I expected this to be special, but it was more special, than I could think about it before! The Taiwan KOM Challenge made me feel new limits – I’m thankful for this experience though it was very painful.
Everything started with the long flight from Europe to Taiwan. Suddenly you step out of the plane and you are in the jungle, totally different culture undefinable food… The night before the race I slept for 30 minutes. Time difference was not on my side. But as soon as I arrived on the start line I was turned on again. It was a great feeling to be part of so many, about 400, crazy cyclists who wanted to take this challenge. And to be honest, it was special for me to stand on the same start line as Vincnzo Nibali.
Though the bunch was huge, it was a very respectful atmosphere. Everyone knew, that good positioning is nice but not deciding at all. The beginning went like expected. It was a solid speed, but steady. As after maybe 1 hour Bahrain Merida started to drive it, I felt how I hit my threshold. This was my sign to let go and not fight to stay at the wheels, though two other women, Emma Pooley and Eri Yonamine, were still in the first bunch. Also this was not a surprise for me and I just kept riding my own speed. I found a good rhythm, had fun pedalling and thought I can do this forever, until the top. After a while, maybe 2 hours, I caught and dropped Eri and just continued in my flow. The scenery was amazing and I was busy to soak up every single moment.
And suddenly everything changed. I was just over the 2000m mark and lost all my rhythm and power. From one second to the other everything was painful. Speaking to myself: „OK, Claudia, just relax, recover a bit, eat and drink and you will be fine.“ But in fact I never came out of this crises again. It was not possible for me to recover any more. I think, that I can say, that I know my body quite well and that I know my limits, but this was something new. I must admit, that I totally underestimated the effect of altitude. In any normal race I know, I would have been good in my own capabilities, but this was not a normal race! When the second and third women passed me, I had nothing left to even think about racing against them. In my suffer-try to recover-rhythm I made it to the last 10km, which everyone knows, are the hardest. Ramps up to 27% speak for themselves. But now I know, that the altitude up to 3275m is the bigger problem. The first time in my whole career, I was doubting if I even can reach the finish line. Totally empty, I recognized, that I start to see everything double and that I should concentrate to not crash myself – riding maybe 3 km/h. Now my tactic was to ride as slow as possible- just give the power that is necessary to keep the pedals moving. Incredible!
Somehow the finish line came closer and I made it. After laying on the ground for 10 min it felt great! It was so hard and painful but something new for me. I got to know myself a bit better in this race. What a nice present! Like a special souvenir of new experience for life! From my heart, I want to advice everyone, who gets the chance to start at Taiwan KOM Challenge: DO IT!