Next Sunday I have another event planned. I have decided to "compete" in this year's Tour of Changhua.
Although I am fully aware that this is another campaign race designed to coincide with the mythical ROC 100 year anniversary, which explains the 100km length, I felt I needed to give this event another try after last year's debacle.
Although I still have some nagging health problems with my knee, I feel this go-round will be a much more positive affair.
To better prepare for next week, I joined the crew from T-Mosaic Bikes for a little reconnaissance of the route. I tried this last week, but drifted off course, so it was nice to ride with some folks who knew the route better. Moreover, it was nice to be able to take advantage of a slipstream. Thanks!
We met at T-Mosaic for a 6:00am departure. Cash Huang would lead on the bike, while Rocky Huang (no relation to Cash) drove the support car. The idea of having a support car is a strange and exotic luxury.
The team assembled and we rolled out toward Changhua across the Highway 74 bridge from the HSR station to the other side of the river.
The opening few kilometers are just easy flats and rollers. As our train chugged along we ate up the stragglers of a half-dozen other clubs that were out practicing.
The first challenge for our early morning legs was in the form of a climb out of Fen Yuan. The hill is not that long and offers a couple sections of respite from 10% grades, but it can be a deal breaker at the beginning of a long race. Push too far in red on the inclines and you suffer the rest of the day.
I hung with two local baddasses, whom I named Frank and Andy Trek, until the very last bump, where we waited for the group to reconstitute where the road meets the Route 139 along the mountain's spine.
The punchy rollers and false flats on Route 139 make for some fun riding. With so many people out it is easy to make friends with different riders from around the area.
The first rest stop was Feng Shan Temple, which appears to be a sacred site of the Goddess of Cycling. Riders of all stripes line the plaza and vie for water and snacks.
With so much cycling traffic, it has become a shrine to Taiwan's entrepreneurial spirit.
Every free corner is filled with cycling goods, food and other swag riders might want from sunglasses to umbrella mounts for your handlebars.
A Bike Called Horse
There may even be room for some worship as well.
Just as we were filling our water bottles, I heard a loud pop, like a firecracker. When I looked up, Will from our group was stranded on the side of the road with a blowout. His tubular tire had completely burst.
Luckily Rocky in the support car was standing by ready for action.
At 7:00am, he simply ran across the street to one of the vendors, and purchased a complete bicycle tire... not tubes mind you... but a tire. Where else in the world can you do that?
We were soon back on the road for the descent off the mountain into Songboling. I descended like a valkyrie through the tea farms and pineapple patches. The thrill of a solid descent can really make a ride.
Before long we were back on the flats and chugging at a good clip toward Changhua. Having crossed the halfway point, we were relaxing into a pretty good rhythm. Then... the full force of the sun started taking its toll.
Another rest stop brought spirits and hydration levels back up to acceptable levels, and a little Red bull in the veins never seems to hurt (unless mixed with vodka shots).
The route covers some really nice cycling routes (yes, I just complimented a Taiwanese cycling route) and then we turned directly into a nasty cross-head wind.
From Lukang up it was a brutal march into the wind. With both the wind and the sun conspiring against us, we hobbled back to Taichung.
I felt pretty good and have developed a riding plan for next Sunday. Now I hope everything goes smoothly and it can be a lot of fun.