Two years ago the rain poured down. The wind blew hard.
The 2010 Taiwan Cup was a washout
Taiphoon Megi made sure of that. Heading happily towards Hong Kong to sock it to ’em, the beast did a sharp right turn and headed north.
This Typhoon did not pummel Taiwan the way that Typhoon Morakot had the year before. But it still did a number and was no doubt very pleased indeed.
The journalists and bloggers got drenched as did anyone who hopped on a bike that week.
Come November 2011, though, and it was game on. The 2011, and inaugural, Taiwan Cup was set to go, and
go it did. Local cycling star Feng Jun-Kai (Akai) came away with the bronze on that hot and generally sunny day. Shimano’s Aoyanagi Kazuki took the main prize, with Ukranian Prevar Oleksandr as the runner up.
One of the star attractions amongst the international team was a Rabbobank squad. There was a quite a bit of ohh ahhh affect over the guys with Carlos Barredo touted as a real contender.
He managed 13th, one place behind the popular Amets Txurruka. The rest of the squad were nowhere in sight.
Maybe they would have done better on this year’s course. It will be some 110km shorter than last year but involves a hell of a lot more climbing. From zero meters elevation, as in sea-level, to 3,275m.
Now, the frequent reader of this blog may recognize that number. It’s the one that signals Taiwan’s highest road across the top of the He Huan pass at Wuling.
Whilst most of the racing up this hill is done from the West side of the island, once a year they tackle it from the East Coast. This year’s Taiwan Cup route traverses the mind-blowing Taroko Gorge which lends it name to the National Park that extends all the way to the center of the island.
The most recent notable event along this route in November last year–the Maxxis Taroko International Hill Climb–was emphatically won by Taiwan’s current KOM, Fan Yong-Yi, with Japan’s Naodo Saida a good 5 minutes behind him.
The Tour de France rider, Shinichi Fukushima, is probably the highest profile name to tackle this. He was 16th on the day.
A humble teacher from Taitung, Yong-Yi does this ride fairly regularly (his students allegedly always seem to come up with excuses to get out of accompanying him…). And he’s in great form right now having won the final Alishan stage of the National Cycling Club Series for 2012.
The organizers of the Taiwan Cup thought that doing a similar thing to Maxxis for the 2012 TC would fit perfectly.
The overall profile is not too bad. But that’s all relative to just how hard you go at it. The last few kilometers involve some particularly nasty ramps requiring a lot left in the tank to stay competitive.
This year the word is that some serious climbing specialists are headed to give it a shot. Elite peloton level and at the top of their game.
One of them will be Matteo “Rambo” Rabottini who excelled in this year’s edition of the Giro d’Italia. Put it this way, you’ve got to be quite the mountain goat to pull off a Giro KOM. He may yet carry the Taiwan Cup back to Europe.
Fan Yong-Yi, last year’s winner of the Maxxis sponsored Taroko event did it in 4 hours and 4 minutes. It will be interesting to see just what sort of sub 4 hour time is possible.
Still, don’t count out Taiwan’s climbers nor the feisty Japanese. They may well give Rambo a run for his money.
Photo at top: Matteo gets his reward for a hard day’s work.