The Taiwan Cycling Festival─Leisurely Excursions, Competitive Races, Inspiring Scenic Backdrops
Ten years ago, the words “Taiwan,” ”cycling,” and “international tourist” would not appear in the same sentence. This combination is now common. As demonstration, let’s see what Lonely Planet and CNNGo, two of the most prestigious names in international travel reporting, have had to say on the subject of cycling experiences here. Then we’ll tell you all about this year’s Taiwan Cycling Festival, which is happening in November.
By Rick Charette
Lonely Planet recommended Taiwan as one of the top 10 countries for travel in 2012. This is from its website:
“Taiwan has always had a jaw-dropping landscape─oversized sea cliffs and densely forested mountains barely start to describe its majesty. And then there’s the museums, which are simply bursting with treasures (including the best of imperial China, spirited across the strait after WWII), plus a thriving folk culture that includes some wild displays of Taoist and Buddhist worship. In terms of cuisine, Taiwan is a fusion – and slow – food showcase. So why is 2012 the time to visit? Because Taiwan is best seen on two wheels and in recent years the authorities have embraced the biking market with surprising enthusiasm, vision, and (most importantly) funding. This year sees the linking of thousands of kilometers of paths, including two round-the-island routes, and a host of other cycling friendly infrastructure projects”.
CNNGo has declared Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan’s most famous scenic destinations and the centerpiece of the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, one of the world’s 10 best bike routes:
“Some of the best cycling routes in the world pass through its most beautiful scenery….. Located in the heart of Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake has long been charming curious foreigners and local visitors alike. Its calm, turquoise water has also inspired many ancient Chinese poets and painters. The route around the largest lake in Taiwan is a three-hour ride, where visitors can enjoy lake scenery, experience Thao aboriginal culture and learn about the local ecology in Nantou County. If you arrive in early spring, you can even catch the cherry blossoms near this mirror-like lake.”
The goal behind the annual Taiwan Cycling Festival is to introduce the full panoply of the Taiwan cycling experience to all the people of Taiwan and to people overseas looking for new, healthy, and inviting travel destinations: the range of natural scenery that is so impressively varied for an island of this size, the alluring man-created scenic sights, the island’s full and still growing network (over 3’800 km) of interlinked regional and local bike-route webs, the ever more comprehensive infrastructure of rental and repair facilities, the quality accommodations that span the full budget range wherever you bike, Taiwan’s superb, pleasingly affordable food, and the warmhearted friendliness and hospitality of the local people.
The festival is the creation of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, and is built around two main events, the Formosa 900 and the Taiwan KOM Challenge, complemented by a number of events smaller in scale.
The Formosa 900 will take place November 10 to 18. It is a round-island tour by 10 teams that will each launch from a different location along the round-island route. Each team dose a leg a day, covering 900 kilometers in 9 days, and ends up at its starting point. This is not a race – a leisurely pace will be maintained, and sightseeing is the primary goal. Team members will be introduced to the main tourist attractions along the way, and entertained at lunch and dinner each day with iconic foods. A sample of meal themes includes “temple snacks,” “Tainan Snacks,” “Taitung-Hualien seafood,” “Chishang lunchbox,” “home-style cooking,” and “turkey rice.” A grand evening feast and party will be held after the event, in Taipei, with all bikes invited.
The Formosa 900 is a round-island tour by 10 teams that will each launch from a different location along the round-island route
Each team has a limit of 30 members, and each biker pays NT$30,000 to participate. This includes insurance, all accommodations, all meals, bike repair/maintenance support, etc. If riders don’t have their own bikes, the organizer will help out. Teams have themes: there’s an indigenous-tribe team from Taitung, a ladies’ team from Taichung, a team of physically challenged bikers from Hsinchu, a husband/wife team from Yilan, and international teams from Pingtung and Hualien. This is the inaugural event for the Formosa 900. All are welcome, and the intent is for the team composition to change each year.
If you want to learn more about this year’s event or sign up a team or individually for next year, contact the event organizer, the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters’ Association, or the assistant organizer, the Cycling Lifestyle Foundation (contact info below).
East Rift Valley
During this year’s Formosa 900 the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area is being specially spotlighted. Running north-south through pristine Hualien and Taitung counties, it is framed by the majestic Central Mountain Range and the Coastal Mountain Range. The rolling valley-bottom landscape is a carpet of neatly cut, carefully tended farm plots that are often bursting with pastel colors – this has oft been called a “land of milk and honey.” Wide, light – traffic Provincial Highway No. 9, spanning the valley’s length, has a dedicated bike lane very popular with cyclists. The easy-grade side roads are also inviting, as are bike paths through and around local farming towns. Formosa 900 riders are to be specially introduced to the Ruisui Hot Springs and white-water rafting, Japanese-built heritage architecture such as the old Guanshan Railway Station and Guangfu Sugar Factory, Chishang Dapo Pond bikeway, and the particularly lovely scenery along County Route No. 193.
Taiwan KOM Challenge
The Taiwan KOM Challenge (“KOM” stands for King of the Mountains”) is being run on November 10, racers setting off at 6 a.m., the finish line closed at 1:30 p.m., the winner expected to finish at about 11 a.m. This is an international race for serious riders – above 16 years of age and capable of finishing the route in 7 hours or less. This starts in the scenic Qixingtan area in the small east coast city of Hualien, and takes riders through magnificent Taroko National Park. It was mentioned earlier that CNNGo has specially recommended Sun Moon Lake; it has also given special coverage to Taroko National Park, stating that:
“Taiwan is a place that should be on every tourist’s travel plans… . What should really persuade potential tourists to visit are Taiwan’s natural attractions, with Taroko National Park getting top billing.”
Taiwan KOM Challenge starts in the east coast city of Hualien, takes riders through magnificent Taroko Gorge, and ends far, far uphill at Wuling/Hehuanshan
At the park’s base just inland from the coast is Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s greatest natural wonder, where sheer marble-laced cliffs a thousand meters high almost kiss in places. The race ends far, far uphill along the Central Cross-Island Highway at Wuling/Hehuanshan, Taiwan’s highest road poing at 3,275 meters. Riders, starting at sea level, cover 100 km, with the route featuring many winding and challengingly steep sections. British pro rider Lee Rodgers said of his 2011 experience:
“It was, in the end, breathtakingly beautiful and yet incredibly tough… . However, everyone who finished that day is a hero. Plain and simple. This is a race that more people should know about, because it is absolutely unique… . To those thinking of taking a trip to Hualien and the Taroko Gorge: this area is astonishingly beautiful and I thoroughly recommend a trip here. Breathtaking, in every sense!”
Among the celebrated riders competing this year are Metteo Rabottini, from Italy’s Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli team, who won the 2012 Giro d’Italia KOM; Anthony Charteau, from France’s Team Europcar, winner of the 2010 Tour de France KOM; and Jeremy Roy, from France’s FDJ-BigMat team, 2011 Tour de France stage KOM and Combative rider. Among the many competing teams are the CCN Cycling Team, based in Malta; the KTM Cycling Team, based in Germany; and the Specialized US cycling team. There will be trophies and cash prizes in each category: an Elite, Men’s in numerous age brackets, and a Women’s.
Sun Moon Lake
There will be an awards ceremony and fireworks show at Sun Moon Lake’s Xiangshan Visitor Center at 6 p.m. on November 10. The next day is being called Sun Moon Lake Come! Bikeday: there will be a fun 30-km ride around the lake with some of the pro racers, and a 9-km family run along the lake. Both launch from the Xiangshan Center at 7 p.m. There will also be an autograph session. For more information, contact the event organizer.
As Lonely Planet has noted, Taiwan is now energetically promoting green tourism through the vigorous marketing of cycling tours. The Taiwan Tourism Bureau has introduced numerous incentive packages and other promotional activities for international tourists. For more information, visit the bureau’s website (www.taiwan.net.tw).
English & Chinese
Chishang Dapo Pond 池上大坡池
Chishang lunchbox 池上便當
East Rift Valley 花東縱谷
Formosa 900 騎遇福爾摩沙900
Guangfu Sugar Factory 光復糖廠
Guanshan Railway Station 關山火車站
Ruisui Hot Springs 瑞穗溫泉
Sun Moon Lake 日月潭
Sun Moon Lake Come! Bikeday 日月潭 Come! Bikeday
Taiwan Bicycle Exporters’ Association 台灣區自行車輸出業同業公會
Taiwan Cycling Festival 臺灣自行車節
Taiwan KOM Challenge 太魯閣登山賽 - 台灣登山王
Taroko Gorge 太魯閣峽谷
Xiangshan Visitor Center 日月潭向山遊客中心
Taiwan Bicycle Exporters’ Association (台灣區自行車輸出業同業公會)
Contact: Wei Shyi-Ling (魏錫鈴) / Secretary General
Add: 5F, 189, Keelung Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei (台北市基隆路二段189號5樓)
Cycling Lifestyle Foundation (財團法人自行車新文化基金會)
Contact: Sheron Wang (王玫文)
Add: 17F-2, 51, Sec. 2, Keelung Rd., Taipei (臺北市基隆路二段51號17F-2)
Tel: (02) 8978-5060
Taiwan Cyclist Federation (自行車騎士協會)
Contact: Zoe Lee (李照圓)
Tel: (04) 2381-3936/ 0920-522-171
Provided by Travel in Taiwan Bimonthly November December Issue, 2012