Sunday, November 6. The Taiwan Cup that was to take place last year scores the perfect day this year, which almost makes up for last year’s disaster. There’s blue sky and the promise of heat to come.
But, once again, it could have been different. Rain began to fall the very next morning after the race with a tropical depression south of Taiwan looking like it will head north.
The plan today was to divide the day into 3 parts:
One, get among the atmosphere for the start and then catch the start.
Two, head down the coast to a strategic position for some photos and see who would be contesting the run to the line.
Three, get back to the start/finish ahead of that group to be on hand for the finish.
Much of the elite of Taiwan’s racing cyclists were kitted out and ready to go early. Here Zhu Yi-ping, pairs up with his team mate for a light warm-up.
Lee Rodgers, Taiwan’s strongest expat cyclist and Raphael Grinbaum—Raphael along with Zhu Yi-ping constitute Taiwan’s strongest M50+ cyclists—have a chat as the formal opening ceremony is about to begin.
Sean Smith (right) took out Taiwan’s biggest cash prize in the TUAA Alishan Challenge back in June. Today he’s in the hunt for Taiwan’s most prestigious cycling prize.
Not if Bekmanis of Velo-Club La Pomme Marseille has anything to do with it. And, as it happened Bekmanis put in a very strong performance, with a 9th, just ahead of Lee’s 10th.
Jordi Cervantes of team Cjam CKT Novatec looked determined. His team was a hit amongst onlookers many of whom posed for photos.
Taking it a bit easier were the Australian-based team, Drapac Racing. They were in Taiwan back in March for the Tour of Taiwan doing quite well there. Today Adam Semple placed 15th and Adam Phelan 17th, with their other team members not far behind.
Bekmanis’ team mates were looking a little more intense as they focused on the job ahead. It probably paid off since they took out the No.1 team ranking reasonably comfortably.
All teams were presented to the crowd and media contingent in the lead up to the start. Here the Ukrainian Kolss Cycling Team was looking good. Prevar Oleksandr on the far right went on to claim second place overall.
Shimano Racing Team were also looking confident as they had every right to since Aoyanagi Kazuki on the far left turned out to be the day’s champion in a tight finish where he managed to edge out Prevar and the 3rd place getter, Taiwan’s Feng Jun-kai only by the slimmest of margins.
The Rabobank team were continually the focus of both local and foreign media attention. They did not live up to the high level of expectation however. Carlos Barredo placed highest at 13th with the other team members significantly off the pace.
Some trekkers dropped by reminding everyone that cycling means a lot of different things to a lot of people.
The local press was there in force. Though, typically, the Sunday evening and Monday newscasts in Taiwan made no mention of this event as far I am aware; I’m an avid consumer of local and international news and just could not locate any coverage. The Taroko Marathon which attracted 10,000 participants on Saturday at least got a mention here and there.
Then, again, if the underlying aim of this event as the centerpiece of the Taiwan Cycling Festival is to promote Taiwan as a “cycling island” to the world, then I guess local coverage is irrelevant.
And speaking of foreign press, this was the most heavily armed gentleman that prowled the venue. No need to change lenses must be very convenient.
Quite a few locals stopped by to check out what the fuss was about.
The start consisted of a brief circuit of that area of downtown adjacent to the start. VIPs led the slow circuit which included the Minister for Transportation and the Taiwan Cycling Festival architect, King Liu.
Things nearly got out of hand when the VIPs began their own rolling start ahead of time requiring the Chief Commissaire Mr. Dee to sternly step in and get them under control. Just behind him King Liu looks across in anticipation.
The MC for the day, Alex, was quick to call them to account: “Riders Stop, riders stop”, not the words most people were expecting to hear. The Rabobank team manager, Harold Knebel, looks on in amusement behind him.
The Chief Commissaire having sorted them out took his customary place and kept a careful eye on them just in case there were any more line breaks.
When the official time came after an interminable countdown of 3 minutes, the peloton rolled out for what must have been an agonizing crawl behind the VIPs.
After one more circuit minus the VIPs, it was official start time.
For some reason one of the Kenda 5-hour Energy Cycling Team members was a bit slow to start.
He delighted the onlookers by darting swiftly forward then jumping his bike sideways over a baton that was lying in the roadway before catching the main group. Very nifty!
The peloton headed south along inland route 9. I headed down to the 50km mark on the homeward coast run. The running race reports from Bikeman.org’s Facebook page reported a break of 8 minutes by a contending group from the peloton.
It was hot and many teams reported running out of water despite a fairly efficiently working team support.
As they rolled on by it was Aoyanagi Kazuki leading the way with Feng Jun-kai just behind him followed by Bekmanis, and a slight gap to the rest of this group led by Lee Rodgers.
About 2o seconds behind them was the second half of this main breakway, led by Amets Txurruka who would come in 12th overall.
Just hanging behind them all was the quietly confident Prevar Oleksandr. All but one of them would see nothing but his rear wheel after the final climb ahead at Cow Mountain.
The leading contenders having passed, the plan was to now head over to the inland route via alternative route 11 and get back to Hualien for the finish. It was an 18km dash through the hills over a wonderful cycling road to connect to route 9 for the return to Hualien. I ended up being 5 minutes late for the finish, even with assistant cameraperson sprinting to the line just in case.
We did manage to catch the first of the Drapac Team to make it back.
Across the weekend I had a chance to have quite a few chats with Martin Bruin and Jean Francois Camoin, the international commissaires on hand to enforce UCI standards.
Martin (pictured) enjoyed the event very much although was quite alarmed by race organizers’ decision to allow heavy vehicles to pass the peloton.
King Liu was walking around thoroughly enjoying every minute of an event that he had worked for many years to bring to realization.
The first of the Giant-Kenda team, Zhu Fan-xin came in 19th. They are the strongest domestic team, dominating this year’s National Cycling Club Series, but had their work cut out today. Taiwan’s hopes rested on the internationally experienced Action Cycling Team’s Feng Jun-kai (3rd) and Li Wei-cheng (6th).
After a brief flurry of attention at the finish, the champion Aoyanagi was largely forgotten. Organizers….there seems to be a language issue here that really should not be an issue at all. You would hope that this was all that was going on here. The champion should have been looked after a bit better.
All the media were over with Feng Jun-kai who looked as though he might prefer to change places with Aoyanagi. A-Kai diplomatically answered questions for at least half an hour.
Meanwhile, the bus carrying many of the racers who dropped right out of contention quietly desposited its passengers away from the center of attention.
The top 6, less one. Max Success Sports’ (China) Jiao Peng Da failed to take his 5th place on the podium, not that Aoyanagi noticed. He was thoroughly enjoying a hard-contested victory.
Aoyanagi claims the yellow jersey, and the sprinters jersey as well.
Action Cycling Team’s Feng Jun-kai took out King of the Mountain.