The View From The Top
A few months ago I could see the riding forecast and it looked poor. Our daughter was born in December and I took about a month to let my legs recover. Then my mother arrived for two weeks to see the baby. Just as I started to come back from about three weeks off I got sick, and then the weather went bad… and then I had a ride or two…. and then the weather went bad… and then my dad arrived for two weeks… and then the weather went bad… and then I got sick… and then the weather went bad… and then I did the Northern Cross Island Highway… and then the the weather went bad… and then a typhoon swept through Taiwan… and before I knew it, I was a couple months out of shape.
Crossing Into Dongshih
The weather this past weekend looked excellent for riding and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to throw a leg over the top tube and start clawing my way back into shape.
I worked out an plan with Dom A. with the understanding that I would be using the ride as an easy warm-up to begin my training to get back to my former level of fitness; a level of fitness that once allowed me to chew up climbs and distance with relative ease.
Dom seemed to have other plans. He delighted in showing off his superior fitness and form as I struggled to find any form… of my previous…form.
I was sapped from the get-go. Dom was riding circles around me. Ouch!
Aside from the obvious lack of exercise, I hadn’t really had much for dinner and my last serious ride occurred before the heat and humidity of summer had fully taken hold. Those conditions combined with a hilly route and a return headwind all converged on the day in a perfect storm of ego popping cycling madness.
Dom seemed to relish the opportunity to launch up ahead at will and completely disappear into the horizon. I quit trying to play catch-up and just tried to play “turn the pedals”.
Dom was feeling so much better, that he overshot the turn to the Route 52-3 (Xinli Agricultural Rd.)
The road was in rough shape after the typhoon, and was littered with all sorts of mud and debris for some technical riding. I didn’t mind the fact that it kept the pace to something I could manage.
The road dips and curves along the northern edge of the Liyu Reservoir in a pleasant mix of short climbs, easy flats and a couple good dives through some picturesque orchards.
Aside from the typhoon slurry that was spread all over the tarmac, the road is pretty smooth… until is reaches a steep gradient that starts to look like someone’s insanely steep private driveway. The road is rough and in desperate need of local construction funds. At times my rear wheel spun out on some type of road hazard or another.
Then things got really nasty.
The entire climb pitches up at over 20% and on a couple of occasions my front wheel lost contact with the ground.
I dug in with a full tank of Everything I Had Left and chugged to the top.
The drop down the other side took concentration and careful attention to a good line. It seemed that each corner had become a slippery mud bog, more for the likes of a 4×4 or a swamp buggy. To take one of those corners with anything less than a straight line would have spelled a crash in an instant.
Despite the technical challenges, much of the road is a thrilling ride of undulating blacktop along forested ridge lines, above deep gullies, through low tunnels of uncut yellow bamboo.
Being forced to slow down forces you to take in the stunning spectacle that otherwise would be missed.
The road ends at the foot of the Liyu dam. As we rolled out onto the flats, I could feel my inner quads beginning to cramp. Each pedal stroke aroused the synapses into prompting another round of acute cramping.
Dom just rolled away out of sight into the headwind and there was little I could do to catch up. I finally waved him home and plodded along in agony as I fought cramps and a very stiff headwind all the way back into Taichung.
Not Only Is Dom’s Patience Wearing Thin
By the time I threw my mud caked bike into the elevator of my apartment, I was still horribly cramping and just completely destroyed. I had nothing left except the notion that this was just the beginning of my campaign to get back into top form…. The first day of my comeback. Now I just need to remember to keep it purposeful and methodical to avoid any stupid injuries.
Check out Michael Turton’s great ride over Yangming Shan.