Training for the Taiwan KOM Challenge

Following my cycling experience in Hualien, I decided to take on the 2018 edition of the Taiwan KOM Challenge which will take place on 26 October 2018. Prior to this, my only other foreign cycling sportive experience is the 2015 Malacca Century Ride. This event will be tremendous step up.

Race Profile

The Taiwan KOM Challenge is a brutal event. Over 90km of climbing with a total ascent of 3275m. The race begins on the flats along the east coast of Taiwan for 15km which nets a total distance of 105km. The overall climb is not very steep as it only kicks up terribly at the final 10km stretch. But there is only one small descent throughout which means the majority of the 90km climb will be strictly uphill. This event will question my ability to climb continuously with nearly zero reprieve.

Aiming to Finish

My long term objective is purely to complete the race. For this year’s edition, it is to benchmark myself to see how far I can go and how long I need. The official cut-off time of 6.5 hours will be very tough. I think there is a possibility of me scraping through the cut-off time if I have a good day. But I am not too hopeful. I regard myself as someone who likes climbing but being able to climb within a time limit in a internationally renowned event will be another matter. I will keep trying for future editions of this event until I finish within the-cut off time.

I am also concerned about the high altitude of this climb. I had climbed Mount Kinabalu (on foot of course!) and suffered a bad case of altitude sickness around the 2,400m mark. This continued all the way to the top and I was in a terrible condition throughout, dragging my feet step by step with a stomach hollowed out by vomiting. This will not work on a bike. The upside is that the Taiwan KOM event tops out at only (!) 3275m above sea level which is 820m below Mount Kinabalu’s 4095m.

Training and Preparation

  • Outdoor training. Nothing in Singapore will provide anything close to what the event requires. Singapore is a flat island and its climbs have segments of no more than a kilometer. I have been hitting the usual local climbing spots and doing as many loops as I can before I get sick of seeing the same scenery over and over again. This includes ten loops around Nanyang Technological University,  three to five loops around the National University of Singapore, five loops around the infamous Lorong Sesuai climb and five loops of Mount Faber. However, no matter how many loops I commit to, the climbs will not simulate a continuous upward gradient. Each loop will end with a downhill segment which eases the intensity significantly. There is unfortunately no good solution which can been found outdoors in Singapore.
  • Indoor training. To simulate the full training load, I have turned to Best Bike Split to produce a power plan for the 90km climb. Best Bike Split takes my FTP, bike profile, race profile and predicted wind conditions to produce a target power for each change in gradient. What I then do is to export this to Zwift or Trainer Road and then hammer away at it at home. But as any cyclist who has done indoor training would tell you, spinning indoors is a hot and humid bore and worse still if you have to do so to cover 90km. Like it or hate it, this will be the closest I can get to simulating the actual climb.

  • Dealing with altitude sickness. I do not have the luxury of gradually acclimatising to high altitudes. Going for a two week holiday in the high mountains is not an option. Hence, I will be relying on a doctor’s prescription of Diamox to ease the symptoms. Hopefully, they work sufficiently for me to finish the event. Altitude sickness is the highest risk derailer for me at the moment as it would completely cripple me.
  • Body weight. I am also trying to get my body weight down to 62kg by mid October 2018. I am currently tipping the scales at 66kg and would need to put in effort to get it down by 6%. Fat percentage is still hovering between 10-12% so I do have the capacity to drop a few kilos.

I’ll probably update again closer to the event. Here’s hoping that the preparations for the event go well so that I can give it my best shot!

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