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  • [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.

[Heavy Breathing]

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