Presented By
Taiwan KOM Challenge

Bonus Treasures

Taiwan KOM Challenge

I realized I was with a small group of people. Half us where professional athletes, the other half were media. I was obviously a hybrid.

Taiwan KOM Challenge

I II III IV

I Pre-Challenge Media Day

manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-02
So many things happened before this photograph was taken, but I don’t think any of them are important. Just in case, here’s a list:

  1. My flight from Portland to Taipei took approximately 26 hours. I think I stopped in Vancouver, B.C. It wasn’t my favorite experience ever because 24 hours earlier I crashed in Red Hook Milan; I had open wounds and pre-existing jet lag.
  2. Upon arrival I was picked up and taken to a nice hotel in Taipei in the basement of which I built my custom Road To Rad Specialized Tarmac (thanks Specialized and ENVE and SRAM!) for its very first ride. I waved to Phil Gaimon in the lobby of the nice hotel. I slept. I woke up. I had breakfast on the third floor. Things I kinda recognized and therefore ate include but are not limited to: rice, undercooked bacon, scrambled eggs, cappuccino from a machine, cheeeeese?, and lettuce.
  3. I said hi to Caley Fretz, I got into a van with Phil Gaimon, we drove down the coast to where this photograph was taken, on the 9, just south of the Nanfangao Lookout.
  4. At that point I realized I was with a small group of people. Half us where professional athletes, the other half were media. I was obviously a hybrid.


The lady in this photograph is the best lady ever. I didn’t know it then but she was basically a boss and made everything about the next four days not only possible but enjoyable. She told me so many things. We talked a lot. Also, she made this hands-up gesture A LOT. Trust me, you’ll see.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-03
Yeah, the keys were in this sucker and there was a dog I thought about stealing. Joking! Where would I go? Plus I was hot. Like really hot. I wore pants. Pants seemed reasonable in my air-conditioned hotel room but pants were not reasonable in un-air-conditioned Taiwan, nor would they be at any point for the remainder of this trip. We stopped here to go into the building behind this scooter for “lunch.”
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-05
Lunch, Exhibit A. I wish you could eat color. And you can, but the thing is some colors don't taste that good.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-04
At the time I didn’t know who these ladies were. Here’s me trying to figure them out while they try to figure out this overly colorful and utterly foreign drink selection. #meta
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-06
Phil Gaimon is a journalist now, update your records. I’m not sure if this footage made the cut or not, but I’d like to think that it did.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-07
This dog is Bennie. Bennie was named after Elton John’s 1973 hit song “Bennie and Jets.”
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-12
There go all of our bikes. I like this photo because the driver waved at me. Over the course of the next three days I would come to know a number of van drivers and their vans. Speaking of vans, most of them were brand new Mercedes vans. Dear America: import these vans already, they’re amazing. All the vans were stocked with tissue dispensers and miniature bottles of water.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-09
At about this point I learned that the woman on the left is French Ironman record holder and professional triathlete Camille Deligny.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-11
These people, a family I think, were not part of our group. But people like people so here are some people.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-01
The Pacific Ocean. If you look really hard you might be able to see the Island of Yonaguni. Joking! There’s no way you’re going to see that Island, it’s like 5000 miles out to sea. To the right, the Philipines, to the left, Japan. Straight ahead, past the Island Yonaguni, is a typhoon headed for Japan.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-10
Grab a boogie board and wait a day or two for that typhoon to kick in, surf’s up! Hey that reminds me of two things:

  1. Surf Mats are a thing. Did you know that? I only recently learned that. Kevin Franks told me about them. I want to get one but they’re a little expensive. There are number of different models and shapes but they’re all basically $250.00. Here’s the thing, they’re durable, easy to inflate, as fun as a boogie board and/or surfboard but much easier to travel with on account of it’s easy to remove and replace air from the inside of one. Think about how rad these would be for bike-packing or a family vacation to Hawaii. Just a thought.
  2. Boss Lady told me that nobody swims on the west coast of Taiwan, or on any of the coasts of Taiwan except for maybe an indigenous person from the coast with a connection to the ocean and fishing. But she made it sound like casual swimming was not a thing on account of rip tides, I think. Some details may have been lost in translation, I’m just telling you what I think she told me.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-13
Phil Gaimon, with Castelli roller luggage (model’s own).
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-14
This is the lobby of the Kadda Hotel in Huainan, our home for the next four days. To be clear, the city of Huainan was our home for the next four days; unless you were a professional athlete the Kadda Hotel was not home. Media stayed up the road in a nicer-but-actually-way-less-cool hotel. The Kadda Hotel is owned by a cyclists and is FULLY into catering to cyclists. The dude on the left is from Turkey. I don’t remember his name now and was never able to pronounce it right. He was pretty cool. He told me about these sunglasses called Alba Optics. I sorta basically sincerely like them, the pair he had on looked great. Anyway I talked to this dude quite a few times. He lives in Italy. He has some pretty interesting theories. The woman on the right was super captivating. First of all, she’s a runner more than a cyclist. We’re friends now, but at the time I was just sorta lite fascinated by her. She reminded me of how sometimes artists vibe like they’re simultaneously a half second ahead and behind everyone else on Earth. Know what I mean?, like in conversations, they’re just a beat ahead of or behind reality. Listen, this sounds mean, I’m thinking about deleting it. Wait, it’s not mean. She’s super neat. That’s what I’m trying to say. Jesus.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-16
Phil and Caley. My crew. My buddies. My north, my south, my east, and my west. Lolz, no but seriously we did hang out and do meals and whatnot together. For example Phil joined me daily on a number of my sparkling water hunts (here’s the deal: you can find Schweppes in the blue bottle at 7-Elevens but you have to LOOK HARD, because often they’re on the bottom shelf and pushed way to the back).
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-17
Start Area, Exhibit A
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-18
Start Area, Exhibit B
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-20
Team Bahrain Merida, Exhibit A
Bedazzled Jeans, Exhibit A
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-22
Start Area, Exhibit C
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-21
Start Area, Exhibit D
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-23
Start Area, Exhibit E
This bear is a thing. He’s EVERYWHERE. Also, this is the first of SO MUCH Throw Your Hands In The Air Like You Don’t Care. At all of the many press conferences and photo-ops, invitees and featured professional athletes were required to participate in what seemed like mandatory as in non-consensual (physical) displays of being Pumped & Jazzed. I didn't mind it, in fact it kinda reminded me of how when you smile even if you don’t mean it, you wind up feeling better anyway. Hug that bear Nibali, hug that bear! #sharkattack
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-24
Don’t look now but that dude’s tripod sucks.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-28
THIS LADY. Holy shit. H O L Y S H I T!!!!!!!!!! All day every day at every engagement she was PUUUUUUUUUUUUMPED AND JAZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZED. So much energy. So much spirit. In English. In Mandarin. On the mic!!!!!!!! Let me hear you say HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I mean look at her, she’s holding three mics. Who do you know that can operate three mics at one time!?
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-29
Team FUCKING Spirit, let me tell you. In fact, I’m not sure been to an event that’s had as much team spirit as this event had. All-inclusive. Family. Intimate. Psyched. P&J’ed. We’re all in this together. FUN FUN FUN. But not too much FUN, just the right amount of FUN. Seriously, this event has pride, and it shows.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-30
See, here she is again with the hands. Also, in the time it took to take this photo alone she probably solved seven potentially problematic problems.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-31
Emma Pooley. She tolerated me. She laughed at some of my jokes. She truth-joked about my kit every day. She won the KOM challenge last year. She won the KOM challenge again approximately 36 hours after this photograph was taken. She’s a bike-packer. She should be a fan of Yonder and Dead Reckoning but probably (VERY VERY VERY likely) isn’t. We talked about flour and “to eat or not to eat flour” A LOT over the course of three days. I’m a fan.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-32
The media game at this event was solid. This World Tour 1.0 seating move seems a little unnecessary but I’m not telling these cats how to do their job; also, you never know when De Vlaeminck is going to ride through a puddle or when Merckx is going to jump a aroundabout #snapsordidnthappen.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-33
This is a ride the day before the race, or maybe it was the day before the day before the race. Listen, we rode on three different days including the race. So two pre-rides and a race. This is either pre-ride day one or pre-ride day two. This is the boring bit to go with the fun bit.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-36
Photo-ops on the pre-ride day went deep! So many! Also, I remember now, this is pre-ride day two. I didn’t have a camera with me on pre-ride day one. I know, I know. But as much as I love that Leica Q, and I do, I really do. It’s still kinda big. Which reminds me, here’s what I’m thinking: buy a Ricoh GR II for $600.00. Slim, durable, big files, built in flash, fits in pocket, DEAD SIMPLE point and shoot workflow and hand feel. If I had had my future Ricoh GR II in Taiwan I would have photos from pre-ride day one.
In this one I like how the Global Cycling Network anchors bounce into view. GIFs, so good. Also, check out Leah Thorvilson’s fierce look!!!!!!!! Also while I don’t luuuuuuuuuuv Phil’s cookie kit, like, aesthetically speaking—which by the way don’t tell him I said that—I have to admit dude is next-level “on brand.”
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-38
In addition to sharing this moment, Cadel and I shared a number of elevator rides. He likes to joke and you know what? He’s pretty good at jokes. Not great, but solid. Really solid. You take that, you factor in his Tour win and the fact that really he’s actually a mountain biker, maybe you do a little subtraction because he’s extremely Australian, and you know what? You’re left with a super cool dude. Cadel, in case you’re wondering, I think I like you.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-39
What’s the bear’s motivation? Why is the KOM Challenge represented by a bear? Who’s in the bear suit? How much do they get paid? What kinda baselayer or underwear do you wear in the bear? Next year I’d like to do some investigative journalism focused on this bear phenomenon.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-42
Carlee Taylor, what’s up? A) You looked great out there, top ten finish and that kit/bike combo is solid. B) I enjoyed meeting you and riding with you. C) Sorry you got car sick that one time.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-40
GCN hardstyle Wednesday even though it was Friday.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-44
A taste of the world famous Taroko Gorge. In regards to natural beauty and splendor and all that this photo is like what, a 4.7 out of 10? For the record and for comparison, Taroko Gorge goes up to 15.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-41
Looks like somebody is putting their game face on a little early!
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-43
Caley is pointing to where the monkey went. I thought he was fucking with me about monkeys but he wasn't. THERE REALLY ARE MONKEYS. I know because the next day I saw a dead one the side of the road during the race. Birds were eating it. Since we’re talking about monkeys now, let be honest with you: they’re too close. They’re too close to humans. Monkeys freak me the fuck out. It’s in their eyes. Also they really do steal shit, like this one time in Costa Rica a monkey stole my sunglasses. No lie.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-45
More monkeying around.
Getting pumped the night before! The bear is back. The MC lady was there. The dude in all black with his arm in a cast is Lee, Lee is the dude that made all this happen for me. Thanks Lee, I feel very grateful and privileged to have been one of your hybrid media-racers for the 2017 KOM Challenge. Also now there’s a tiger up there with the Bear, and while they’re both Porky-Pigging, the Tiger is borderline unseemly.
Kids from one of the tribes indigenous to the Taroko Gorge doing drums, dancing and singing. It was heartwarming and fun. Both are tough for me to admit to and write about because I’m a misanthrope but yeah, it was a genuinely tender and educational kick-off to the race.

II Challenge Day

manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-55
4:30am, WTF.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-56
4:31am, still WTF. Six seconds after this, Caley and the Turkish dude and I rode to the start in the dark in gale force winds. It was pretty cool, definitely one of my favorite ways to start a long day.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-57
I think this dude’s bike died. On account of how early it was.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-58
Dude is wearing armor. They’re not called Digital Warriors for nothing.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-60
At this point I was pretty stressed because:

  • I needed to put my number on.
  • I needed to strap my timing chip to my bike.
  • I had mortally inappropriate gearing.
  • I needed to find some waterbottle cages.
  • I needed to find some water bottles.
  • I needed to find some water.
  • I couldn't fit all my food in my pockets.
  • I couldn't find my light.
  • I was deeply conflicted about what to do with my camera. To carry or not to carry.
  • The race was going to start in twenty minutes.
  • I had to poop.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-61
More drums. Which reminds me, have we talked about how Taiwan felt more like the South Pacific than China? Maybe that’s dumb or evidence of how untraveled or naive I am but, yeah, I don't know, I had not clue Taiwan was going to have this kind of nature and palm trees and steep mountains and forests and palm fronds and South Pacific vibez. It’s neat. This drum deal was neat too. That wind though, not so fucking neat. Also, you probably can’t hear it in this photograph but the whole time my totally typical startline fiasco was happening the government was conducting a military exercise across the street and scrambling several dozen fighter jets. Have you ever heard a fighter jet take off?
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-62
This dude had his shit SO TOGETHER. This dude is a pro. I mean, he’s not, he’s a reg. But his program is dialed. Look at this kit, his bike, his whole deal, totally on point.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-63
More People More Dialed Than Me, Exhibit A
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-65
More People More Dialed Than Me, Exhibit B
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-64
Is Phil getting in Cadel’s head, or vice versa?
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-66
See that wall behind this media scrum? On the other side of that the Taiwanese version of an F-14 is taking off.

III Challenge Finish

manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-70
Looks pretty. Was pretty. Pretty fucking steep.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-71
I’ve never been less prepared for anything in my life—maybe including having twin boys at 35. For example, SRAM helped me build this bike up with top of the line equipment. They sent me several emails asking me what gearing I wanted. At the time I was like, whatever, ya know, standard stuff. Thinking how bad could it be!? So that’s what they did, that’s what they sent. Then when my mechanic and friend Verg was building the bike up—FOR THIS EVENT—he was like dude, are you sure this is the right gearing, he was like, aren't you taking this to a hill climb? I was like yeah dude, I’ll be fine, it can’t be that steep. I was wrong. It was that steep. Here’s the the thing guys: I never looked at the course or read a description of the ride. Which, in retrospect, is insane. IN-SANE. So my point is this:

I DIDN’T KNOW THAT THE HARD PART WAS THE LAST 10k.

Even though any basic cursory search of the internet reveals that this hill climb is all about the last 10k which hits 22% and during which the flat parts are 10%. I thought the whole ride was the hard part. I was wrong. I mean, I wasn't wrong about it being hard, but I was wrong about that being the “hard part.” So imagine how I felt, blissfully ignorant, when I saw that 10k sign. Have you ever seen a 10k sign at the end of 100k race? That 10k sign is PURE JOY. It’s relief! It’s hope! It’s the end! NOPE. I think I need a second chance at this race. Next time I will prepare a little bit. Also, I didn't have any water. I had some water bottles in my jersey pockets but my pockets were so overstuffed that I was scared to reach back and pull a bottle out, thinking if I did my shit (bats, headphones, vest, hotel key cards, etc—the usual) would go all over the place behind me. Which did eventually happen. It’s cool, I needed to stop anyway.

But seriously, in skateboarding we called it a “rebate.” Which is basically a redo. When you drop-in and kook it so hard on your first trick you grab your board and shout REBATE as loud as you can and drop right back in.

“REBATE!”

The ride is so pretty, the roads are so good, the gorge is so deep, the humidity is so humid, the elevation is so high, the day is so long, the monkeys on the side of the road are so dead, the other riders around you are so in-this-together, the road surface was so grimy and wet and full of spring water and overflowing creeks, the corners were so steep, the 5k descent at 70k or whatever is such a mind fuck, the top is so unreachable, the event is soo good, the sense of accomplishment is so good. Do this. This or Letras in Colombia. Do one of them. But do this one because it’s a better social-type experience
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-73
Winner, Exhibit A
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-74
Winner, Exhibit B
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-75
Winner, Exhibit C (At the KOM challenge we’re all winners. I have a medal to prove it.)
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-77
Some kind of pork stew is happening under these tents. I kind-of ate it.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-80
I was so slow that by the time I got there shit was basically closing.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-81
Even the day (as in daylight) was closing.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-78
Closing, Exhibit A
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-79
Closing, Exhibit B
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-82
Closing, Exhibit C

IV Post-Challenge Chilling

manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-84
Nobody has ever taken this photograph before. I call it “Shattered.”
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-86
Japanese Media dude who was faster than me, Emmie Collinge, Lee Rodgers, Claudia Lichtenberg, Phil Gaimon, Carlee, Boss Lady, Caley Fretz, The Turkish Dude, a statue of a lady with baby on her back looking into some bald dude’s bucket.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-87
On the way to dinner I saw a seven-road intersection. Think about that. Seven. Roads. Seven roads coming together in one spot. At dinner we had some soups and some chicken that was hairy. We called the chicken “hairy chicken.” This is the closest I’ve ever come to being a vegetarian. Seriously, I almost declared it that night. Watching Emmie, an actual card-carrying vegetarian, try to navigate that dinner, actually all the dinners we had over the course of this trip, was fun and sad and inspired. I mean, it’s not easy in the best of circumstances but in that zone, through translators, it was a “thing.”
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-88
Refrigerators, Exhibit A
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-89
Boss Lady and Lee, Exhibit A
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-90
An entrance to Night Market in Taipei. I think this was a Saturday Night. I know it was busy. I never smelled so many smells. Stinky tofu overwhelmed me. It just gets weirder and worse smelling depending on whether you’re upwind or downwind, your proximity to the stall in which it’s being sold, and whether you put it anywhere near your mouth hole, which as you know is near your nose holes.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-92
I think Phil is sad in this photograph because he wanted an ear of corn like the one he saw earlier in the night but didn't purchase at the time assuming (rightfully) that he would see another corn vendor soon enough. The distance between ear-of-corn vendors was just a little longer than expected and started to get in his head. Also the smells. My favorite smell was the smell of shrink-wrapped Nikes. Speaking of Nikes, it was really hard to parse-out whether the name brand (Nike, Adidas, New Balance, etc) sneakers were real or not. I asked Boss Lady later and she said they were real, but they were also probably seconds. I found a store selling New Balance’s “Made In America” line. That was fun to think about. Globalization, lolz.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-94
So much squid.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-95
So many shorts.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-96
Phil found his corn! Phil was so excited. Sometimes, during this trip, I felt like I was there just to be Phil’s personal documentarian. I documented so much Phil. But this corn moment was one of my favorites because…
Phil said the corn tasted like ass. I asked him whose ass. Or like, what kind of ass. And he was like, all the asses. Combined. And I was like, gnar. And he was like taste it. And I was like wait, fuck no, you just told me it tasted like ass. My question was whether or not it was savory or sweet. He said he wasn't sure. And I was like yeah, if you don't know if it’s sweet or savory you're in rough spot for sure.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_new-99
The End. Also, Dear KOM Challenge. Thank you so much for bringing me here and for completely underwriting my trip! I loved it. I want to come back. I need to come back, because my time sucked so bad and I did so poorly. With that in mind, I see your challenge with another challenge. Effectively, I raise you a challenge. Bring me back in 2018 and I will beat my time by an hour. I will finish under 4:49, and if I don’t, I will pay for everything. I will eat my hat, as they say. Do you accept this challenge? I told Caley about this plan and he sorta winced and said, Daniel, you’re a big guy and that’s a big climb, you know what I mean? I do Caley, I do.
manualforspeed_taiwankomchallenge_results
manualforspeed_roadtorad_bicycle-sponsors1
For seven years Manual for Speed has observed and studied the sport of Cycling. Looking, watching, commenting, thinking, joking, thinking. But now, in 2018, we're launching Road To Rad. RTR, the culmination of our last seven years in the field, is committed to saving the future of cycling. RTR is a bona fide, money-where-your-mouth-is, genuine contribution to the sport we love. In celebration of that we commissioned Surface of the Moon to create a visual campaign to support this project. And in celebration of that visual campaign we created a rolling monument to literally ride into the future, the future we intend to (help) save.

For example, we rode this rolling RTR monument at the 2017 KOM Challenge in Taiwan because we believe events like these are very much a part of the future of cycling. Thank you so much to Specialized for helping us realize this rolling monument (especially Dylan Buffington). Thank you SRAM for making sure this rolling monument rolls smoothly and cleanly and goodly. And thank you ENVE Composites for making sure this rolling monument has matching go-fast wheels. More on all of this very soon.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Back to Top