Day 4 would take us from Chiayi to the city of Kaohsiung. A scheduled 117km route would make it the longest ride of the trip. When we woke up at 05:45 it was already 25 degrees Celsius outside so that was a first sign of a long and hot day on the saddle. We raided the extensive breakfast buffet again knowing that we would need some energy today.
At an easy pace we rode out of the Chiayi to stop at the Tropic of Cancer crossing, were we would do a warmup and stretching moves. Due to the temperatures, the smog was obtrusive. No smoking required to feel your lungs burn when doing some short sprints 🙂
The next 50 kilometres where roads like these or even separated bike / motoped lanes made for high speeds. The short intervals were burning away my stamina quickly and I was happy to have an easy afternoon. Before lunch we visited the Shanhua Brewery were the national Taiwan Beer was produced. In their shop I found some rare Taiwanese whisky which was not allowed to be exported until a few years ago. It seemed they were quite creative with their old metalic barrels and cans:
The 35+ celsius temperatures were making it tough for everyone. After a well deserved lunch in Tainan many were happy to have a quick nap and regain some energy to do survive the next 60 kilometres:
Getting out of Tainan was pure fun. We had many traffic lights were we had to wait together with a crowd of motopeds. Easy targets to race against until the next red light. Turns out my bike was by far the fastest every time!
Just before sunset we arrived in Kaohsiung were the organisation had taken care of us really well: a massive room and the best diner of the trip in the Chateau de Chine hotel. The 117 scheduled kilometres became 122 and everybody was happy we finished. Time for massive amounts of food and beer. Too bad the free drinks in the VIP room that were promised didn’t really exist. No problem, the supermarket had enough cans of cheap Taiwan Beer for us.
Day 5: coastline views from Kaohsiung to Checheng
The heat was still there so another sweaty day to go. Luckily the organisation had scheduled a short flat 85 kilometre recovery ride before we would head into the mountains. The sun seriously burned our skin, so every patch of shadow was welcome:
After we left the industrial Kaohsiung area behind, we had a few nice challenges on the road. This massive bridge had a 13% climb section in it. Excellent for a few sprints resulting in proper suffering in the heat and thick air:
Taking the descent as fast a possible, what else would you expect?You want to know how the average road quality was? Nothing to complain since they have renewed most roads in the past few years. Taiwan has put real effort in making it a suitable country for cycling tours:
Before we had our last break of the day, we had one of the best parts of the trip until that moment. On our right the ocean, the clouds blocked the burning sun, a nice tailwind and the road quality could not have been better. This is how everyone wants to ride around an island.
Day 6: climbing from Checheng to Taitung
Waking up with the mountains shining in the rising sun was great. Finally we would be doing some proper riding: attacking some 200-300m climbs. At this point also other groups riding around the island came together so we also had some competition on the road.
2 kilometres of warming up before the first climb started. We regrouped a few times during the first part of the climb so the #snackvan could catch up and everybody was able to recover a bit. After the first part we were allowed to go on our own pace, which meant as fast as possible of course. The few showers were welcome, nice way to keep body temperature regulated and not overheat. The scenery was truly beautiful.
During the first 2.7 km steep (5% average) segment I was able to pull away from the rest. No top 10 time on Strava but a decent 29/1902 classification. After a kilometre of downhill recovery and regrouping the longest segment of the climb started. 9,7 kilometres averaging 2,5% which suited me well. I was racing against Peter on his folding bike. He won, I failed. But once I saw our top 20 times (out of 3139 people) on Strava I was OK with it. Conclusion: I need a diet and you can climb fast with a folding bike 🙂
At the top we waited for the others, made a few awesome group pictures and then head down. I really looked forward to the descent, but buses and cars were making it impossible to go down without braking. After lunch the toughest part had yet to come. Were we had tailwinds on the west side of the Island, we would face massive headwinds on this side. But who cares if the views are like this?! Except for the clouds that would be entertaining us with rain the rest of the afternoon.
My brains pushed the memories of that afternoon into a place I can’t access anymore. I think the following three words summarize it: headwind, rain, headwind. After 10 wet hours on the road, I really deserved some beer.
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Disclaimer: this trip was sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau