31 year-old Dane, John Ebsen, won his 4th Taiwan KOM Challenge on Friday, completing what many call “toughest gran fondo in the world,” in some of wettest conditions since the event started in 2002.
The 105 kilometer race started at sea level in Qixingtan, Taiwan on the east coast and raced up through the Taroko Gorge to the finish line at an elevation of 3275 meters, near Hehuanshan, the highest point accessible by public road in Taiwan.
The leg breaking and soul crushing part of the race is the final 10 kilometers, where the road grade slopes between 17 and 27 percent steep.
Racing in a downpour that drenched both riders and roads, Ebsen attacked early, pounding aggressively on the pedals to quickly building a 2:30 lead over an elite group of eleven riders.
As the chase group lost time and motivation in miserable conditions, Ebsen’s lead grew with every kilometre.
Crossing the finish line in 3:26:50, Ebsen’s left no doubt he was the strongest. Canadian Christian Trench, who won the 2020 Yangmingshan Mountain Bike Challenge in June, finished in second place almost 19 minutes behind.
In a non-pandemic year, Ebsen would take home NT$1 million (US$34,758) for winning, but this year due to the smaller field size the champion only won NT$100,000 (US$3478).
COVID19 travel restrictions limited the race to local riders with 425 participating, including 103 foreign nationals like Ebsen living in Taiwan.
The event usually attracts over 1000 riders from all across the world.