ELUANBI LIGHTHOUSE, Taiwan (BRAIN)—A last minute decision to add a few extra kilometers to Thursday’s Tour de Taiwan ended at this historic lighthouse late in the afternoon—signaling that this 1,000 kilometer trek is half over.
It was a chance for A-Team members to stretch out on a grassy hill overlooking the junction between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean and take dozens of photos. Nearby were the whitewashed walls of Eluanbi Lighthouse, a 70-foot tower built in 1882 that’s still operational. It is one of only several lighthouses in the world built within fortified walls.
The 32 riders left southern Kaohsiung at 9 a.m.—with the temperature pushing 90 degrees—to continue their ride south along this island’s western edge. The heavily industrialized and traffic plagued corridor from Taipei through Kaoshsiung is behind them.
With the South China Sea flanking them on the right, a series of gentle, rolling hills greeted riders as they moved into Taiwan’s mountainous southern region. And what had been a scheduled 40-kilometer day turned into a 100 kilometer ride.
The original schedule calculated the overall distance around the island at approximately 950 kilometers. But Specialzied’s Bob Margevicius suggested to Giant’s Tony Lo that adding a few extra kilometers would make for better memories. Who wants to say they road 950 kilometers when you can say 1,000?
Not far from the lighthouse stands one of Taiwan’s two nuclear power plants—its twin rounded domes looking very much like California’s San Onofre nuclear power plant. And next to it, standing like sentinels overlooking a nuclear world, were three modern wind turbines with their blades slowly rotating in the late afternoon breeze.
This event, however, has turned into something more than a long ride for A-Team members. Many of them are seeing Taiwan from the seat of a bicycle for the first time, and most have spent little time exploring their homeland. It’s almost as if they are experiencing a revelation to hear them talk.
For example, Lo, chairman of the A-Team, diverted the bus taking them to dinner to watch a spectacular sunset from a popular point not far from Checheng where the team spent the night. Everyone whipped out cameras to catch the sun’s last glow as it sank into the sea.
For an older generation of riders running companies like Wellgo, SR Suntour, Joy-Tech, Transart Graphics and others, bicycles were business and riding them was for kids. And most seldom take 11-day vacations much less leave the office to ride a bike. Kenda’s Hongder Chang said he had seldom ridden a bike until he decided to start training with team members. And KMC’s Robert Wu had a similar story to tell.
The work ethic among the Taiwanese is a real force in the economy. And, yes, several riders were talking on their cell phones as they rode along.
Be sure to read two new A-Team profiles in Web Exclusive down below on the front page.