King of Mountains cyclists gearing up

UNTOUCHABLE::Not only is the competition more ‘daunting’ than any other in the world, it is also one of the most beautiful in Asia, international contestants say

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Nov 08, 2013 - Page 4

Foreign cyclists competing in the Taiwan King of the Mountains (KOM) Challenge this year said yesterday that they are ready for the annual race, which is known for its steep hills.

Australian cyclist Simon Clarke, who won the mountain classification jersey at the Vuelta a Espana last year, said there are many difficult climbs in Europe, but not even the Stelvio mountain pass in Italy measures up to the Taiwan challenge in terms of distance and altitude.

“The distance of nearly 80km of climbing is going to be a big challenge,” the 27-year-old, who is visiting Taiwan for the first time, said at a press conference in Taipei.

The one-day Taiwan KOM Challenge is a 100km race on a route that rises from sea level to a 3,275m peak in Wuling (武陵), in Greater Taichung’s Heping Township (和平).

The cyclists are to set off from Seven Star Lake in Hualien County early tomorrow and pass through the scenic Taroko Gorge on the way to Wuling — the highest point in Taiwan accessible by public road.

Irish cyclist David McCann, a three-time Irish national road race champion and winner of the 2010 Tour de Taiwan, described the race as “daunting.”

He advised his fellow competitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way, which he said is “probably hard to beat anywhere in Asia.”

Meanwhile, the winner of last year’s Taiwan KOM Challenge, John Ebsen of Denmark, said he is suffering from a cold and will have to “see how it goes” this year.

His advice to first-time competitors is to “take it easy,” he said.

A total of 440 competitors, including 162 foreign cyclists from 27 countries, are participating this year in the race, which is the highlight of the Taiwan Cycling Festival.

During the festival, which ends on Nov. 17, 11 groups from the public and private sectors and grassroots organizations are expected to embark on a bike tour from different cities at the same time over the nine days, symbolizing the spirit of moving the nation forward.

The festival, now in its third year, will also include family activities and travel events so that people from all walks of life can take part, according to the Tourism Bureau, one of the organizers.

The festival is aimed at promoting a cycling culture, according to the bureau.