Mon, Aug 03, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Ma greets round-the-nation cyclists

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

ZPresident Ma Ying-jeou, center, poses for a photo in Taipei yesterday with a student receiving a certificate for cycling around Taiwan in a 12-day event organized by the Sports Affairs Council.

PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES

More than 90 youths completed their 12-day, round-the-nation cycle tour yesterday, concluding the government’s annual “three-stage bicycle rite of passage” initiative, in which youths “cycle into adulthood.”

The initiative was spearheaded by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last year in the hope of promoting the nation’s world-renown bicycle manufacturers and to encourage regular exercise.

The program encourages youngsters to ride 100km in a day when they are 16 years old, 500km in five days when they turn 18 and 1,000km in 12 days when they reach 20.

More than 5,300 people have participated in the 100km, 500km and 1,000km rides. Ma, who presented certificates to the 92 youths completing the 1,000km rides at the square in front of the Presidential Office yesterday morning, said he would like to see more people take part in the initiative.

Chen Liang-wei (陳良瑋) was one of the 1,000km tour team captains. The deeply tanned 20-year-old said he could deal with the scorching sun, but he found riding uphill was the most challenging part of the ride.

Chung Yi-chun (鍾宜均), 20, said although she exercised regularly, she found the heat, head wind and hills the most unbearable.

Chu Han-wei’s (朱涵葳) family went to yesterday’s event to offer their congratulations. Her mother, Yu Chun-mei (游春美), said it had been her daughter’s dream to cycle around the nation.

During the 12-day ride, Yu said she sent a text message to her daughter every day to offer encouragement. Yu said her daughter told her that the first two days were the most difficult. She said she believed that her daughter had become more understanding, tolerant and worldly-wise after completing the ride.

Ma told the crowd that it was his dream to cycle around Taiwan when he was 16 years old and during one winter vacation, Ma said he and some of his friends made their first attempt to cycle to the north coast. It was an exhausting ride, he said, because his bicycle did not have any gears and the road conditions were bad. It took him 12 hours to ride 100km, he said.

Ma said he attempted a round-the-nation cycle tour when he was a freshman at National Taiwan University, but gave up halfway through and took a train back home to Jhongli City (中壢), Taoyuan County.

In 2003, Ma said he rode to the north coast again and completed the ride, thanks to the improved condition of the roads and a better equipped cycle.

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