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Former Tour de France winner excited to compete in Taiwan challenge

2017/10/17 19:43:30

Taipei, Oct. 17 (CNA) Cadel Evans, winner of the Tour de France in 2011, said Tuesday that he is looking forward to testing his mettle at the Taiwan King of the Mountains (KOM) Challenge, although he said he also feels "intimidated" by the grueling epic climb.

"I came here for a challenge. I know it's going to be hard," Evans, a retired professional cyclist, told CNA before participating the race slated for Oct. 20.

Evans said it is curiosity that brings him to the challenge, which starts from the Qixingtan scenic area in the eastern county of Hualien, followed by an 87-kilometer climb through the breathtaking Taroko Gorge to Wuling at Hehuanshan, at an elevation of 3,275 meters.

"There is no other climb in the world that is so long but also that goes so high," said the 40-year-old Australian.

Although he acknowledged the daunting challenge ahead, Evans said he feels no pressure and simply wants to do the climb and stay with the best of the peloton.

Evans will be joined by Vincenzo Nibali from Italy, the 2014 Tour de France champion, former Individual Time Trial World Champion and Olympic medalist Emma Pooley and Camille Deligny, a professional triathlete and the French national Ironman record holder.

For the first time in the Taiwan KOM, now in its sixth year, the number of foreign riders surpasses that of local riders, accounting for 53.71 percent among a total of 592 cyclists.

It is also the first time the KOM has raised the women's championship prize money to equal the men's level of NT$500,000 (US$16,552).

Pooley, who attended a pre-competition news conference with Evans, recognized Taiwan's efforts in promoting women's participation in sports.

"Women are equally capable of riding the same distance (as men)," she said.

Fan Yung-yi (范永奕), two-time champion of the Maxxis Taroko International Hill Climb -- the predecessor of the Taiwan KOM -- said he is looking forward to competing with heavyweight international cyclists.

"It will be a great opportunity for us Taiwanese cyclists to engage with foreign cyclists, so I am very happy," he said.

The race was named as one of the world's 10 toughest by French magazine Le Cycle in 2014.

The challenge is the only one outside Europe to make the list, which calls the KOM Challenge the only one in Asia comparable to classic routes through Europe's Alps and Pyrenees mountain ranges.

The Taiwan KOM is part of the Taiwan Cycling Festival, which runs from Sept. 23 to Nov. 12 and features a variety of events aimed at making Taiwan a world-class destination for bike tourism.

Other events in the festival include Formosa 900, an island-wide competition in which several teams set out from different cities, with each team required to cycle a 900-km loop in nine days, from Nov. 4-12.

In addition, there will be The Sun Moon Lake "Come! Bikeday" on Nov. 11-12, which will involve cyclists from home and abroad riding along one of the world's most beautiful bike paths, according to the organizers, the Taiwan Cyclist Federation.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)