Is it the spiritual home of the KOM?
Since 2012 climbers both amateur and professional have been flocking to Taiwan to tame the beast that is Wuling. Yet many have not even heard of the far eastern mountain.
The statistics of this climb speak for itself; 55km long, with a total ascent of 2,825m up to the dizzying heights of 3,275m. The average gradient may be only just over 5% but on a mountain of this scale, you know that doesn't mean every kilometre is a piece of cake.
The Taiwan KOM Challenge first took place in 2012. It covers 105km, a relatively short distance, but it goes from 0 to 3,275m in one hit. In 2017, as if winning the Giro d'Italia was not enough, Vincenzo Nibali, finished off his season travelling east and setting the fastest time up the mountain in 2hrs 12 min and 48 seconds.
On an island that equals only 5.5% of France's landmass, movement of the tectonic plates created this natural high mountain barrier. Wuling Pass is located in the center of Taiwan and is reached via the road that connects the west and the east of the island, in the process becoming the highest paved road in the entire South East Asia region.
The first 20km of the route up the western side of the pass has an average gradient of 6.3%. That may sound a lot but in relative terms it is more of a warm up before the road ramps up and the oxygen supply goes down.
Along the way, you will discover various farms weaved into the landscape, notably would be peach and passion fruit farms. If the riders are not here for challenge, we suggest a pit stop to taste the sweet fruits and not let this trip go to waste.
Next up along the route is a memorial to the island people who fought against the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, culminating in the famous Wushe Incident of 1930 in which hundreds of the indigenous people died. The movie adaptation of this story, Seediq Bale, signifies bravery and hope against oppression - living on this mountain makes stern people.
Arriving at 2,200m, you will be greeted by the immensely beautiful green pastures, of QingJing (translated as Peaceful State). Here you will find the highest 7-Eleven convenience store (remember that pro team?) in Taiwan and it is a good idea to take a pit stop and re-fuel because the real climbing is about to begin. From this point forth, the average gradient is between 10%-15%. Not only do riders have to deal with climb, but more importantly, pushing forward under the thinning air.
The final 2.2km is like the horizon embedded within mountains; known to experienced cyclists as 'The Road to Heaven'. It is beautiful to see but extremely difficult to complete. The last stretch of road looks levelled, but in reality, it is an average of 9%. After 50km of climbing, this final leg of the journey is a true challenge to riders mentally and physically.
The scenery at the arrival point is a virtual green carpet that covers the mountainous landscape. The landscape is transformed into a white world when it snows, earning an elegant description of 'Silver Saddle'. On a clear night, the Southern Cross constellation can be visible to the naked eye, a perfect spot to appreciate majestic snowy scenery, sunrise and rolling seas of cloud.
Wuling Pass is the ultimate bucket list for cyclists visiting Taiwan.