Aaron S. Lee[space height=”12″]
In a battle of the past two Taiwan KOM Challenge winners, recently turned 51-year-old Canadian endurance athlete Marg Fedyna was supplanted by 24-year-old Eri Yonamine. Yonamine is the reigning two-time Japanese individual time trial and mountain bike cross country champion. She won the Taiwan KOM Challenge in 2013.
Paced by male compatriot Kyosuke Takei, Yonamine rolled to an unchallenged 15-second lead at the 65-km mark of the 105-km, non-UCI classified sportive that starts in the coastal town of Qixingtan and rises to Wuling at 3,275 m with gradients peaking at more than 27 per cent toward the summit top at Mount Hehuan – Taiwan’s tallest mountain accessible by road.
“It was a hard race,” Fedyna told Canadian Cycling Magazine at the finish of what French magazine Le Cycle labelled one of the top-10 hardest bike races in the world. “It was brutal pace in the beginning, riding with the men, which included six women in the main group, which was awesome.”
The three-time Haute Route winner, who finished second in the Dolomites in September, bettered last year’s time in the near-freezing rain by more than 19 minutes by finishing in 4 hours, 20 minutes, 31 seconds in close to idyllic conditions on Friday.
“Eri had her pacer,” said the Edmonton native. “I think she won by a lot.”
Yonamine finished in a time of 4:03:29 – 13 minutes better than her race-winning time two years earlier.
“I did well and was faster than last year,” Fedyna said, regarding her performance in this year’s race, which is held concurrently with the men. “But the guys weren’t working hard enough.”
According to the former Eco-Challenge adventure racer (Team True North), who earned the nickname of the “Killa Canadian” for her toughness and tenacity, it was American Brett Lindstrom who came to the rescue and offered to pace Fedyna toward the finish.[space height=”12″] “Brett helped me a lot,” she admitted. “I said to bunch around me that Eri has a pacer and Brett must have overheard and started pacing.”
The 43-year-old Lindstrom, who led an extended three-man break with fellow American Jeffery Stern and Hsuan-Ping Hsu (TWN) for the first 40 km, told CCM he did overhear Fedyna and was quick to respond.
“Yeah, I just clued into what Marg said, so I pulled it up and kicked it up to 32 km/h and rolled up the hill,” said the San Diego native and general manager for Lake Cycling.
For Fedyna, who travels back to the U.S. to ride the Mike Nosco Memorial on Tuesday, there is no question on whether or not she will return to Taiwan.
“Last year, due to the poor weather, I got to climb at my own pace,” she said. “The legs were OK, but the body was cold.
“This year my legs were dead in the final climb and you need a strong mind to just keep turning over the pedals, but I will return next year because the scenery is amazing.
“I’ve raced all around the world and this beats European climbing.”
In men’s action, 33-year-old Frenchman Damien Monier (Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team), a 2010 Giro d’Italia stage winner, overtook defending two-time race winner John Ebsen (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) in the final 4 km to take the claim the elite men’s category. Multi-time Irish hill-climbing champion and current national criterium champion Mark Dowling moved up six places from last year to round out the podium.[space height=”12″] [space height=”12″]
Aaron S. Lee (@aaronshanelee) is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to Canadian Cycling Magazine[space height=”12″]