The KOM Challenge 2019

The only way is up
At the end of October, 600 riders assembled in Hualien City, Taiwan to attempt one of the hardest cycling events in the world, the Taiwan KOM Challenge. A 105km road race which starts at sea level and then climbs almost non stop up to Taiwan’s highest road pass at a mere 3,275 metres. In amongst the starting riders was a team of Factor staff and partners, armed with a secret weapon, the ultra lightweight O2 VAM, a bike built for mountain climbing days like this.

In the starting line up was 3 times KOM winner and Factor Sales Director, John Ebsen. John finished a hugely commendable 8th position this year, with Anthon Charmig winning the overall GC in a time of 3 hours and 24 minutes. Read below what John had to say about the event, the bike and his preparations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much training is involved for an event like this?

I won the race in 2012, 2014, 2018, and the preparation has been very similar every year. I start 60 days before with an intensive diet, then start to build on the training load and finish off with some intensive stuff. I normally try to hit 6.0 watt per KG for a 20 min test to prove to myself that I am ready for the KOM.

What is your favourite part of the climb?

There is a point around 8km from the finish line where you hit the slope with a gradient of 27%. This is the start of the real race. It is at this stage where I have finalized the win 3 times and for that reason it is special for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the hardest part of the route?

Apart from the 27% section which is crazy hard, the hardest point has to be the last km. There is a 1 km downhill right before the last km that can blow out your legs as you are soft-peddling the descent and then right after it hits this 12-18% climb to the finish line.

 

How many times have you ridden it and won it?

I have ridden the KOM 8 times to finish on the podium 5 times. 3 of those was on the top step.

 

For someone who hasn’t ridden it, what can they expect from the climb and the scenery?

Stunning nature and a lot of pain. I have done the race 8 times, and a lot of times when I see the photos after the race you don’t realise at first how beautiful this place is.

Photo by Mo Chiu 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to take on the challenge?

Go hard or go home! There is no easy way up, but I am sure you will enjoy every second of it. I have had several friends over to Taiwan who have done it, and every single one of them has been touched to tears just finishing the event. That shows you how hard this race is but great it is finish.

 

Will you be competing in the KOM again?

This is a question I have one word for… NO!
I have ridden the KOM for the last time. It is time for me to let someone else have some fun. I will find a new challenge in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bike

 

Every year John tries to create something special for the KOM and this year he worked with Factor to build a super lightweight version of the O2 VAM. The VAM frame is made from Boron Pitch-fiber and TexTreme, materials not commonly used due to the high cost. Factor is able to manufacture with these because they own their own factory which means that production can be controlled at every step of the process.

 

John’s groupset of choice was SRAM Red E-Tap with a set of EE Brakes. Standard Black Inc. integrated barstem and seatpost were more than suitable for the build along with a Selle San Marco Saddle. A set of Black Inc wheels with a special rim completed the build. To save weight, the VAM is offered as standard in a naked carbon finish and this bike was customised with a chrome Factor logo. This design is available to order now through the VAM Prisma Studio. The total weight of the bike, including pedals and bottle cages is 5.9kg.

Find out more about the O2 VAM here.

 

Photo above by Mo Chiu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to learn more about the KOM Challenge?

Watch the video from Maven about his experience taking on the 2019 KOM Challenge with the Factor team.