Introduction By Laura #GordonsGetaways Gordon
Now in it’s second year, Anza Cycling’s annual jaunt to Sun Moon Lake took 18 riders over to Taiwan for the Vesak long weekend. A 5 day, 4 night excursion promising to take in some of the most stunning scenery and epic climbs in the region.
Roping in a few newbies from the passenger manifesto, we managed to persuade scribes Ben ‘I’m not competitive’ Farnsworth, Alex ‘I’m the most sensible’ Theime, and Scott ‘I roll, how I roll’ Leadbetter to put down a few words to describe the North Asia outing.
DAY 1 | Wuling
147km | 3,275m elevation
By Ben Farnsworth
Following a long day of travelling we woke up bright and early and raring to go. After a speedy breakfast (which wasn’t half as bad as the pictures made it out to be – and far better than the Mos Burgers vouchers given out at the grown ups hotel) we met at the support van at 7:30am, ready to embrace what was to be the hardest of all three days of climbing. After gathering up the stragglers and getting the days’ brief out of the way, we grouped together for the obligatory first day ANZA kit photo. We had around 15 ANZA jerseys on show in total, with a couple of outliers from The Mavericks, West Coast Riders and Athlete Lab. [Editor: who are now all fully paid up members!]
There was some grumbling amongst the group and some debate over why the first day should be the toughest day. Personally, I was looking forward to getting stuck in. And once we stopped the debating that is exactly what we did.
We finally rolled out at 7:51am – 21 minutes later than advertised! We set off at an easy pace and then had a nice 15km’s of downhill where even I (with my infamous downhill and cornering skills) managed to hit speeds of in excess of 60km’s per hour.
Next we reached the lower slopes of Mount Wuling, luring you into a false sense of security with easy gradients that then increased over the course of the 50km incline. We had experienced some traffic on the roads but the weather had held out and at this point it looked like it was going to for the rest of the day. The peloton split into two groups and both groups powered on to the first pre-determined check point at Starbucks (47km into the ride). I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Taiwanese roads but I was pleasantly surprised. Their conditions were relatively good; very few potholes, smooth surfaces and generally pleasant to ride on. However, the drivers on the roads, much like in Singapore, didn’t have the best awareness of cyclists – and there were certainly a few near misses on day one.
After a quick rest, coffee/ cake refuel and gathering of warm layers from the supply plan, we all left Starbucks one by one to climb to the summit. An additional 25km of climbing to reach the summit at 3200m
I have never experienced problems exercising at high altitudes before, but I guess I have never exerted myself to that level. At around 2800m I began to feel light headed and found myself having to stop to take breathers and even though my pace slowed significantly it felt I was pushing myself to the max.
I now understand why the Colombians climb the hills so well in the Tour de France
It was also around this point the rain came in – so as opposed to being a nice clear day the views were non-existent and the rain torrential.
Five long hours after setting off that morning, it was with relief that I finally reached the top (This was not a race… but I won!)! Unfortunately the first few to the top also beat the support van! So, despite the freezing conditions (and because of them) we made the call to descend without our dry, warm layers. This made braking very tricky as our fingers were numb and moving them was challenging.
Upon arrival at Starbucks hot coffee was the main order of the day. It took me at least 30 minutes to stop shivering and get my body temperature back to normal.
That was day one over … other than the 10km climb back to the hotel! Although conditions weren’t great we all came away with a massive sense of achievement. I think Scott summed it up nicely for all of us: “THE toughest, most uncomfortable, highest ride I will ever face!”