The Taiwan Cycling Festival, which commenced yesterday, is about more than just cycling. It would be nice to be able to point readers to a centralized information source that brings it all together for an international audience. But one does not appear to exist or be easily accessible at this time. Perhaps it is being left up to the bloggers and on that point keep an eye on the BevCycle blog — here is an overview of the opening ceremony. Anyhow, the focus of this post will be the cycling.
This is the official site, also accessible through the URL www.taiwancyclingfestival.com.tw. However, it deals with the Taiwan Cup, which is actually the focus of the final day, Sunday 24. Whilst being the focus of the 9 days as a whole, again, there is still much more to the event as a whole. The Taiwan Cyclist Federation has detailed breakdowns on the top tier road race entrants. I will summarize this information later on in the post, as I think the numbers tell an interesting story about cycling generally.
Although before that, it’s worth reflecting on the near-miss from a Super Typhoon, “Megi”, that will slam into the Philippines’ Luzon though Monday and Tuesday. This year, typhoons have been pushed south and north of Taiwan — in any other year this one would probably made a direct hit on Taiwan.
As it stands rain bands will be affecting the Hualien-Taitung area, the regional focus of the Festival’s cycling events. Sunday brought very heavy rainfall to the Ilan area just to the north of Hualien.
The final weekend — 23/24 Oct — is designed to have cyclists on the road almost continually across the whole two days. There are three tiers of events: 1 International Standard Racing 2 Elite 3 PersonalChallenge/Community road events under the auspices of the Never Stop organization, with cyclists being able to choose amongst 100, 200, or 400 km events.
1 International Level (a) 6km criterium (b) 210 km road race. There are 26 participating teams in this top tier constituting a mix of international teams and the strongest of Taiwan’s racing teams such as e-MA and Action Cycling Team. On the international side, the most notable inclusion is the Rabobank 4-member squad consisting of Oscar Freire, Jetse Bol ,Wesley Kreder, and Dennis Jacobus Hendrikus.
2 Elite (a) 160 km (b) 120 km (c) 50 km. These fit in between the International level events and the Never Stop community rides. They are targeted to the strongest recreational cyclists. There are 77 “teams” registered. The largest is Hualien TKA with 63 members. The smallest consists of just 3. The average is around 7 members to each team.
The Elite races have attracted a total of 516 participants. The overwhelming majority of entrants are men, with women representing 9% .
The 160 km event has attracted 69 participants divided into a 19-35 yrs and 36 + age categories — no ladies in this event.
The 50 km event has attracted 162 participants, 31 of whom are ladies. The men’s category is divided into 15-18 yrs, 19-29, 30-34, 35-39, and 40+. This last group numbers 54, or 33% of the total. The next nearest group is the 19-29yrs numbering 35 participants or 21%, as you might expect.
The 120 km event has proved to be the most popular, attracting 240 participants, only 14 of whom are ladies. The largest groups proportionally are the 30-34 yrs and the oldest. It is this latter 40 yrs+ group of 91 participants, or 38% of the entrants in the 120 km event, that is quite interesting. The tendency has been to choose the longer ride over the shorter amongst the 40+ group.
Additionally, if you were to break up the 40+ yrs category into 40-44, 45-49, 50+ (as most of the other community events in Taiwan are), you would see the pattern maintained through from the younger groups. There would be a proportional decline in the 50+ as in other events, but it says something about what has been described at the Rise of the Mamils elsewhere. Something similar seems to be afoot in Taiwan. As for the ladies, a figure of 20% has been put forward as the proportion of women cyclists who take to the roads in Taiwan. That 9% of the participants in the Elite events are ladies is quite encouraging.
I have a team entered into the 120 km event. Primavera consists of 5 members, with a good chance of strong placings for Zheng-chang (丁正昌) in the 30-34 category, and You-zheng (林佑政) in the 15-19 yrs grouping. We’ll be heading over early Saturday with a view to doing some easy cycling upon arrival.
It’s weird, because Taichung, our point of departure, is actually around 90 km due west of Hualien in a direct line. But to go up over the mountains and down to Hualien means navigating a very narrow and often scary road, the Zhong Heng (中 橫), or Central Cross-Island Highway. That road distance is 180 km. We will, however, be going north via Taipei then back down the east coast which amounts to several 100 km and some 6hrs of driving.
On final note, although “racing” is the main emphasis of the Taiwan Cycling Festival in the form of the Taiwan Cup, it is, in the end, a celebration of cycling. The Festival is a realization of King Liu’s vision of the emphasis Taiwan’s population should place on recreational and sports cycling. There is certainly no one who likes riding his bike more than King Liu.
And, of course, we would all say of Taiwan that it might not be the finest place for cycling in the world — but there is no place finer! Stay tuned to the blogs, including this one, for photos and travelogues of places to stay and cycling experiences.