75km of climbing that tops out at 2174m certainly has its rewards on a summer’s day. 61 qualified cyclists contested the elite section with around 2000 “citizen” cyclists ranging from 15 to 67 years taking part in the main event. (Another view of the event here).
When they heard that the 1st prize for this was NT650,00 (US$ 22500) quite a few people were surprised. “Wow, that’s a lot”. There was also comments made on the gap down to the prize for 2nd place NT150,000 (US$ 5200).
The day belonged to Christopher Smith of Caffe Terry who completed in 2:46. He was out on the 136, Taichung, early Tuesday before the event doing repeats on the steepest part of the climb. There’s no grades close to those intense ramps you find on 136 on the Alishan climb, but it’s sure a good way to tune the legs for a fast ascent.
Just to the left of Christopher Smith is Taiwan’s top cyclist Feng Jun-Kai or Akai as we all know him.
Akai crossed the finish line 35 seconds behind Christopher with the 3rd place getter over 2 minutes behind.
The day dawned beautifully clear, cool with hardly any breeze. There had been a big thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon which had dumped a lot of water up in the mountains.
But, as is usually the case, everything had cleared away by the morning leaving the mountains crisp and clear. There was some worry about landslide risk and there were a few rocks on the road that had rolled down from above on the steeper sections. A bigger issue for some was the slowing of pace to go through the 3 sections of unpaved road that were very muddy.
By 5.30am the elite cyclists were gathering to get ready for the start. There was plenty of media attention on a very good field of cyclists. Still, this did not represent the complete field of Taiwan’s best cyclists.
Saturday had seen Stage 5 of the National Cycling Club Series in Yilan. Many of the top cyclists had opted to attend that event with very few from each age division making the trip to Alishan on Sunday.
After a few words the elite group were away.
Up at the finish there were quite a few cyclists who were just out for a morning’s ride and were very surprised to see what was going down. This one caused a great stir amongst onlookers with everyone thinking he was a top placegetter. He smiled and shook his head as he continued on up the mountain.
Actually if you keep going for another 2okm, you will arrive at Tatajia. Several non-elite participants did this even going as far as to descend all the way back to Shuili and further, making a big day of it.
Huang Wen-Zhong was eighth overall in a time of 2:50
A little further back was Lee Rodgers in 11th place in a time of 2:51
Akai’s team mate Pan Jun-Liang in 2:57
Rob Gitelis clocked 3:31 and was sure focused on crossing that line.
Meanwhile the day belonged just as much to the citizen group, many of whom were the equal of many of the elite riders. No doubt some of them will be contesting the elite category in the not too distant future. Mr. Li, one of my Taichung-based dealers has no interest in riding at that level, but he completed the climb and made a day of it with his family.
Behind the elite group, the main crowd was gathering. The faster riders in this group tended to be at the front so they could make a clean getaway and see if they could perhaps pick up any elite stragglers.
William had just won the previous day’s M15 National Cycling Club Stage 5 event and was more than ready for today’s event. Needless to say he was the top placed youngest rider for the Alishan challenge, completing in 3:02 which would have given him an equivalent 22nd or 23rd had he been racing with the elite.
Here he is about to cross the finish.
There were plenty others from the main group who made very short work of the distance.
And there were some smiles, although mainly these last 100m were about quite a bit of pain.
After he passed, most cyclists were making heavy going as they pushed themselves having seen the “500m to go!” sign.
A big effort.
At this stage it’s often a case of one pedal stroke at a time.
Or just power through and over the line.
“I’m 67!!!”, shouted this gentleman as he passed me by. What an awesome effort. He was really well-placed in the field too with many much younger riders hours behind him.
“Let it be over soon”.
There were plenty of ladies well placed in the field.
Li Bo-Fang, one of Taiwan’s keenest and strongest women cyclists, was there again making easy work of the climb.
Just taking it easy is as good a way to ride as any.
Mid-morning the clouds began to move in. Still the sun was hot as the air was cool, just the place to be when it’s 35+ down out of the mountains.