The Taiwan KOM Challenge | The Hardest Climb In The World?

The Taiwan KOM Challenge | The Hardest Climb In The World?


[Heavy Breathing] [Adventurous Music] – [Simon] I swear that’s further. It’s like the longest half K ever. (dramatic music) – [] We first heard about the Taiwan KOM Challenge in 2015. It’s a 100 kilometre long
race almost entirely uphill. At the time, in fact, we
wondered in the GCN show if it was actually the most
epic climb in the world. Two years on and two
trips to Taiwan later, agonisingly still having
yet to ride a bike there, we finally got the call. The KOM Challenge had invited us to race. We were on our way. Matt and I flew out separately. I was due to spend a fascinating few days filming some factory tours
for GCN down in Taichung. Matt meanwhile was being a celebrity. Having finally met up in Taipei, we drove down the east coast to Hualien, the start town of the race. Taiwan is an island in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of China,
and southwest of Japan. 23 million people live there, and although it’s only
400 kilometres long, it boasts over 250 mountains higher than three thousand metres. One of which has our names on it. The Hualien Pass. – [Phil] Let’s talk real quick. What are we doing here? What are you here for? – I’m gonna ride the KOM as fast as I can. – You’re gonna ride,
okay, as fast, try again. – I’m gonna race it,
I’m gonna race the KOM. – Try one more time. – I’m gonna race! – No. Maybe you could help him out. – Um. – You’re here to win. – That’s what, Phil, that’s
what I was gonna say. – Okay, you flew all the way here. Did you come to race to get second? No, one mission. – Okay. – The course, it goes uphill. – It’s a very uphill course. – It’s probably why they
call it the KOM Challenge. – Yeah. – So, the first 20K is up,
and the second 20K is up. – Okay. – The third 20K is up. – Really? – And the last 20K, you wanna guess? – Is up? – Its also up. – Okay. – So you’re quite good
at going uphill fast. Can you give us some tips
on how to go uphill fast for a long time? (sigh) – I wish I could help you. – Looks like the time has finally come. We have one hour now ’til
the Taiwan KOM Challenge. Two years in the making, and I must admit, it’s the first time I felt
like, in a long, long time, I can do the race. I actually have done a
proper toilet in the morning. The nervousness is there,
but its really here, I can’t believe it. – Yeah, I mean, to be fair,
it does feel slightly surreal, because we got up at, I got
up at a quarter past four, and then now its five o’clock
and so I don’t really feel like I’m particularly present. Breakfast though has just been had. I had a nice Science
In Sport Go Energy bar. – And a gel. We had a little packed lunch, didn’t we? – We did, yeah, which we were eating. – We’ve already eaten. And we’re just stuck biding
our time, resting our legs ahead of what’s to come. Here we have about a minute to go, a couple of minutes to go. (crowd talking) That was all the hitters on the front row. That’s the wind we are facing. And this is the nervousness we have here. Anyway, we’ll catch you later. – Matt, quick, cheers. – Yeah, fist bump. (upbeat music) – As we start out next to
the beach, the route is mercifully flat for the
first 20 kilometres. A left turn inland, though,
signals the start of the climbing up through the
incredible Taroko Gorge. After about 50 kilometres
the gradient starts to bite, up to about six percent or so. Seemingly, everyone we met
though, had a stark warning. Save something for the
final 10 kilometres. Gradients of up to 20 percent,
dizzying altitude and with 70 kilometres of climbing
already in the legs. Something to look forward to then. For now though, we had some racing to do. – We are, where are we? About 45K in. The kind of internal dialogue I’m in is am I going to hard and am
I going to pay for this? And the answer is always I don’t know. So I’m just hanging in there. (upbeat music) – Well I hung on for as long as I could in the front group. I could have stayed with
them for a lot longer, but I know if I did it I would pay later, so I’m just riding at my own speed now. Still a very long way to go, but it’s amazing, but its absolutely relentless
and only gets worse. (upbeat music) One is done. 45K in. Must admit I’m enjoying the scenery. I’m not enjoying the constant pain. (upbeat music) – Right, this, this is
me trying to be sensible. I’ve just let the group go. I saw Bahrain-Merida down the front and start to drive the tempo. So, I thought if there
was ever a cue to leave, that is it, but now irritatingly
we’re actually on quite a flat stretch of road, and so they’re all set in
a group and I’m on my tod. Oh well, it’s pretty
nice though, isn’t it? Have a look at that. There’s Caley Fretz from Velonews. I can see his altitude
gills working from here. – Not bad, thought I’d wait for ya. – Thanks, man, I appreciate that. – I do what I can. (upbeat music) – Okay. I just stopped for a toilet. And we got attacked by some dogs. Still a long way to go. But its one of the most amazing
rides I’ve done in my life. I’m pretty pumped, honestly. Actually, it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful. (upbeat music) – We’ve just gone past
a sign saying half way in terms of altitude, but
as Caley kindly pointed out, we’ve done quite a significant
margin over half way in terms of kilometres ridden. So it doesn’t take a genius
to work out things are about to get pretty steep. Thanks for that Caley. – Your welcome. (upbeat music) – Aw, you got it as well. You know its a hard race when you have to put your foot down or your feet down. I’m struggling now, like, in
my head I know I still got well over 1,000 metres of altitude. I’m breathing pretty heavily. It’s not helping being sat
next to Caley who’s just about reached his home altitude. It’s gonna bite, it’s gonna really bite. (upbeat music) Okay. This is it. This is what everyone talks about. 10 kilometres, an average of 10 percent. I just necked my last energy gel. I’m gonna have to suffer this one out. (intense music) – This is absolutely brutal. (heavy breathing) A bit of a view. There you go. We’ve still got 900
metres to go and climbing. (dramatic music) – I tell you what, despite
all this world of pain I’ve just put myself in, I
can’t help but look around and see how flippin’ amazin’ it is. And also, how incredibly fortunate I am to be ridin’ this bike. 6.1 kilos certainly not holding me back. There’s only one thing holding me back, if I’m being completely honest. (dramatic music) Now there’s not much competition
between the presenters believe it or not, but there
is a small part of me that knows that Matt is not far
behind and I know he’s like the terminator and he’s
gonna be pushing so hard. I can see it in my mind,
he’s hunting me down. That’s a welcome sight, five
K to go, you can actually see the top now. It still feels out of reach at the minute. This is absolutely brutal. Never anything like it. (dramatic music) I swear that’s further. It’s like the longest half K ever. (cheering) (dramatic music) I’m not entirely sure I ever worked harder for a medal before just for finishing, but that feels good. This is the top of the
Taiwan KOM Challenge and that was an amazing experience. A true challenge, despite
trying to pace myself early on, just the last 15K has just been insane. So steep in parts were high we
were like 3,000 metres plus. So I still gotta get my breath
back and soak it all up. I actually chuffed a bit to go up. So the dust is settling around us. Matt, what did you make of that mate? – You know what, I don’t
think words can convey it. I think you need to come here
to experience it for yourself. But what I can say is that it
was epic in every sense of the word, including the effort that I put in. I don’t think I’ve ever gone
quite as hard for so long in my entire career, and just
look at the scenery, it’s, actually what I’m talking
about, the hairs are standing up on the back of my neck,
it’s absolutely amazing. A day to remember. And weirdly, although
I suffered like a dog, I wanna come back, yeah. – Oh God, from the first
section through the Taroko Gorge which is just the magnitude
is just incredible isn’t it? And then you start riding
through that rain forest and twisting up, and then
it goes a little bit dark when you run out of oxygen
and things get a bit steep, but like you said, it’s
what cycling is all about. Which is doing something where
you wonder whether or not you’re actually capable of finishing. And then you do, and then it
just feels great, don’t it? – Yep. – We got certificates and everything. – We have, yeah and our
medallions, as you can see, that really was quite something. So, you asked me if I wanna
come back, you wanna come back? – Oh yeah, I actually love
Taiwan, mate, I’m definitely gonna be coming back, yeah
right, I suppose we just leave it there mate. All there is left to do is to say make sure you subscribe to GCN. To do so, just click on the globe. – Now, for another one of our challenges, me and Dan rode the
Maratona in the Dolomites, how about clicking just down here. – Yeah, and if you wanna
find out a little bit more about our very special KOM
bikes, then click just down there where we talk you through them.