The Taiwan Bicycle
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Facing the Great Mountain – A Training Ride to 3275m to Prepare for the Wuling Cup

Glenn Reeves

Everyone looks forward to this 55km and 2800m of elevation climb in central Taiwan. This is because they’ve largely forgotten how they felt at the finish the last time they did it 🙂

The average gradient of around 6% sounds ok. But the numerous 12-15% sections along with the altitude soon take their toll. For many it is the ultimate challenge.

he huan mountain climbing cycling
The view from the top down to the 3000m mark. Once you round this corner it’s 3km to the finish

Of course, if you are not riding competitively and take the time to do it casually, then it can be a good deal easier. It’s certainly the way to fully take in and appreciate the mountain’s different moods.

Seeing as we’re in August now, a few events are scheduled over this route over the next few weeks. The particular event attracting the top racers is the Wuling Cup, Wuling being the highest point in the road that arcs up to 3275m pretty close to Taiwan’s geographical center. This weekend will see the 2012 edition

Wuling 3275m Taiwan alps
By mid morning the clouds begin to close in around the pass

After a few months of criterion racing and a lot of riding the flats, the team needed some quality mountain time.

William Zhuang, Taiwan’s top junior racer is a climbing specialist and was hanging out to do this training very badly indeed. He felt he just hadn’t done nearly enough climbing lately and needed this to get his mind back into the climbing zone as much as his legs.

Yes indeed, it’s as much a mind game as a physical challenge–you’ve got to face the mountain down.

Simon, William, and Greg departed from Puli a bit after 6am. There was a lot of cycling action with large recreational groups as well as small groups from the teams that will be contesting the Cup next Saturday. They went into paceline mode from the undulating start for the 15km lead in to the main climb. Yep, that’s basically 40km of climbing.

He Huan shan climbing cycling
Up ahead lies the “business end” of the climb

25km up at around 2000m elevation you get a glimpse of the bits that really hurt. In this shot we see the 10km stretch from the 2500m mark up to 3000m (far right of the photo). After the nastiest ramp this side of the Monte Zoncolan the road hooks sharp left just in that spot giving a view of the finish 3km ahead.

Wuling Cup he huan shan climb

Just before coming out onto the exposed flank of the mountain and grinding your way up to the 3000m checkpoint you’ll pass through shady thickets.

he huan shan climbing cycling

Then you’ll pass the sign that says it’s time to focus and get set for some intense ramps up ahead.

Greg’s 7 km from the top. If you’re feeling good, now’s the time to put in a bit extra

The earlier you leave, the less traffic you’ll have to deal with. It can get busy up here on the weekend as the morning wears on.

It does not matter how early you leave though; there’ll always be someone else on the climb ahead of you. Here Greg guns it, reporting that he’s feeling better and better as he climbs.

Earlier he found himself struggling a bit and wisely eased off the pace. That’s why these training runs are so helpful. You get to tune into where you are right in the present and can get a better idea of how you might approach the climb come race day.

climbing He Huan Shan
Simon Li finishes fast over the last ramp with 20m to go

It’s a good sign if you have enough left in the tank to push it hard up the last 100m. There’s a bit of a ramp to take care of and then you can take advantage of excess energy to finish well. Simon was first up in a time of 3hrs 32 min. His PB is around 3hrs 10. At 45 years of age he is one of Taiwan’s premier climbers.

William hits the pass in a time of 3hrs 40min

William found it best to pace himself over the early part of the climb and dropped a fair way off the back. He found a second wind though like Greg, and was able to push it hard over the last 25km just where lifting the pace counts; you can drop a lot of riders that are only just hanging in.

We lucked out with the day. It was chilly on top, but clear, without the drizzling rain showers that can suddenly come in and make things quite miserable.

Right now a Taiphoon is looming out of the Pacific and is set to pass by Taiwan’s south coast. Storms that take this path each summer often dump a lot of their rain on the central part of Taiwan.

We’ll have to see whether we’ll be able to race on Saturday. Quite a few sections of road are in danger of slipping away and landslides may well yet cause the event to be cancelled.

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