Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tour de Taiwan 2012

Won't be seein' this on the Tour de Taiwan

David Reid of David on Formosa, one of the best Taiwan blogs, has translated and posted on the Tour de Taiwan 2012, to be held next month. This route is ridiculous in the extreme, as if someone deliberately set out to avoid all the pretty parts of the island and instead sought to send the cyclists through all the flat, polluted, crowded, dull parts of the island.

No east coast. No cross-island highways. No Kenting. None of the stunning mountain vistas of Miaoli. No Alishan or Yushan. None of the beautiful hilly roads of Chiayi. Nothing in Pingtung. No East Coast Rift Valley.

Fail! Here is an ideal showcase for the awesome beauty and accessibility of Taiwan that can get foreign cyclists talking about how good the cycling is here. Great work, organizers. Fail!

For example, here's the Taichung map (stage maps and information are here):

Tour de Taiwan fail
Rte 12 -- a big crowded road we Taichungers know as Taichunggang Rd (Taichung Port Road) through built up areas. Then to Rte 17, another four lane far from anything pretty.  Along the west coast they come up 17 to the 1, a road that should be destroyed and the ground salted over as a warning to the next ten thousand generations that some levels of ugliness should never be permitted, then turn onto the 132, which shoots through built up Dajia over a couple of limp hills that even a fat guy like me has no trouble doing at the end of a 180 km run. Then in Houli we turn onto the 13 and then to the 3 to Dongshih. The 132, 13 and 3 are completely built up and as ugly as a mutant toad-monster out of a Conan story. Finally, the riders will reach the 8, enjoy a brief moment of lovely landscape and clean air -- and then come up Sinshe the back way (Rte 95/97) -- the only nice part of the ride will be the short climb up to Sinshe (but the best way to do that is to go down it!). Then it is down the Death Spiral, 129, and back through the built up areas to the city. By then everyone on the tour should have asthma....

Note the pictures, all of local tourist spots: the Fengyuan Night Market, the famous Matsu temple in Dajia (how many of the foreign cyclists will know that Dajia is the heart of Taiwan's famous cycling industry?), the Luce Memorial Chapel, Metropark.... I'm stifling a yawn here. See any mountains? Just compare the Tour de France.....

This has all the earmarks of a route mapped by the local flatlanders who whip up and down Taichung's dull coastal roads having testosterone battles on their showy, frail carbon bikes and conceiving of a "tour" of Taichung in a totally conventional Taiwanese tourist fashion. Fail! We already have enough of that kind of advertising! Why not do something else?

Further, if you want to make it to the big time bike circuit, laying out a difficult and challenging course along beautiful mountain roads would be a good way to start. Just compare the Giro Italia.... Imagine if the course had started in Sincheng and went over Wuling at 3200 meters and then came down in Puli.... it would look just as good as that shot from the Giro Italia.

Here are some of my favorite loops in the area. If someone had given me the Taichung route to design, I would have had them do the 8 and then over the 21, a road with lovely hairpin turns and great mountain views, showcasing Taichung's cycling strengths, then come back over 136, The Fence, avoiding built up areas to the extent possible. Or up the 3 into Miaoli and then back to the coast via 120 or similar. Or up to Simaxian Mountain, surely one of the loveliest areas on the island, via the excellent farms and hills on Dongji Road and then to Tiangou and over (and a nasty grade too!)..... Or anything else. Argh!

ADDED: Hans in the comments explains why the Tour is so dull and rebuts some of my commentary, Drew puts together a dream tour.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Andrew said...

I'm guessing this terrible route is the result of trouble they have getting insurance for the Tour de Taiwan. Sadly, another cyclist just died today cycling in Kenting. http://tw.nextmedia.com/animation/iplayer/msecid/1/type/Today/ArtID/34054224/TVID/34295/issueid/20120228

Anonymous said...

The route is in order to get spectators. As beautiful as the mountain roads are, you're never going to get any people up there to watch. Keeping it in the populated areas increases visibility for the sponsors which translates into dollars for them, and subsequently future Tour's.

les said...

Politics and cronyism as usual.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but a link for you (if you already included this link in a previous round-up, forgive me)


- Sara K.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Not get people up into the mountains to watch? Ever been to the mountains on a weekend or holiday? Plenty of people make the journey. This is just either politics or cluelessness. Given my experience with tourism here I'd say the latter is playing a greater roll.

Hans said...

I have a friend who is working in the core of "tour de Taiwan." I mentioned the comments here to her and she pointed out several reasons...

1) Sponsorship. Any sponsor would prefer their ad to be exposed to as many people as possible, and hence the city-heavy routes. Last year the bureau of tourism was a major sponsor and hence they could planned the route to the less-populated east coast.

2) Mountain terrain. There is a set of rules on percentage of terrain to cover in setting the routes.


Taking the route over any of the island cross would mean excess elevation and sprint shortage.

3) Fund. The condition of the road has to be above a certain standard. If the route were to carried to the mountain or east coast, that means a vast majority of the roads will need to be re-paved, a heavy burden on the budget.

4) Suggestions?



My personal take: Of course we all would love to show the most beautiful side of Taiwan to the world, but sometimes we need to find a balance with the ugly reality. If the cyclists in Taiwan could come up with a suggestive routes that meets the criteria of UCI rules, it'd be a win for everyone.

Michael Turton said...

"2) Mountain terrain. There is a set of rules on percentage of terrain to cover in setting the routes. "

But Hans, as it stands there are NO real mountain routes.

The pavement issue I sympathize with (but not totally, some of the roads they are on have substandard pavement).

Something has to be done.


Michael Turton said...

Hans? Serious about suggestions?

21 between 8 and Guosing, and then down to Sun Moon Lake. Drew has a post now at Taiwan in Cycles about how this would work.

Nantou 63 from Sun Moon Lake could be a variant, ending with a sprint down 16 into Shuili.

Hualien 193 to 23 to 11 -- the route would be 180 kms, rolling, with a sprint the last 40K into Taitung city. All good pavement except for a couple of spots on 23.

The Northern Cross island highway, from Daxi to I-lan, 115 kms. The last 40-50 kms would be a spring down 7 into I-lan city. The whole route except the last 30 kms would be scenic. All quality pavement except for some parts before Lower Baling. Some areas might be too narrow, though.

Kenting loop -- 199 to 199A - 26 - 200 - 26 and around to Kenting street, 110 kms. Almost all quality pavement except for the turn at Syuhai which must be repaved.

Beiyi (North 1, the 9 out of Taipei to Pinglin) all nice paved road from Taipei out to the coast with the lovely descent to the I-lan plain, then turn north and finish somewhere just south of Keelung, or maybe Keelung port if the traffic can be stopped.

From Pingtung city, east on 24 to the 185, down the 185 to the 1 and to Kenting. Lovely riding along the mountains. The northbound lane on 185 would have to be used, the southbound lane needs repaved.

From Taichung, the 3 to Jhuolan and then up the ridge and down past the reservoir to Dahu, then the 6 through Gonguan and the 119 or 120 to the coast, back along the 1 or the 13. Too built up for my taste but better than anything they have now. From Jhuolan you could take Pinglin Road to Nanhu but the road surface needs repaved in places.

Race to the top of Da Hsueh Shan

Alishan: the 148 to Caoling, then down to the 149 or 169 and up to Fenchihu, then down to Shijhuo and then the 159A, the most beautiful road on the island, back to Chiayi which would be a long downhill sprint for most of the route. But some stretches of the 159A would have to be repaved or even widened.

Starting in Jhushan, the 149 south to the 158 and over and back to Gukeng and Jhushan on the 3. Rolling and then maybe 20 kms of relatively flat sprinting at the end.

Taichung to Tainan: 170 kms sprint (Drew thinks this is good too). 1 to the 19 to 145 back to the 19 and into Tainan city train station. Plenty of room for crowds. Racing down the coast is ridiculous, it's the most desolate, ugliest part of the island.

One thing the racing community needs to do is talk the government. The government needs to get seriously involved, with cash -- I mean all those local gangsters love nothing better than repaving roads.... Private sponsors will simply ensure that the race is a dull run through the flatlands each year that generates no international interest. Would it be useful if a bunch of foreign cyclists wrote a respectful letter to Apple Daily in Chinese calling for greater government support?


Hans said...

"Would it be useful if a bunch of foreign cyclists wrote a respectful letter to Apple Daily in Chinese calling for greater government support?"

I'd sure it could create a buzz if you strike at the right time. Maybe just when press begins to pay attention to the tour. As long as you can make it to the TV news, it'd be amplified over and over again, and someone from the government will come out to respond. There are many other local cyclists complaining about similar issue on their official facebook, so the potential energy is there.

Anonymous said...

@Robert Scott Kelly - you might get them on a Sunday, but through the weekdays, not a chance. The second stage is on a Sunday and has a couple of decent climbs in Yangmingshan - the 101 out of Danshui is a killer. But I bet very few spectators actually go and line the roads to see it.