Racing in the Taiwan KOM has been a goal of mine for the past year. The journey overseas for a public race is something I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do. My goals for this race were set about 12 months ago and the goals were simple; don’t crash, don’t stop riding once it starts (even on the steep bits) and finish the race. If that all goes well than maybe trying to place would come next!
The flight from Sydney to Taiwan was quick and before I knew it I was in Taipei. I stayed in Taipei for a week before the race, this allowed the best time to prepare mentally and physically for the ‘sufferfest’ coming up. The street food over there is amazing and is a battle to try it all and to keep at race weight. The only bad news about the trip is that 3 days before the race, I woke up with one of the worst flu’s that I’ve experienced in my life. I barely got out of the hotel for 2 days. I was nervous that this would have an effect on the performance of the race. But this was only a small set back...
4a.m., my alarm goes off. Strangely enough I’m not nervous, a strong coffee and a bowl of oats. I have the route to the meeting point in my Wahoo. I say goodbye to my fiancé and meet some other people going the same way. I kick out at about 5am and follow the hundreds of flashing red rear bicycle lights from the other riders to the meeting spot. I start at the back, yet through the neutral zone I make my way up to the front of the race, ready for the gun to go off and drive the pace.
About 15 km’s into the neutral zone and the lead car swerves off and the gun goes. The sounds of the other 860 riders clicking their derailleurs and changing gears as the energy surges. I’m in the front group of around 50 riders, the pace is 40km/h up the 1-2% gradient and I’m feeling confident. 40 km’s go by very quickly and it had become more of a game of dodging crashes and also staying up the front to help out driving the pace.
We ride over a valley pass with about 65km’s to go, I think to myself “I have this in the bag”, then I look at the altitude and notice that we’ve only ascended 700m/3,275m with still 65km’s to go. The pace increased and at the second feed zone I needed a water refill so I pulled over, but the group was going harder than Friday morning Parramatta park laps with Brian C and Danny K. at the front... I continued on solo, knowing that I now have to pace the climb by myself. Battling altitude sickness, a heavy flu, dehydration and almost about to bonk, I continued in this state for the next 3 hours. People talk about “the wall”, it’s really not impossible but is tough and you really don’t expect it until it hits you during the last 10 km's. During “the wall”, the gradient goes between 10%-27% every few hundred meters through switchbacks with many people getting off and walking, i was sticking to my original goal though, no walking.
I never thought i'd be so happy to see the misspelled works "FNISH".
In the end, after 4 hours and 43 minutes I came 14th in my category which I honestly did not expect. At the end of the race there are stalls of free food and drinks waiting for the riders and spectators and buses to drive everyone back off the mountain.
Looking back at the experience, I’d highly recommend anyone wanting to challenge themselves to do the KOM challenge as either a race or challenge ride.
P.S. bring a 11-32 cassette.