terms of the event and country. 

I then set about trying to gather information on this event, and Taiwan as a whole, its history, people and more. The more I was discovering from books, magazines and the internet, the more my excitement grew. 

From a cycling point of view, the event itself was just flabbergasting. For starters, it featured a total ascent of over 3,300m in an event of just 105km. But there was more too, like the start line on the beach of a beautiful Taiwanese town, and the finish line at an altitude of 3,275m above sea level. 

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Adding to this there was also the longest climb I have ever ridden, and probably one of the longest in the world at nearly 87km. The average opened up at a gentle 5% before rising to 10%, then to 15%, 18%, 20%, before finally maxing out at 27.8% - Yes - 27.8%! 

The severity of the challenge was increased by the weather conditions - with temperatures ranging from 32 degrees at the start to 5 degrees at the top. Furthermore, the road in the Taroko Gorge is considered one of the top 10 most dangerous in the world.

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Finally - as if the event wasn't already unique and fascinating enough - the most enjoyable part for me was the chance to ride with the Pros - including Olympians and riders from the UCI World Tour. 

The list of names was just as long as the climb itself, to name but a few: Simon Clarke from Team Orica-Greenedge (Winner of the KOM jersey at La Vuelta), Tiffany Cromwell from Team Orica-AIS, Davic McCann (3x Irish Olympian), Danish cycling star John Ebsen and Yin Chih Wang - a promising Taiwanese climber hoping to one day make it to the Tour, Giro and Vuelta. 

There were many more too, from every part of the world; all climbers, grimpeurs, or as I like to say - SaddleDrunk - people that love the bike and spending hours in the saddle. I have to mention an outstanding MTB rider from Canada, Cory Wallace - who embodies the idea of SaddleDrunk - he is one of the strongest MTB marathon riders in the world, winning the famous Mongolia Bike Challenge two years in a row. 

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The event is organised by the TCF, and attracted media coverage from all over the world due to the presence of 28 different countries amongst the 450 riders taking part. Every tiny detail was perfected and taken care of, from the website to logistic, transportation, hotels, feed stations during the race, pasta party, sponsors and gadgets. 

The start took place in the eastern costal town and seaside resort of Hualien, under a deluge of torrential rain due to the Typhoon in the Philippines. We were held back by the race director's car for the first 18 km until we started the climb, where the pros were maintaining a fast speed at around 30km/h.For me, it proved too much, and I let the peloton go, knowing that it was going to be a hard day. 

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Cycling along this little narrow road, there were points where you were riding through dark tunnels, with rocks and water at the roadside, before emerging into the beautiful gorge and sunshine. It gave you a feeling of complete freedom, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature. At the top it was wet because of low level cloud, and the temperature had dropped drastically. Luckily though, we didn't hang around long. 

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The culture, the history, the food and the KOM Challenge make this island indisputably fascinating, confirming the "Formosa" name given to it during the Portuguese colonial era. I strongly recommend this event to those that love challenges, discovering new places and meeting extraordinary people. Taiwanese people are amongst the friendliest and most helpful I've ever come across. 

If you want to get more information and details of this event you can contact me on my website SaddleDrunk.com.


Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 8 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) n/a
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 9 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 8 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 10 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 91.1%




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