國際菁英齊聚,挑戰自由車環台大賽

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2015 / 4月

文‧陳建瑋 圖‧中華民國自由車協會提供


台灣在國際間享有「自行車王國」的美譽,近年來更將自行車從產業帶進生活,無論是台北市的YouBike公共自行車,或是國際媒體推崇的日月潭自行車道,台灣正一步步朝著自行車島的方向邁進。

今年3月,緊跟在國際自行車展覽會後舉辦的國際自由車環台公路大賽盛大登場,邀集全球32個國家、188位菁英車手參賽,讓台灣民眾能近距離欣賞頂尖好手競速的身影。


本屆環台公路賽程自3月21日起至3月26日結束,5天5站對選手來說考驗體力,也挑戰意志力。

尤其是第4天的登山站,不僅路線困難,加上低溫、濃霧襲擊,是本屆最高難度的一站。

台灣首位與國際一級職業車隊簽約的好手馮俊凱,從2012年起,連續3度奪下環台賽登山王寶座,今年也被視為中華隊的登山主力,要力抗各國好手。

環台大戰,兵家必爭之地

今年的環台大賽,從第1站台北市到桃園市、彰化縣、KOM(King of the Mountains)登山站及最後的觀光盃,以每站積分決定總排名,因此每站都很重要,此外每站設有數個衝刺點、登山點,得分最高的選手可獲得衝刺王、登山王的頭銜。

和知名的環法大賽一樣,總分最高的選手將可獲得身穿黃衫出賽的資格,而衝刺王的綠衫與登山王的圓點衫,也是各路車手的榮耀象徵。

此外,環台大賽自2006年起便成為國際自由車總會與奧林匹克委員會認可的比賽項目,是亞洲區重要的積分賽事,自然也成為國際頂尖車手的兵家必爭之地。

今年首次增加的KOM登山賽道,從日月潭向山遊客中心出發,途經玉山塔塔加,終點於阿里山,總長109公里,由於難度極高,吸引許多登山好手參加。

登山王三連霸的台灣好手馮俊凱,今年在第2站摔車,錯失不少積分,來到第4站時,已經篤定無法衛冕登山王寶座。但他展現運動家精神,一開賽便甩脫眾人,單飛衝前,一路領先89公里,奪得不少積分。可惜在最後的長爬坡前,被伊朗團隊趕上後,便節節落後,最終以81名收場。

馮俊凱指出,因為前3站失利,第4站一定要有所表現,所以一開賽就將對手遠遠拋開,「我的策略是前期盡量擴大領先優勢,可惜最後還是力不從心。」馮俊凱雖然在環台賽失利,但仍不影響他挑戰環法賽的長期目標,下個月也將與所屬的美利達藍波職業隊征戰環土耳其賽。

本屆大贏家是伊朗車手波爾賽迪格克豪,今年包辦個人總冠軍黃衫、亞洲第一藍衫和登山王圓點衫3項大獎。

他在去年贏得環日本大賽總冠軍,賽前就被視為登山王的大熱門。波爾賽迪格克豪在賽後表示,環台賽是他今年的重點比賽,「特別是得知新增高難度的爬坡賽段,更有信心,因為爬坡是我的優勢。」

台灣選手則以巫帛宏表現最佳,他在第5站獲得單站第4名,雖然台灣選手對這些賽道比較熟悉,但是在主集團伊朗隊嚴密的防守下,實在很難突圍,「靠著隊友幫助卡位,我才有機會衝出去,可惜只拿到第4名。」最終巫帛宏以大賽總排名第46名,亞洲排名第24名收場。

國際賽事經驗豐富的馮俊凱指出,環台賽挑戰賽事升級、賽道難度提高的同時,參賽隊伍的實力也愈來愈強,堪稱是亞洲區競爭最激烈的賽事之一。

賽事升級,邁向頂尖

環台公路大賽最早從1978年開始舉辦,當時是由捷安特創辦人劉金標所推動,賽事由台北出發,沿著台灣西部省道南下,再由東部北上環島一周,因此稱為環台賽。

由於贊助規模有限,環台賽早期並非每年舉行,今年是第27屆。近年在自由車協會的大力推動下,環台賽的規模已經從國際自由車總會(UCI)認證的2.6級升級到2.1級,是亞洲巡迴賽的重要賽事,明年可望升級2.HC級,挑戰更高規格。

賽事升級後,車手獲得的積分和獎金也更高,才能吸引更多頂級車隊參加。國際自由車總會也特別派員視察今年的環台賽,以審核明年是否能夠升級成2.HC級賽事。因此本屆大賽規格全面提升,從賽道、安檢,到選手食宿、媒體行銷都比過去更謹慎縝密,目的就是希望明年能夠成功升格。

「環台賽從業者自行籌辦的環島路線,到今天國際級的分站賽事,一路成長,為的就是要打響台灣自行車王國的名號。」自由車協會秘書長李開志說,今年不僅有各國專業拍攝團隊參加,出動了4部空拍機,記錄最珍貴的畫面,而且賽事期間,每天晚上也在電視體育頻道播出當日精華,讓民眾更認識這場大賽。

教育部體育署長何卓飛表示,台灣是自行車王國,但是自行車競賽的風氣還不如歐洲國家盛行,「我們的目標是與頂級的三環賽事並列,將環台賽變成世界最重要的賽事之一。」

環法、環西班牙與環義大利賽屬於WT(世界巡迴賽)級,是UCI認可最頂級的賽事,也是國際最知名的自由車賽,只有一級職業車隊可以參加,獎金與贊助規模也是頂尖等級。

UCI美洲巡迴賽顧問赫斯伯特則指出,以台灣舉辦賽事的能力,要升級2.HC等級沒有問題,關鍵在於能否吸引更多大廠商的贊助,「不只是運動本身,而是包含行銷在內,這之中有很多商業考量。」

展賽共生,擴大效應

為了能擴大環台賽的周邊效應,吸引更多贊助商,原本每年9月舉行的環台賽自2005年起配合國際自行車展覽會,改到3月舉行,讓整個3月幾乎成為台灣自行車月。

今年3月18日開幕的國際自行車展,在台北世貿展覽館與南港展覽館聯合展出,不但是亞洲規模第一,更是全球規模第二大的自行車展覽,吸引超過一萬名買主參加。

展場上除了能看到各國廠商的最新技術與「戰駒」外,參加環台賽的頂尖車手們,也受邀觀展,這些明星自然成為展場內的人氣焦點。

許多小廠無不把握機會,向車手推銷自家產品,大廠們則虎視眈眈,尋求與車手進一步合作機會。

台灣之美,吸引世界目光

環台賽所到之處,自然也是國際媒體鏡頭跟隨的焦點。

以彰化站為例,沿線經過花季滿開的田尾公路花園、充滿老城風光的鹿港街區,以及終點站八卦山大佛風景區,展現台灣特殊的人文風情。

第4天的登山站則是從日月潭出發,途經標高2,610公尺的玉山塔塔加,終點則在阿里山國家公園,堪稱最不可錯過的賽道,盡覽自然美景。

來自荷蘭帕克職業隊的王牌車手賈斯伯‧奧克隆,由於專精爬坡,因此台灣的山路特別吸引他,「和歐洲賽道相較,台灣的山路較長而緩,非常考驗耐力。」他也特地為了環台賽做了多次長爬坡特訓,就是希望能獲得好成績,今年他以總排名第7收尾,還算滿意。不過他認為最可惜的是,台灣的風景很美,但是在比賽中只能專注在賽事上,無法好好欣賞。「以後一定會在非比賽時段回到台灣,好好享受台灣的美景與美食。」賈斯伯說。

2015年可說是台灣自行車的豐收年,今年2月在泰國舉行的自由車亞洲錦標賽,台灣破記錄拿下9面金牌,稱霸亞洲。自行車展覽也創下歷年來最大規模紀錄,自行車外銷額比去年增加9%。隨著環台大賽圓滿落幕,明年升級有望,從運動賽事到產銷體系,台灣要從生產自行車的王國,逐步向自行車生活島邁進。

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A Virtuous Cycle: The Tour de Taiwan Goes from Strength to Strength

Kobe Chen /photos courtesy of courtesy of the CTCA /tr. by Phil Newell

Taiwan has long been known as a “bicycle kingdom” for its cycle manufacturing prowess. But in recent years Taiwan has also been taking the bicycle from the realm of industry into popular daily life. Wherever you look—from Tai­pei City’s “You­Bike” public bike rental system to the amazing bicycle trail at Sun Moon Lake that has been lauded in the international media—Taiwan has step by step been transforming itself into a “bicycle island.”

In March 2015, following closely on the heels of the Tai­pei International Cycle Show, the Tour de Taiwan cycle race was held. The organizers invited 188 top riders from 32 countries to participate, giving the people of Taiwan a chance to appreciate, right up close, top-class competitors facing off against one another.


The 2015 Tour de Taiwan cycle race was held from March 21 to March 26. The five-stage, five-day event tested the physical stamina and psychological willpower of the contestants. The fourth day in particular—the mountain climbing stage—was especially arduous, not only because the route itself was demanding, but also because of the day’s low temperatures and dense fog. It turned out to be the most critical stage of this year’s event.

Taiwan’s top competitor in the race was Feng Chun-kai, the first ever cyclist from Taiwan to be signed to a top professional international cycling team. In the three Tour de Taiwan events from 2012 through 2014, Feng took home the polka-dot jersey as “King of the Mountains” (best climber). The top climber on this year’s Chinese Tai­pei team, he was expected to challenge the leading riders from other countries.

Climbing in the cycling world

The 2015 Tour de Taiwan consisted of five stages, starting in Tai­pei City, and then moving through Tao­yuan City, Chang­hua County, the mountain stage, and the ultimate stage, known as the “Terrific Taiwan” stage. For each stage riders could accumulate points in different classifications, such as as sprints or climbs, so that each stage (and especially each “classified” segment within a stage) was important in its own way. The riders who got the most points on these sections could win the coveted green jersey for best sprinter or the polka-dot jersey for best mountain rider.

This was the first year that the Tour de Taiwan added a mountain stage. The route started off at the Xiang­shan Visitor Center at Sun Moon Lake, passed by the Ta­ta­jia area of Mt. Jade (Yu­shan), and terminated at Mt. Ali (Ali­shan). The extreme challenge posed by this mountain route, with a total length of 109 kilometers, attracted a number of top climbers to test their mettle.

Feng Chun-kai, who had won the King of the Mountains title for three consecutive years, fell during the second stage of this year’s event, missing out on quite a few points. By the time Stage IV rolled around, it was clear he had no chance to win this year’s best climber jersey. But he nonetheless displayed the true spirit of sportsmanship, bolting out ahead right from the beginning of the stage to leave other riders in the dust. He maintained the lead for 89 kilometers, accumulating quite a few points. Unfortunately just before the long climb that culminated the stage, he was passed by the Iranian team, and then began to fall back in the pack, finally finishing the stage in 81st place.

The big winner this year was Iran’s Samad Pourseyedi (Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhour). He not only took the yellow jersey as the top overall individual rider, he also won the blue jersey as the top rider from an Asian country and the polka-dot jersey for King of the Mountains, a triple crown.

Having won last year’s Tour of Japan title, Pourseyedi was seen as the favorite for the 2015 Tour de Taiwan. After the event, he called the Tour de Taiwan one of his major competitions for this year. “Especially once I learned that they had added the extremely difficult mountain climbing stage, I was even more confident, because climbing is where I have my edge.”

Feng Chun-kai, who has a great deal of experience in international competitions, points out that as the Tour de Taiwan has upgraded its competition classifications and increased the difficulty of the route, the quality of the participating teams has also gotten stronger. It is now considered one of the most competitive cycling events in all of Asia.

Headed for the top

The earliest cycling contest of note in Taiwan was a round-the-island race held in 1978, which came about as the result of efforts by King Liu, the founder of Giant Bicycles. The event began in Taipei, followed provincial highways south along the West Coast, and then came back up north along the East Coast. It took one week to complete the circuit of the island.

In recent years, thanks to major promotional efforts by the Chinese Taipei Cycling Association (CTCA), the Tour de Taiwan has been upgraded from a Class 2.6 event (a race in multiple stages for elite men sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, but offering no UCI points) to a Class 2.1 event (the lower the second number, the more UCI points there are, and the higher the quality of the participants). Taiwan is now a major stop on the Asian cycling tour. Next year it is hoped that the race will be upgraded yet again, to class 2.HC (a multi-stage “hors categorie” race, one level below a grand tour).

“The whole meaning of the growth of the Tour de Taiwan, from its origins as something run by some people in the cycle industry to today’s internationally recognized multi-stage event, is in spreading the word about Taiwan as a ‘bicycle kingdom,’” says CTCA secretary-general Lee Kai-chih. This year, not only did professional photography and film teams come from a number of countries to attend the tour, the organizers also deployed four drone-mounted airborne cameras to record the best footage of the race. Also, throughout the five days of the race, sports stations in Taiwan broadcast highlights of each day’s action, so that citizens could better understand this type of event.

UCI America Tour Advisor Pierre Hutsebaut opines that, given Taiwan’s organizing capabilities, there should be no problem in getting the Tour de Taiwan upgraded to Class 2.HC. The key will be in whether the event can attract more corporate sponsorship. “This is not just a sporting event. There’s a lot of marketing involved, and a lot of commercial considerations.”

National cycling month

In order to increase the ripple effect of the Tour de Taiwan and attract more sponsors, in 2005 the event was moved from its traditional date in September each year to March, to synchronize it with the Taipei International Cycle Show (TICS). As a result, March has virtually become “national cycling month” in Taiwan.

The TICS is not only the largest show of its kind in Asia, it is the second largest in the world, attracting more than 10,000 buyers. The 2015 edition opened on March 18, and spanned both the Taipei World Trade Center and the TWTC Nankang Exhibition Hall.

It was not only the latest technologies and “warhorses” of the world’s leading cycle manufacturers that were on display. Top riders participating in the Tour de Taiwan are also annually invited to the TICS, where, with their star power, they naturally become the center of popular adulation.

While many small companies, heeding the notion of carpe diem, do their best to sell their in-house products to the cyclists, the bigger firms have larger ambitions, hoping to find additional opportunities to work with these professionals.

A scenic tour of Taiwan

The locations where the Tour de Taiwan goes naturally become the focal points of attention for international media that are “along for the ride.”

Day 4 of the 2015 Tour de Taiwan, the mountain stage, started out at beautiful Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan’s top scenic attractions, and only got better from there. Riders then proceeded to Yu­shan National Park’s Ta­ta­jia area, which, though already at an altitude of 2610 meters, is in the shadow of the majestic peaks of the Central Mountain Range. Finally, the route had its finish line in Ali­shan National Park. No wonder people were saying that this day at the races was “not to be missed.”

Jasper Ockeloen, the ace rider for the Netherlands’ Parkhotel Valkenburg Cycling Team, was especially attracted to the 2015 Tour de Taiwan by the challenge of the mountain roads, because climbing is his specialty. “In comparison to Europe, the mountain roads in Taiwan are longer and less steep, so they really put your stamina to the test.” Ockeleon did a number of sessions of specialized mountain training to prep for the Tour de Taiwan, and he was pretty satisfied with his seventh place overall finish.

Unfortunately, he pointed out, though the scenery is undoubtedly beautiful, while racing you have to keep focused on the road, and you can’t waste any time rubbernecking in admiration. “In the future, during the off season, I will definitely come back to Taiwan and really take my time to enjoy the landscapes and food here,” Ockeleon promises.

2015 has been a big year for cycling in Taiwan. In February at the Asian Cycling Championships in Thailand, Taiwan set a new record by taking nine gold medals, and has gained a reputation as an Asian powerhouse. The 2015 TICS was the biggest ever, and bicycle exports are up 9% over last year. With the successful completion of the Tour de Taiwan, there is great hope that it will win an upgrade for next year. Meanwhile, in cities there has been great success with public bike rental systems, and across Taiwan local governments have been steadily opening new recreational cycling paths and trails.

Taiwan is evolving from a kingdom of bike manufacturing to an island where cycling is an important part of the culture of daily life.

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