HUALIEN, Taiwan (VN) — For the second time in three years, John Ebsen (Atlas/black Inc.) crushed the field to take the Taiwan KOM Challenge title, winning by over two minutes on a day that saw the skies continue to drop showers and temperatures plummet to near 40 degrees at the summit of the 62-mile hill climb.
“This year was a lot cooler, but this actually played out to my advantage,” Ebsen said at the summit, still shivering in a cold rain. “It was all about keeping warm; I kept on my rain jacket even though I was sweating all the way up, although I was perfect all the way up. But you don’t want to say that to the other rivals.”
Will Routley (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) also made the trip across the world to race what is arguably the world’s toughest hill climb, receiving an invite from race organizers, the Taiwan Cyclist Federation, after his performance at the Amgen Tour of California — where he won the mountains classification as well as stage 4. He suffered in the cold in Taiwan, having just come off a break after a long season, finishing 15th on the day.
“I haven’t done Paris-Roubaix, but I know they have done some crazy, horrific rides in the dirt, wind, rain, and cold. But honestly, this is one of the craziest, hardest days — 16 to 7.5 degrees Celsius — this altitude is ridiculous and you don’t want to eat,” Routley said. “This was just a crazy day; people back at home won’t realize — unless you have experienced this — this was just insane!”
On the women’s side, Marg Fedyna, a veteran of adventures races, including multiple Eco-Challenges and a host of other endurance events such as the Haute Route Pyrenees (where she triumphed this year), won the women’s race.
The 50-year-old road a consistent race, stayed out of trouble along the way, and held on for an impressive win.
“It was up there with mind over body. I thought it would be more about the legs, but it was about the hands,” Fedyna said of the inclement conditions. “I would love to do this again on a dry day. It was clearing up a bit and it was beautiful and outstanding scenery; it is a must for everybody.”
Two of the women’s pre-race favorites, Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululemon), who was second last year, and Jo Hogan (Rapha Ambassador), were caught up in an early crash. Hogan took the brunt of the fall, landing on ribs that had been injured just three weeks earlier when she was struck by a car while riding.
She continued on, in pain, and eventually clawed her way to fourth place.
“There were times in the race, especially at the 50km mark, that I thought I was not going to be able to finish,” Hogan said. “To be honest, I thought it was going to be a little bit harder; I really had good legs, it was really just the pain in my side that stopped me from going a little bit harder, especially in those pitchy sections when I had to get out of the saddle.”