About 600 cyclists from 32 countries are to compete in the Taiwan King of the Mountain Challenge (KOM) that begins on Friday.
Launched in 2012, the KOM Challenge has become one of the highlights of the Taiwan Cycling Festival.
The French magazine Le Cycle has rated it as one of the world’s top 10 toughest races, as cyclists compete on a 105km route where elevations can go as high as 3,275m above sea level.
The most challenging part of the race is the final 10km, in which the gradient changes from 17 percent to 27 percent.
Cyclists must finish the race within six-and-a-half hours.
The Taiwan KOM Challenge has developed a reputation among cyclists at home and abroad as a competition that they must attempt at least once, the Tourism Bureau said.
The Taiwan Cyclist Federation, which organizes the annual event, said several high-profile cyclists will compete in this year’s challenge, including 2011 Tour de France winner Australian Cadel Evans and three-time Powerman Duathlon world champion Emma Pooley of the UK, who won the event last year.
Evans on Monday met President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who said his participation in this year’s race would help promote the Taiwan Cycling Festival and connect Taiwan with the world.
One of Pooley’s main challengers in this year’s event is likely to be Japan’s Eri Yonamine, who won the race in 2013 and 2015.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali, who won the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, the 2014 Tour de France and the 2013 and 2016 Giro d’Italia — making him one of six cyclists who have won the three Grand Tour titles — is also scheduled to compete.
German Claudia Lichtenberg, who won the 2014 Giro d’Italia Femminile and the 2014 La Route de France, is expected to compete, as is Camille Deligny of France, a professional triathlete and the French record holder for distance in the Ironman competition.
Taiwanese Feng Chun-kai (馮俊凱), an East Asia Games gold medalist and 2012 Philippines KOM Champion, is to compete this year.
He was forced to drop out of last year’s race after his team were unable to repair a flat tire in time.
In response to calls for “equal pay for equal play,” this year’s top prizes in the male and female categories is NT$500,000 (US$16,554), the federation said.
Since 2014, the top prize in the female category had been NT$200,000, while the male champions won NT$1 million.
The total prize package for the race this year is NT$2.14 million.
The federation reiterated its commitment to enforcing the International Cyclist Union’s anti-doping policy, adding that any rider with a doping violation would not be allowed to register.
The first three cyclists across the finish line will be asked to undergo immediate doping tests, which will be administered by the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, it said.
The women’s group has a record 50 cyclists competing this year.
For the first time, the number of foreign cyclists outnumbers local cyclists, with 318 of 592 cyclists coming from overseas.
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