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Vincenzo Nibali celebrates on top of Taiwan


At a distance of 105 kilometers, Taiwan’s KOM Challenge is not particularly long - but its course leads from the coast of the Pacific Ocean all the way up to 3275 meters above sea level. With some of his BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM mates, Vincenzo Nibali decided to tackle this test of strength. And he did not only win but he also set a new course record.

When it comes to sheer size Taiwan might not be that big. But the immense forces of plate tectonics have done their work, resulting in almost 200 summits that peak at 3000 or more meters above sea level on the territory of the island country. Wuling Pass as the highest paved road of Taiwan tops at a staggering 3275 meters above sea level, and this pass serves as the goal of the KOM Challenge as the highlight of Taiwan’s cycling year. As for the competitors that take on the ride from Hualien through the Taroko gorge and into the Hehuan mountain range all the way to Wuling Pass, their number is limited to 600. The BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM was represented by the two brothers Vincenzo and Antonio Nibali and Taiwan’s own Chun-kai Feng. But that’s not all yet as the team’s general manager Brent Copeland took to the start in Hualien just as well as Wolfgang Renner, general manager of Merida Centurion Germany GmbH.

Vincenzo Nibali was the first active pro cyclists to have won grand tours in his career to compete this year’s KOM Challenge. By winning il Lombardia BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM’s star rider had shown that he’s in great shape. After some appointments with Myata Cyclo Co as MERIDA’s distributor in Japan, he flew to Taiwan with his brother Antonio to face this unique challenge. And the Shark of Messina lived up to his role as the pre-race favourite: At first, he rolled along through the Taroko gorge finding shelter in a larger group. As the gradients became more punishing, the leading group shrank in size - and Vincenzo Nibali had no problems staying up front. With about 10 kilometers to go, Nibali dropped his last rivals with an acceleration. Throughout the final kilometers that feature gradients of 20 percents and more, he held on to his advantage and thus got to ride to the finish line atop Wuling Pass on his own, scoring a win that is of big importance for MERIDA as the team’s co-title sponsor and bicycle supplier.

Posting an official time of 3:19.54 hours, Vincenzo Nibali set a new course record at the KOM Challenge, profiting from the ideal conditions with dry roads and hardly any winds. «First of all, I would like to compliment the organizers for their splendid work. It’s great to win a race in such an impressive scenery as Taiwan’s high mountains. And I’ve never ridden such a long and hard climb before in my entire life», Vincenzo Nibali commented on his win. From the perspective of the BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, Nibali’s victory caps off a debut season that already had some great highlights such as the overall podium results and stage wins of Vincenzo Nibali at both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España and the win at il Lombardia. And who knows, maybe the team can add another win at the Tour of Guanxi Worldtour race currently being held in China.

2017 KOM Challenge: Hualien - Wuling Pass, 105km
1. Vincenzo Nibali, ITA/BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, in 3:19.54 hours
2. Oscar Pujol, ESP, + 1.31
3. John Ebsen, DEN, + 4.27

Images: Taiwan Cyclist Federation

Watch the YouTube footage of the event below:

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