JHIHBEN, Taiwan (BRAIN)—Voxa “Vincent” Chen is president of Liow Ko, a company most U.S. retailers have never heard of. But Chen’s company, founded by his father in 1965, has made and finished parts for some of the industry’s best known brands including Specialized, Trek, Giant, Easton and others.
And as a testament to the quality work done at Liow Ko, it also makes the cases for Apple’s popular I-Phone.
What makes Chen unique among A-Team riders is his heart. With his jersey unzipped in the stifling heat of Friday’s ride you can easily see the scar and stitches from major heart surgery done nine months ago. Surgeons performed a multiple bypass taking veins from Chen’s legs to replace those pumping blood to his heart.
Chen, a quiet and unassuming man, has quit smoking and drinking and at Tony Lo’s urging is riding a bike. Chen has consistently stayed near the front through more than 370 miles of riding, including 65 miles today with more than a 3,000-foot elevation gain. All that in temperatures that soared well above the mid-90 mark and with humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Not bad for a man in his mid 40s who suffered a heart attack, major surgery and is now riding around his homeland. But his determination to finish the ride is seemingly shared by all. For example, Velo’s Stella Yu is the only woman riding the entire circuit. She’s in her late 50s, stands no more than 5-feet tall and, if soaking wet, may tip the scales at 90 pounds or so.
For the A-Team, Friday’s ride was the hardest on the schedule. The group left Taiwan’s southern tip, crossing the mountains separating the island’s west coast from the more scenic east coast. The route over the mountains, on a narrow two-lane highway, is not for the faint of heart. It’s a major crossing for semi-trailer trucks and cars, all of which seem to vie for space on a series of hairpin turns.
Lo, as the A-Team’s chairman, asked riders to stay in single file. Once at the passes’ summit, each rider had to wait a few minutes before starting his ride down the mountain. Once through the mountains, the road parallels the seashore as Route 9 heads north.
The day’s ride ended at Jhihben, home to one of Taiwan’s largest and oldest hot springs. The Japanese built the resort at the turn of the 20th century. Spring water flows from the mountain into a number of hotels.
Saturday’s ride went to Chenggong, some 42 miles up the coast as the riders head back toward Taipei.
Be sure to read two new A-Team profiles in Web Exclusive down below on the front page.