Beyond the roofs of Taipei, the high peaks that we would climb the following week were partly hiding in the fog. There is always a sense of mystery about mountains. It's a place we go to explore but we often end up exploring more about ourselves than about the mountains.
Together with a group of local riders we rode through the busy streets of Taipei towards the mountains. At first the terrain was flat and easy with only a slight gradient as we rode through a rural area with cabbage fields where farmers worked manually and had woven baskets to bring back the fresh produce. The bike can take you many places but at that moment it felt like it took us back in time.
Slowly we climbed higher. The fields faded into forest and suddenly we were surrounded by trees which gave shade from the burning sun. Now the air was colder and the warmth from the sun only the came as rays when the trees allowed.
Before we knew it we were out of the woods again. What met us was not only the warming rays of the sun, but also the Stand Collection van. Next to the van a camping table awaited us with homemade sandwiches. We refuelled with a sandwich and a cup of coffee before we returned to the climb.
When someone else is taking care of you, you can really let yourself go and just enjoy the ride and the trip. You might not know what is hiding behind the next corner, but the team behind the trip made sure it was a pleasant surprise every time. Not only on the road, but also the hotels we stayed at and the food we ate. Our meals in Taiwan varied from dumplings at a Michelin star restaurant in Taipei to a tiny noodle place in a small village. Both amazing in their own way.
We really enjoyed the days, but before we knew it we were at the start line of the Taiwan KOM side by side with other amateur and professional cyclists. Together we would race the 106 km long course and climb to over 3000 m. The last 10 km were almost too steep to ride and really put our legs, lungs, and minds to the test.
Looking back, the race itself has faded into the back of my mind. What made this an unforgettable trip was the people of Taiwan, the guys from Stand Collection and Pas Normal Studios. Having local knowledge is just invaluable. They know the best places to ride, the best places to eat, and the best places to sleep. All of us came for the racing, but we are all taking home memories from so much more than a race.