Each Fall for the past few years Merida has sponsored the Tour of Changhua, a Fondo-style road race where thousands of participants slog it out over the long, flat stretches of Changhua County.
The event is open to anyone and everyone, which results in a mix between some of the area's top teams... and the friendly weekend duffer with the less-than-friendly bicycle stereo system. The best thing about this race is that it is more about finishing the ride that it is about placing.
It is fun. It can be challenging. It can be a great way to meet other cyclists.
Yesterday I took the morning to conduct a little reconnaissance of the route with Dom, a formidable riding buddy who keeps me turning the pedals.
Here is my assessment :
This year's installment will be held on 10/14 with a start time at 6:00am.
Compared to last year's route, the 2012 edition will be about 20k longer. It has also been designed to run counter-clockwise. Whereas last year the climb came at the beginning, it is now at the end of 60km of flats. (Prior Races: Here and Here)
I can see this route seriously helping the larger and better organized teams. If they can work together to even out the load through the flats, they can set up their climbers for the final hill section when everyone is worn down. The climbers can probably put several minutes into the heavier riders on the climb through Songboling. Once they reach the ridge on Bagua Shan, they will be aided by a gradual decline into Changhua.
The trick will be to stick with a fast moving bunch for 60k. A larger group will surely have the advantage. If you don't have a team, offer to pull at the front for the price of admission.
Last year my strategy was to leapfrog as much of the field as possible before the climb so there would be fewer riders to contend with on the hill. In a race of this size, it can be easy for the road to get clogged with slower riders. Once I made space on the ascent and descent, I joined a faster group to the end. It worked out pretty well.
The opening section from Changhua to the Rte. 152 will plunge riders directly into a stiff headwind. This is where teamwork will really count. Yesterday we made pretty good time against the wind at 37kph against the wind. It took a lot out of me. The Rte. 152 will see riders fighting a crosswind, especially near the river. The climb is divided into two parts. The first is a pretty stiff climb out of Tianzhong. There are about four humps in the climb before it flattens out for a couple kilometers before the climb to the top of the hill. The second climb is a bit easier and I have carried some good speeds to the top. It is actually a bit of a relaxing climb to recover for the endgame along the top of the ridge.
There are also a few sections of road the Changhua government will need to repave before the race.
I capped 120km yesterday with exactly enough energy for a day's effort, but on the way home I was about 200 calories short.
The best thing about the Tour of Changhua is that there is no pressure. It is an easy race to join simply for the experience.
If you would like to join or would like more information on this year's race, you can check the website HERE.