Insider: Taiwan KOM Challenge, Back Again
The Taiwan KOM Challenge is a gruelling event like non other. It’s distance and dizzy-heights elevation are enough to put fear in the eye of any who dare to sign up. For young Continental rider Jay Dutton however, it was a chance to explore a part of Taiwan he never imagined existed.
Words and photos: Jay Dutton
Images: Daebong Kim (VELO PAPER) | Taiwan Cycling Federation
Taiwan is often recognised for its densely populated cities, heavy urbanisation and focus on it’s manufacturing industries. In fact, even within the cycling industry alone, Taiwan is responsible for more than 80% of bicycle and bicycle accessory manufacturing worldwide. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll soon discover an island filled with natural beauty and a unique cycling culture that combine to produce one of the most enticing cycling destinations worldwide.
On this occasion, I was lucky enough to be visiting Taiwan to partake in what is fast becoming one of the most prestigious hill climb events in the world – the Taiwan KOM Challenge. In recent years, the Taiwan Cyclist Federation and Taiwan Tourism Bureau have placed a real emphasis on this event, as it showcases everything Taiwan has to offer as a premium cycling destination, and it’s easy to understand why.
Covering a total distance of 105km, the Challenge features some 87km of climbing that is more or less uninterrupted as you climb from sea level to the peak of Hehuan Mountain at 3275m. Depart is from Hualien, a stunning coastal town on Taiwan’s eastern coastline. The truly relentless climb takes riders through the breathtaking Taroko Gorge National Park – a World Heritage listed site – that features crystal blue rivers, incredible white rock walls, waterfalls and amazing scenery throughout the course.
It had been almost three years since I had last visited Taiwan, and on that occasion I didn’t even make it out the main city. Since that time, I’ve been lucky enough to travel right throughout Asia in line with my racing commitments with St George – Merida, but this was one trip I was particularly excited for – I was just hoping it didn’t set the benchmark too highly!