Around 700 cyclists, mainly on road bikes, headed off around a classically scenic 77km route through the hills out the back of Taipei on Sunday.
The weather was perfect, the sun was out and, in combination with the climbs, dished out liberal dollops of punishment left, right, and center.
There were four climbs to deal with the first being absolutely eye-watering 1 km ascent straight off the start. A 7km climb in all, around half of it was on 15%+ grades.
I haven’t seen the likes of this since the assault on Lu Chang just about a year ago. That event finished in a 3-4 km climb of 15%+ after a fairly challenging initial climb at the 14km mark of a short but intense 50km course.
Once over this first one it was about cresting a few more ridges and getting down the other sides with a minimum of fuss, which was complicated by narrow roads, vicious switchbacks and inconsistent surfaces.
There was plenty of great places to dilly dally if you wanted to. But it was all concentration on a technically difficult course for the guys. Plenty of time for tea later.
Greg tackled it all on a standard, 11-25. He’d heard that this place was steep but did not reckon on the relentless grade. He had come up the first section in first place but this second section, with more of the same, was scoring points. Note to self: bring the 11-27 next time.
Scarponi’s evaluaton of Team Sky as “un-attackable” at the end of the Tour’s Stage 11 is a fitting way to think about this climb. It was a case of putting enough power into the pedals to avoid coming to a halt without putting too much which saw the back wheel spinning anarchically on the tarmac. Finding a line proved almost impossible: his back wheel going into a monentary skid, the bike stalled and slumped over.
No prob. Back on the horse to find a line. The top was reached which left a bit of catchup time to rejoin Rui-Xiang who was able to pace himself on the climb with his compact crank and T27 sprocket.
Inigo and another extremely strong climber had a lead of about 3 minutes at this point.
Having reconnected, the guys worked together to see what could be done about getting back to the leaders. The third climb might not have been as steep as the first, but it was not much short and seemed to draw out forever. The upshot was they hammered down the final descent, having made short work of the relative straight-forward final climb. with Greg a whisker ahead of Rui-Xiang at the finish to take 3rd in 3hs 14 min.
Pity the rest of the field who took quite a deal longer to complete. It was a tough day to start with and only got tougher as the sun headed to its zenith.