Biking from one end of the country to the other in under 20 hours is the challenge that a local bicycling club set itself late last night in Kaohsiung.
Seven riders were scheduled to leave for Taipei from the southern city at midnight yesterday, with the aim of completing the 420km cross-country course and arriving at Taipei Main Station by 8pm tonight.
Though the ride has been attempted before, according to the Giant Bicycle Company of Taiwan, nobody has done it in under 24 hours.
Wind, heat, dehydration, fatigue, nutrition and traffic will be the biggest obstacles in the way of a record-breaking ride, said team leader Leslie Toong, from the H2O cycling club based in Chiayi.
The UK structural engineer said the forecast for the journey was good as of yesterday afternoon.
"The latest weather report says that wind should not be a problem. It is our greatest enemy, because even a relatively light headwind of 6kph to 7kph is enough to make things really difficult," Toong said.
"As a group we all enjoy our cycling and every weekend we are riding distances of between 100km to 200km to improve our fitness.
"I thought it would be a challenge to extend the goal posts and stretch our limits ... I thought that this endurance ride between two major cities in under 20 hours was possible and created the opportunity for promoting the sport of cycling, so more people are aware of what can be achieved on two wheels," Toong said.
The team intended to leave Kaohsiung at midnight last night, on the Route 1 highway, which would take them up the north-west coast, past Tainan, Chiayi, Taichung and Hsinchu, before arriving in Taipei.
The trial of endurance originally included nine team members, but two dropped out because their families did not want them to cycle into Taipei and possibly contract SARS.
The team will be assisted by Bob Mues, a civil engineer from the US, who will be on hand at rest stops scheduled at approximately 40km intervals along the way.
Mues' job will be to ensure the cyclists get fed and watered, in addition to sorting out the team's mechanical problems and punctured tires.
The H2O cycling club was set up in 1986 and has around 100 members, the majority of whom are locals, with expats accounting for the rest.
Giant Bicycle Company and Jawire (Chia Cherne Cable Factory Ltd), from Taichung, have stumped up sponsorship for the ride.
"These are big cycle industries that are known internationally and they have given us their time and took an interest in what we were planning to do. This is the typical sincere and friendly nature of people in Taiwan," Toong said.
"It was intended that this would be a charity ride, but we could not arrange anything this time around. But possibly we will do that next year if everything goes well."
Anyone who wants to catch up with H2O, see Web site http://www.h2obike.idv.tw/~h2o/WWW/h2obike2/main.htm