Top cyclists prepare to tackle KOM Challenge

DAUNTING::Olympic gold medalist Lasse Norman Hansen is to join more than 500 cyclists from around the world in the King of the Mountain Challenge on Friday

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Oct 28, 2015 - Page 3

Some of the world’s top professional cyclists are scheduled to compete for the top prize at the annual King of the Mountain (KOM) Challenge on Friday.

The race is part of the Taiwan Cycling Festival, one of the Tourism Bureau’s flagship events that aims to promote Taiwan as a travel destination.

The cyclists are to set off from Cisingtan (七星潭) in Hualien, which is close to sea level, and travel 105km to Wuling (武嶺) on Hehuanshan (合歡山), 3,275m above sea level.

The cyclists must finish the race within six-and-a-half hours.

Danish Olympic gold medalist Lasse Norman Hansen is to join more than 500 participants from around the world in this year’s race. It is the first time an Olympic gold medalist has participated. Hansen won the men’s omnium at the 2012 London Games.

Spaniard Omar Fraile, who won the mountains classification at the Vuelta a Espana last month, is also competing in the race for the first time.

Danish cyclist John Ebsen, who won the KOM Challenge last year and in 2012, is looking to defend his title, as is Canada’s Marg Fedyna in the women’s section.

Japanese cyclist Eri Yonamine, who won the title in 2013, is also looking to regain her title.

Taiwan’s Feng Chun-kai (馮俊凱), Chin Hsin (秦欣) and Tseng Hsiao-chia (曾筱嘉) are also taking part.

Feng last year finished the KOM Challenge in fifth place in 3 hours, 44 minutes, 19 seconds.

Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨) said the number of cyclists from overseas has grown from 79 in 2012 to about 200 this year, adding that the race has been described by French magazine Le Cycle as one of the most difficult in the world.

Liu said the cyclists get to warm up over the first 15km before tackling the remaining 90km, which have an average inclination of 7 percent.

The final 10km are known by the cyclists as the “road to paradise” and really puts their ability to the test, as the average inclination increases from 17 percent to 27 percent.

Irish cyclist Mark Dowling, who rode in the race last year, said the biggest challenge is the length of the climb and that the cyclists need to do some research on the weather beforehand.

“If it is going to be rainy, it can be quite cold and the temperature can play a bigger part. It would require more energy [to climb]. One of the biggest things I learned last year was proper clothing, proper hydration and pacing properly throughout the race, because you paid dearly with the efforts you made beforehand in the last 10km to 13km of the race,” Dowling said.

Feng said he hopes the weather will be kind and he hopes to break his personal record.

Compared with mountain races in Europe, the route of the KOM Challenge is grueling, because the altitude increases as the race proceeds, while the temperature gets lower.