Thursday, October 11, 2012
Wednesday was the mid-week Double Ten holiday, and nothing makes for a better excuse for a fantastic ride than a day you don't have to be at work.
Last week, Dom, my friend and riding buddy, announced on FB Taichung Cycle Page, that he'd like to put an all inclusive ride together for the holiday. It was a general cattle call to all local riders to see if he'd get any takers.
The results were phenomenal. Not only did he get over a dozen local riders to participate, but his ride also brought together several different strands of the Taichung cycling community. The group consisted of hardcore triathletes, industry insiders, weekend warriors, randonneurs, enthusiasts and even a novice. The sight was quite a spectacle.
It was by far the largest group of foreign riders I have ever seen assembled in Taichung.
The group was not only for expats, but there was also local Taiwanese representation in the group as well.
Moreover, it was a circus of personalities, many keen to crack wise.
Once everyone who had expressed interest had converged on the prearranged 7-11 in Wufeng, the mix of lycra and logos rumbled down the Highway 3. The most notable absence from the group was Michael Turton, a local cycling legend several riders had been keen to meet.
Our rolling swarm took a prudent speed along the backroads that lead to the Highway 14. There was lots of catching up and horsing around. It was a nice rolling conversation.
We made our turn at the bridge between Caotun and Wufeng to a noodle of a back road that served up an impressive view of rice fields and the famed Ninety-nine Peaks looming in the background.
The weather was sunny, with a light breeze to keep things cool; the perfect riding weather.
We all finally emptied out onto the Highway 14 and the pace quickened with the higher speed of traffic in general. The group broke up into different conversation and purposes. Some riders shot ahead to hammer the rolling hills, others held pack to simply BS with each other.
We briefly regrouped at a convenience store along the route to wait for stragglers and for Josh Colp from Culprit Bicycles.
Soon we were back on the road in cruise control.
At the junction between the Nantou Route 147 and the Highway 14, the group split into two groups. The group made up of triathletes took the shallow hills of the major highways to Sun Moon Lake, while my group ventured out into the foothills for a more difficult scramble to the lake.
And then there were seven.
My group consisted of seven riders: Dom, an excellent (and well conditioned) rider, James from Lapierre (also an excellent rider), David from BH bikes, Xiao Ding, Mike (a relative novice) and the great distance chewer.... Mr. Peter Hagen Stewart. Peter biked up from Tainan to join us for our century ride and then bike home.
It was an interesting group with lots of great chatter along the way.
We ambled up hills and along streams. There was hardly any traffic to speak of. It was really quite relaxing.
We were also treated to some fantastic descents that simple bring an automatic smile to the face.
As we met the Route 131, we waited for our group to reconstitute before heaving again into some more rolling terrain.
Before too long the Route 131 spit us out onto the busy Highway 21 and we were again scrapping for space amid tour busses and sight seers.
As we waited at the shore of Sun Moon Lake for everyone to make the final grind up the hill, we realized Xiao Ding was missing. We saw him spinning furiously for the lake, but nobody remembers seeing where he went.
After waiting an adequate period of time we just had to keep rolling. It was as if he had been swallowed up by the turquoise waters and simply vanished without a trace.
And then there were six.
We managed to successfully negotiate the amazingly bike friendly environs of Sun Moon lake. I was only boxed in by a CRV and pushed into a parking space by a Nissan.
At Ita Thao Village we took in calories. I am not sure if we were eating food, but we knew there were some calories in there somewhere.
Ita Thao Village is the site of our final climb for the day. It is a relatively quick ascent along a single lane road that looks like nothing but a long driveway.
This little road provides an incredible payoff. It simply dumps you at the foot of the Central Mountain Range.
The strip of tarmac plunges down the side of the mountain, along hairpin turns and through small indigenous villages.
All the while you are completely aware of the massive shadow of the mountain walls looming overhead. It is well worth the price of admission.
As each rider emerged onto the Highway 16, a smile was visibly stamped across his face... all except for Peter who had been too busy concentrating to work up a smile.
We were eventually spit out of the river valley in Shuili, where we soon discovered that the welcoming party had sent a nasty headwind to fight all the way back to Taichung.
We made our pace lines and went for broke. Dom took some amazing pulls at the front to his credit.
Peter turned toward Tainan at Mingjian, we left Mike at a 7-11 in Nantou, James and David peeled off to the other side of the river in Caotun... and then it was just Dom and I.
At about Changhua I was pretty well done. I limped on back to Wuer. Thoughts of food filled my mind. It was too much. I let Dom go on ahead and stopped for one last sugar high to carry me home. it worked. I was a new man all the way home.
This is the longest and most interesting ride I have done in a long time. It was great to be out riding with so many awesome people on a fine day off from work.
A special hats off to Mike for completing his first century ride.