I was recently in Taiwan for the mini trade events of RideOn and Taichung Bike Week and while there, as part of the Masi launch into Taiwan, I participated in the 2008 NeverStop YangJin P Highway Challenge. The event is a 75km fun ride/ race that crosses three major climbs around the city of Taipei and since Taiwan was created by a volcano, the climbs are plenty steep! Out of the 75km, approximately 50km was uphill. In light of my recent travels around the world and a total lack of training (meaning having ridden about 3 times in 2.5 months), I rode the event in less than ideal shape.
Our distributor for Taiwan has some great connections, so I didn't end up having to do the entire event all by myself. Well, not until I got dropped on the long, steep climbs.
Here's the Team Masi group prior to the start of the event. Second from the right is Fong-ming Chen, the catcher for the Taipei professional baseball team (and Taiwan's Olympic team) La New Bears. He was also part of the brand launch in November. Also somewhere in there is Chien-hong Kuo who is a pitcher with the Bears.
And, since I forgot my camera, here we are AT the finish! A couple folks to point out; on the far left is Simon who works for the distributor and races for a small team in Taiwan- he blew me away by riding the entire event on a Speciale Commuter single speed! Two spaces to the left of me is Mu-yen Ju- 2004 Olympic gold medalist and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in Taekwondo for Taiwan. On my right is Ray-chai Chang, he's an actor in Taiwan who recently won the Taiwanese equivalent of an Oscar as best young actor. He's also a budding director...
Here I am with Mu-yen Ju again... this is obviously after I'd had a chance to rest a few minutes because I am actually smiling again.
There were over 4000 riders in the event and they were riding every conceivable type of bike you can imagine; road bikes, mountain bikes, folding bikes, mini-velo bikes, etc. I was completely floored by the sheer will-power of some of the riders to push their bikes and themselves up each of the major climbs. It was such a wonderful experience to ride with such a large group of people- nobody bothering to size up the other rider's bike to look for the latest and greatest components, etc. There was a sense of camaraderie that is not often found in many other events.
The ride itself was really spectacular in many ways. Taipei is the largest city in Taiwan, but like many cities in Taiwan it is ringed by hills and mountains full of lush green forests and jungle-like vegetation. It was so wonderful to see this naturally beautiful side of Taipei. The rolling hills that went on for kilometer after kilometer. My only complaint is that there were not more kilometers of descending... I was making up pretty good ground, considering my size and the fact that I was riding a standard 53/39 crankset with an 11x26 cassette. I was terribly over geared on the climbs, but I was smoking the downhills!
And the best part of the event...
... I got this cool medal for finishing in less than 7 hours (somewhere around 6 hours).
I can tell you that I am not too proud to admit that in the last 5km, I had to get off the bike and walk a few sections of the final climb, which was 10km long. In fact, even if I had been in shape for the event, it would likely still qualify as the hardest single day I've had on a bike... it was just that grueling!
Here are a few extra pics that I took with my iPhone, so they are not quite as high quality...
A view of the finish line- I was elated to see it!
Simon- he earned more than just a little respect from me for doing this very hard route on a single speed. He was the only single speed I saw in the event... and he was flying up the climbs!
Just before we started the event... before the crying began!
Fong-ming Chen just before we rolled out.
The thousands of riders assembling in the early morning semi-light of Taipei.
The top of the first climb and the first feedzone.
The view of the feedzone on the crest of the second climb.
All in all, though a very long and painful-for-me day, the ride was otherwise spectacular and I would even consider doing it again one day. Given enough time, I might forget just how much it hurt!
To all those along the route who encouraged me and shared in the pain- xiexie ni.