Taiwan KOM Challenge 2016 Press Release
[All images property of the Taiwan Cyclist Federation. Feel free to use with credit given to The Taiwan KOM Challenge. All images on the Taiwan KOM Challenge FB page are also free to use. Thanks to Paolo Martelli (http://www.paolomartelli.com/) and Daebong Kim of VeloPaper.]
Full results available here; http://www.cyclist.org.tw/index.php?fn=news&fn1=info&no=A&no1=1266&no5=C
Arguably the most successful edition of the Taiwan KOM Challenge, the 2016 race started in unusually balmy conditions at 6:30 am on Friday 28th of October, overseen by the heads of the two organizations that co-host the event, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and the Taiwan Cyclist Federation, along with members of the local Hualien government, the city from where the race sets off.
The top five in the men’s race were:
1. Oscar Pujol (Spain/ Team Ukyo) 03:29:42.92
2. Jai Hindley (Australia/ Attaque Team Gusto) 03:29:48.70
3. Benjamin Dyball (Australia) 03:30:01.21
4. Thomas Lebas (France / Bridgestone) 03:30:23.37
5. John Ebsen (Denmark / One Pro Cycling) 03:30:52.13
The top men finishers.
The top 5 in the women’s race were:
1. Emma Pooley (England) 04:08:40.14
2. Yumiko Goda (Japan / BH Astifo) 04:32:11.87
3. Zi Yin Cheng (Taiwan / LIV) 04:38:07.11
4. Tin Yin Huang (Taiwan) 04:39:57.64
5. Xin Cheng (Taiwan / Ecat) 05:03:56.63
Emma Pooley collects the prize for fastest women at the Taiwan KOM 2016.
This year’s field was the strongest in the five year history of the event. Amongst the men’s race we had two-time KOM Classification winner at the Vuelta a Espana (2015 & 2016) Omar Fraile of ProTour team Dimension Data, who was riding his second Taiwan KOM Challenge. Also lining up was John Ebsen of One Pro Cycling, a former multiple winner of the KOM Challenge, Lampre Merida’s Taiwanese pro Feng Chun-Kai, 2015 third-placed rider Thomas Lebas of Bridgestone, former World Tour rider Oscar Pujol, Taiwanese climbing sensation Fan Yong-Yi, Irish Hill Climb champion Mark Dowling and a host of Continental and Pro-Continental riders, most noticeably a strong Australian contingent from which Hindley and Dyball would eventually get onto the podium.
Omar Fraile of Dimension Data and Spain.
Amongst the women we had former four time British champion and world ITT champion Emma Pooley, up and coming Japanese collegiate champion Yumiko Goda, Taiwanese Olympian Tin Yin Huang and another strong Taiwanese rider, Zi Yin Cheng.
With such a depth in quality amongst the elite and professional riders the pace was always going to be high and sure enough, once the peloton had completed the 15km neutral section, the speed shot up. Almost immediately two local riders, Yang Hung-Ming and Bin You Yang forced the pace and broke clear of the peloton, with the lead pack, now some 45 riders in number, seemingly content to let go clear for the time being. The peloton snaked its way up through the magnificent Taroko Gorge, providing one of the world’s most beautiful backdrops for a bicycle race.
The riders setting off from Hualien.
By KM45 Yang Hung-Ming was alone, having upped that pace to drop his companion. By this stage the elevation was 1030 meters. 2:20 behind him, the chasing group of 45 included all the favorites, with the strong Attacker team of Hindley setting the pace. Keeping close watch over matters at the front were Fraile and Ebsen of Denmark, whose parents were up at the finish line.
Just eight kilometers later, the chase pack was beginning to lose riders as the pace increased. Pooley alone remained from the women’s field, riding at the back and looking comfortable with both the speed and the gentle inclines of that section of the mountain. By then at an elevation close to 1500m, the strong riders were beginning to make their presence known. The jitteriness in the group led to a crash at the second refueling zone which saw Lebas take a tumble. He was soon up however and after adjusting his rear wheel he soon rejoined.
By KM58, the lone leader had been reabsorbed and dropped, and the 25 remaining riders were now at 1700m. The Attaquer team’s were the most numerous, with four men in the mix.
A recent typhoon had caused some damage on the road and at around KM60, Ireland’s Dowling was forced to unclip in a sandy section, coming to a complete halt. As he clipped back in, Attaquer’s Guy Kalma sportingly slowed to give Dowling a push and the two then paced back up to the lead pack. It is a feature of this race amongst the competitors, being such a demanding route, that acts such as this happen, usually unseen, throughout the day.
On a short, tricky descent starting at KM70, an attack saw several riders out the back by the bottom, thinning the leaders to fifteen. Soon after, as the race hit 2300m, both Pooley and Fraile began to lose contact. Among the leaders were Ebsen, Dowling, Dyball, Hindley, Leas, Marmot and Fan Yung-Yi, as well as the promising Philippine rider Jun Rey Navarra of the Continental Dimension Data team.
The three leaders on the 'second mountain', the approach to the summit at Wuling.
This group stayed together until the beginning of the final steep section, with 8km to go. Known amongst the riders generally as ‘the second climb’, this final ascent contains sections over 25% and is a real test of physical and mental strength.
A group of some 12 riders began to climb, out of the saddle with shoulders rolling from side to side, trying to squeeze every once of power from their exhausted, oxygen-depleted bodies. A group of three - the same three that would take the top places - edged free of Ebsen and Lebas with 5KM to go and looked to be clear. However some monumental efforts from both these chasers saw them draw agonizingly close to the men in front, only for them to put the pressure on and move clear once again.
This battle royale continued on the short but steep 800m descent that comes just 2km from the finish, with each rider taking some serious risks to try to eke out an advantage. Pujol, Hindley and Dybbal however hit the start of the brutal last kilometer together, and it was here where Pujol managed to get a ten meter gap over Hindley, with Dibbal just 6 meters behind his fellow Australian. Lebas did his utmost to chase them down, his face contorted in pain, but it was ultimately in vain.
Pujol finished first, just six seconds ahead of Hindley with Dibbal just behind, nine seconds down on Pujol.
In the women's race, Pooley came in to loud applause well ahead of the second placed Goda. Amazingly, despite her illustrious career, this was the first every polka dot QOM jersey Pooley had ever won, soething she remarked upon at the end. Later Pooley said that the Taiwan KOM Challenge was the hardest day she had ever had on a bicycle, and concluded by urging her fellow cyclists to come ride this amazing hill and to participate in the Taiwan KOM Challenge, which in 2017 will be held on October 27th. To see the interview with Emma Pooley at the end of the event, please head to the Taiwan KOM Challege Facebook page.
The Elite Men's podium.
Exhausted finishers in quiet celebration.
Finishing this climb is exhausting but immensely rewarding.