Old Ladies Gather to Pick Tea
Today can only be described as a day of mixed cycling, but it was none the less rewarding. I have been doing quite a few long rides going back about a month. Part of this is to get ready to go to Seattle next week and not embarrass myself when I try riding there. Another part might have a little bit to do with the Tour de France. I guess over the past few weeks I have matched three of the completed stages. In recent weeks I have done a mountain century, a trip over Wuling, 201km to Chiayi, 220km to Toufen... and today, on my last Taiwanese weekend for a while, I completed a 160km/100mi ride out to Lugu in Nantou County.
Attie and Justin
I was actually quite conflicted as the weekend approached and had a few other potential riding plans, so I needed to see which one would suit my goals and fitness. I had a couple of invites, but chose to go with Attie's ride as I got home way too late Friday night for a 5:30am departure. The plan was to ride out to Nantou and beyond. I had been thinking about a solo attack on Lugu for some time and I was sure it could be done in a day, so I planned to join the ride down and then keep going.
Our group consisted of some skilled and accomplished athletes (so I really don't know why I was in the group) who had all cut their riding chops in some demanding disciplines. I am just glad it was a more gentle pace. Our group consisted of: Attie, the veteran triathlete, Nico, the aspiring and energetic (young) triathlete, the fabulous Ms. Sally W. of the Taiwan National Triathlon Team, Justin, a recovering triathlete of about my age, and Rob, an industry man and former pro cyclist with several Giros and a TdF under his belt. Then there was me.
We made steady time down toward Nantou along the Highway 3, dodging trucks and manhole covers the entire way. The stretch of Highway 3 from Taichung to Nantou is really a festering wound in an otherwise gorgeous road. It was nice to ride in a group like that and I was happy to be pushed down to Shuili in good time without settling into that min-mornign malaise that can set in.
It seemed we were in Shuili in no time, so I bid the group farewell and carried on alone. I turned right onto the 131 out of Shuili and kept a lazy pace for a kilometer or two to get used to riding alone again. For cycling, the 131 is the best road for getting up to Lugu as it is an alternate route and not used by the throngs of tourists and their diesel-trap busses that rip up and down the mountain to ferry visitors to places where they can see "natural things" that used to be here in abundance. The "eco-tourism" seems to operate like this: Destroy the natural things that are in abundance and then charge an arm and a leg to take people to see what is left as it becomes "special".
The Nantou Local 131 passes some really pretty areas. Little tea farms dot the hillsides where they grow some of the world's greatest Oolongs.
I tried to keep an even pace all the way up and I was actually enjoying the climbs as I could use a different set of muscles from what I had been using in the flats. I just felt energetic and the legs were springy.
I decided to take the long way around the valley as my odometer was beginning to hit that another century ride might be possible if I could work it right. I kept climbing and dodging busses as some ominous looking rain clouds hung on the hilltops. After getting caught in the rain a couple days ago, I was a bit wary of the rain. The clouds didn't look so big and bad, so I continued enjoying the ride.
The Nantou Local Road #55 is a beautifully paved road; the best election-year pork spending can buy. It just ripples and flows down the back side of the mountain to Zhushan. There are all kinds of surprises and turns that carve out a descent like a downhill slalom.
I plopped down in Zhushan and immediately started hitting the same steady speed I came down on. I was feeling great, even after 110km. The gradual downhill out of the mountains gave me a good clip to continue through Nantou and into Caotun. I soon realized I would be a little short if I went straight back up the Highway 3, so I crossed the bridge into Fenyuan and headed home from the Changhua side on the Highway 14. As I started rolling along the last few blocks home, the odometer flipped to the century mark, and just barely. I arrived back at my front door at 12:38pm, which meant I had logged a century and still had a full day ahead of me. I was happy to have both a group ride and a solo century in one day and i still felt like I could have done a lot more.
Thanks Attie, I am glad I could make it!