More than 400 cyclists from 22 countries yesterday competed in this year’s King of the Mountain (KOM) Challenge race despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Danish cyclist John Ebsen, who has won the race three times, claimed another win in the men’s division, while Kuo Chia-chi (郭家齊) won the women’s division.
The number of competitors dropped from 730 last year to 425 this year, the Tourism Bureau said, adding that 103 of this year’s participants were foreigners living in Taiwan.
The bureau also reduced the top prize for the winners from NT$1 million (US$34,582) to NT$100,000 due to adjustments of budget priorities, Lin said.
The race, which is in its ninth year, has become an internationally well-known cycling competition, bureau deputy director-general Trust Lin (林信任) said, adding that it had in the past drawn many professional cyclists from Europe to compete.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of the international cycling races have either been canceled or postponed, and travel restrictions led to many professional cyclists not participating in the event, Lin said.
Despite the decreases in participants and prize money, Lin said that the bureau had decided that the race should be held as scheduled, as it is part of a long-running campaign to draw international tourists.
“As the bureau is promoting next year as the ‘Year of Cycling Tourism,’ we are preparing a series of events, including a virtual KOM Challenge race. Cyclists who are unable to come to Taiwan can experience what it is like to be in the race through virtual reality technology,” he said.
French magazine Le Cycle rated the 105km race as one of the world’s toughest races, as the cyclists climb to up to 3,275m above sea level.
The most challenging part of the race is the final ascent of about 10km, where the road has a slope of 17 to 27 percent steep.
Cyclists must finish the race within six-and-a-half hours.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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