Race Design Thread

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Stage 3: Sion - Bellinzona; 183km


Stage 3 ist the first longer stage of my Tour de Suisse. The stage starts in Sion, the capital of the canton Valais, known for it's stunning castles.

The first 51km of the stage are false flat, then the hardest climb of the day starts, the Simplonpass/Passo del Sempione, 22.6km at 5.9%.

The following descent is 38km long, durning the halfway point we cross the Italian border.
Right afterwards the next climb already starts, the ascent to Druogno, 9km at 5.9%.

On top of the climb we have a bit of a false flat descent, after 10km we cross the Swiss border for the 2nd time and are now back on swiss soil.
After the end of the actual descent we have 10km of false flat, then the next climb starts, Orsellina from Locarno3.8km at 5.9%.
After a short, steep descent we have around 17km of false flat, the the final climb of the day starts.
It's the ascent to Castello Sasso Corbaro from Bellinzona, 2.2km at 7.8%.
The climb tops with less than 3km to go and the finish line comes pretty much right after a short, steep descent that features 5 hairpins.
The stage finishes in Bellinzona, the capital of the canton of Ticino, also know of it's (3) castles.


This one should be a proper gc stage, some riders could feel yesterdays stage in their legs and the long climbs coming early on will built fatigue and wear the riders down. In the main group the finish will be contested by the main gc contenders, a breakaway has a chance, but the main bunch would have to softpedal the first 2 climbs.
 
Stage 6: Biasca - Savognin, 193.5 km





The second mountain stage of the race, albeit one with a different character than the first. With the queen stage out of the way, this is as good a chance as any of the weaker time-trialists will get to take time, and it's not a bad profile for attacks...

The start is in Biasca, one of the larger towns in Ticino not located on the lakes. It last hosted the race in the awful 2009 edition, as the start of a breakaway day over the Gotthardpass won by Breschel. The town sits at the point where the roads from the Gotthardpass and Lukmanierpass join each other and therefore mainly grew once the infrastructure in the Alps improved, although it is also notable for a 12th-century church.


The church of Saint Peter and Paul, with the town itself in the background.

The first part of the stage is very similar to that of the previous one, with an HC climb that earns its categorisation mostly due to its length starting almost immediately. The Lukmanierpass averages 4.5% at a length of 34 kilometers, from the start of categorization in Malvaglia to the pass itself. As you can see on the stage profile, the road continues to rise for a brief period after this, however this section is in a tunnel and therefore I can't put the GPM there. The first 3 kilometers of the profile below are in the neutralisation.


The descent is similarly straightforward, only shorter. At the end of it, there's a short rise from the valley floor to the main road through the Surselva at Disentis, I've put the first intermediate sprint here. We leave this main road as soon as possible for the climb to Obersaxen, which might have been a cat. 1 on an easier route, then bypass the spectacular Rheinschlucht/Ruinaulta to the south by taking the easy climb to Versam.


The Rheinschlucht is also one of the more remarkable stretches of railway line in Switzerland.

There's a second intermediate sprint in Chur (which I'll talk about on the next stage when I don't have six climbs to go through), and from that point onwards, there is almost no flat left. We head up the road towards Arosa, not one of Switzerland's more beloved climbs, but leave the road at Sankt Peter, at km 18 on the profile below. As this village sits at the middle of the long false flat on the way to Arosa, the mountain points will be handed out at Castiel. The climb averages 7.2% over almost eight kilometers with steeper stuff earlier on, a worthy cat. 1 climb.



The descent into Molinis is short and steep. The road itself is wide, although it does cross the railway line to Arosa (it's only an hourly service so not likely to cause trouble, but logistically the nastiest part of the stage). We then head up a little-known road into the village of Tschiertschen. Streetview shows a short unpaved section part way through which I believe has been tarmacked since, although the road is probably too narrow to descend anyway (if not, it would open the way to more interesting stages to Arosa as well as Chur). The average gradient does not reflect the fact that this is quite a tricky climb.



We descend on a much wider road almost all the way back to Chur, until we meet the road from Lenzerheide just under two kilometers above the valley. It's very much a two-stepped climb, once again quite a bit harder than the average gradient of 6.4% would suggest. Lenzerheide hosts a lot of big sporting events; aside from organising the 2018 MTB Worlds (the cross-country unsurprisingly won for the seventh time by Nino Schurter, who hails from the area), it is a stage host of the Tour de Ski every other year and frequently hosts the World Cup in both mountain bike and Alpine skiing, often as the season finale in the latter.


From the junction to Tschiertschen at 12.2 km to go (the road starts rising shortly before we meet the junction).

The descent to Tiefencastel is one half false flat and one half properly downhill. From here to the finish at Savognin, I could have taken the main road, which would have been 5 kilometers at just under 7 percent followed by 4.5 flattish kilometers. Instead, I'm doing something more interesting.



Above the narrow valley that the main road climbs through, there's another route, that features from the opposite side in the local cyclosportive (Alpen Challenge Lenzerheide). It's not even a narrow road, but it is difficult - even if the riders have softpedalled the previous climbs, the first half of the climb should help open up real gaps. The summit crests at just 6.7 kilometers to go The descent is much shallower and probably won't have any impact. To rejoin the main road, there's 500 meters of climbing at about 9% ending just over two kilometers from the finish. To prevent the logistical trouble of a finish on the main road itself, we drop back to the river, from where it's just 150 meters from the finish - if a small group contests the finish, the winner should be among the first two or three riders to enter that final dip.

The village of Savognin is known for its mid-sized ski resort. It has hosted the race twice, both times as a stage start, for the last time in 2010 when Marcus Burghardt won after a 60-kilometer solo attack.


Savognin.

The final four climbs link together very well and form an excellent opportunity to take back time lost on the queen stage or to gain additional time on the stronger time-trialists ahead of the final weekend. If everyone waits until the final climb, odds are that the gaps will be more limited, although it should be an interesting finale regardless...
 
What do people here aim for when designing races in countries that don't have much cycling culture? Do you aim for a realistic race, with start and finish places in similar geographies as real ones with using places that can realistically afford a stage start/finish, or do you try to use the obscure parts of country as well?
It depends. Ordinarily nowadays I tend to aim for a realistic-ish race, so I'll use stage hosts that are of reasonable size to host starts/finishes rather than the stage finish in the middle of nowhere (so generally speaking for, say, a HTF I will want somewhere close to a town/city of sufficient size, and for an MTF I will want a sanctuary, retreat or ski resort that could reasonably serve as a host rather than just a pass which happens to have a viewpoint that has a big enough car park, whereas if I'm doing, say, Spain, I could just use a mirador on a pass or a HTF at a sanctuary or monastery well away from any towns, because the provinces and regions frequently pay for the stage hosting rather than the individual towns, plus after 10 Vueltas with a self-imposed "no repeated MTFs" rule I have to leave myself some future options!).

However, I may be less realistic in how I get from A to B in those stages, or will typically stick to the kind of stage length one might expect from a pro race rather than a smaller race in an area with little cycling culture. I have been trying to be more realistic in that respect, and as a result when I'm dealing with designs for real life 2.2 races or smaller events I'm staying true to what that scene is about, so there were a lot more stages in the 100km-150km area during, say, my Vuelta a la Independencia Nacional, because long stages are a rarity in the Dominican Republic. Races where there's a mixed pro-am field tend not to be averaging 180km, of course. Although as you can see from races like Qinghai Lake, you'll have stages at every length from 240km behemoths to 60km crits, and when I was designing an HTV Cycling Cup because I fell in love with the race a couple of months back, I included their beloved 40km circuit races because that's what the real race does. My Tour de Taiwan has some short stages but also a couple that bait the UCI. The three-week Brazilian race I did included more stages of sub-150km length than I ordinarily would include, because I was looking at something achievable for the péloton that I would expect to be racing this event. Where you're somewhere that's paying top dollar for top status, you can kind of circumvent that, so there would be less need to think about realism in, say, the wealthy oil states of the Gulf, or large parts of China.

I think over time, the thread has become more a haven for 'realistic' designs than the exploration of the boundaries of what is physically possible on roads. We've had some absolute goat tracks in the thread, we've had Tour designs which had a 60km ITT on stage 1 (!), Mauna Kea descent ITTs, and three entire Giri comprising nothing but mountain stages, Bavarianrider's three-week Grand Tour of Germany which included about five TTs but still averaged close to 180km per stage, and I've had Tour designs where the queen stage is 240km with five major mountains and not one kilometre in France. By and large, most of the route designers here have explored the boundaries of possibility and now will couch new discoveries within a more achievable route (after all, it's only occasionally that you can go full Zomegnan) and a lot of interest has instead in recent years been in doing something new or creative with the known options - new side of known climbs, for example - and also the type of climbs favoured sometimes vary. Most of us know all the big HC monoliths by now, except when we're off in little-explored parts of the world. But there's always the chance to find a completely unheralded murito or a cobbled berg hidden away somewhere to liven things up. We've had GT-length races all over the place - the USA, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Portugal, the Balkans, the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and Scandinavia - but we're still wringing new life out of Spain, Italy and France. And also we have our areas that we keep coming back to. Eshnar's Giri, Mayo's focus on the Südtirol and Austria, my multitude of routes in Euskal Herria, the Valle d'Aosta and my DDR fetishism.

Sometimes when exploring places well off the beaten track, you discover something that just merits going off the deep end and designing a full on pro race that could not and would not ever happen.
 
...such as this.

Stage 3: Xincheng - Wuling Pass (Hehuanshan), 92km





GPM:
Bilu Tunnel (cat.E) 57,0km @ 4,0%
Wuling Pass (Hehuanshan)(cat.E) 14,4km @ 7,2%

You know that scene in Demolition Man where they receive the report of a ‘187’ in respect of Wesley Snipes’ escaped convict, and the policewoman asks what that code means because in their utopian future nobody has ever had to deal with one, so they plug it into the computer to find out what police code 187 means, and get the output “MURDER DEATH KILL”? That’s what we’re looking at on day 3 of the Tour de Taiwan.

Let’s talk a little bit about modern course designs, and the things that have become tropes as ‘things that LS doesn’t like’. The spamming of short mountain stages is one of these, of course. As is, to a much greater extent, the rise of Unipuerto. There are a few examples where this has worked, but by and large the ‘youtube cycling’ element of Unipuerto stages has been a scourge. So you would think that overly short Unipuerto stages would be something that certainly wouldn’t fit my criteria, right? Of course. Things like the 2009 Giro Blockhaus stage, the 2016 Giro Oropa stage (proof if proof were needed that the short mountain stage is not in-and-of-itself good) and myriad recent Vuelta stages earn special opprobrium from me. So how does one get away with a short, Unipuerto stage? Well, the Mount Fuji hillclimb stage in the Tour of Japan has a certain cult appeal, but I feel we need to think bigger.



Yes, that’s more like it.

That’s right… we’re not doing quite the whole thing, but we’re going a bit Taiwan KOM Challenge on the péloton, and only on day 3 too. Well, when I say “a bit”, we’re talking, we’re climbing from practically sea level up to over 3000m altitude. With a full péloton of pro level riders - even if many are likely to be relatively lowly ones - this won’t be quite as huge in terms of time spread as it is in the stand-alone race but it should still see serious gaps nonetheless.

The history of the Taiwan KOM Challenge is pretty short, but it has become a bit of a special attraction at the end of the season. Its origins are in the Taiwan Cup, an attempt at introducing a Japan Cup-styled end of season race which was unfortunately - or, in fact, fortunately as it turned out - affected badly by Typhoon Megi, the deadliest typhoon of the 2010s in Taiwan. Having flown a number of riders across the world to compete, however, a hastily-arranged replacement was found, a shortish hill climb race, ascending from the proposed race area around 日月潭, or Sun Moon Lake, one of the island’s premier beauty spots and tourist attractions, up to Wuling Pass, the highest paved road on Taiwan. Because of the hasty re-arrangement and the weather conditions, many riders withdrew so there were no official teams and the race was reduced to .NE status, which meant it didn’t count as a first official race win when former breakaway hero turned Velon turncoat Amets Txurruka was first to the summit, ahead of veteran (and now disgraced) GC semi-relevance Tadej Valjavec. Many of the other major names who had travelled to Taiwan were attracted by the interesting parcours and were eliminated from contention by the hillclimb, so people like Óscar Freire and Robbie Hunter were there but not exactly in contention. Txurruka donated his prize money and his race-winning bike to the relief fund for the typhoon, but the radically altered event created the spark of an idea in the organisers. The original planned route for the Taiwan Cup was used in 2011, with Shimano Racing Team’s Kazuki Aoyanagi winning the 220km route ahead of Aleksandr Prevar and Feng Chun-Kai, but the 2010 event’s novelty was what had caught the eye, and the touristic potential of cyclotourists competing to conquer Wuling Pass was all too tempting. The southwestern face from the inland part of the island had been used in 2010, but to climb it from the East coast? Now that would truly be a challenge worthy of kings.



There are a good few hillclimb events around the world which attract a pretty good amount of attention, but the Taiwan KOM Challenge is swiftly growing to eclipse them. The Mount Evans hillclimb had a bit of a following for a while but it feels like the field is falling away there, whereas it feels like the Taiwan KOM Challenge is on the up, attracting some pretty good riders to it. As this stage is part of a stage race and in that event they only time the climb once you’ve entered the park (although you actually ride further than in my stage as the sportive begins in Hualien whereas we start in nearby Xincheng) I would potentially expect slower times than in the sportive, however my race will not happen at season’s end and will have teams competing rather than individual time-setting, so that might make it somewhat faster.

2012: John Kronborg Ebsen (CCN Cycling Team) 3’37’25
2013: Rahim Emami (RTS-Santic) 3’26’59
2014: John Kronborg Ebsen (Atlas-Black Inc) 3’40’05
2015: Damien Monier (Bridgestone-Anchor) 3’34’19
2016: Óscar Pujol (Team Ukyo) 3’29’43
2017: Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 3’19’54
2018: John Kronborg Ebsen (Forca-Amskins) 3’26’01
2019: Anthon Charmig (Independent) 3’24’24

Other pros that have rocked up in Taiwan include Jérémy Roy (2012), Anthony Charteau (2012), Simon Clarke (2013), Iuri Filosi (2013), Mirko Tedeschi (2013), Will Routley (2014), Thomas Lebas (2015, 2016), Omar Fraile (2015, 2016), Lasse Norman Hansen (2015), Jai Robert Hindley (2016), Ben Dyball (2016, 2018), Danilo Celano (2016), James Piccoli (2016), Cameron Bayly (2016), Benjamin Hill (2016), Marco Zamparella (2016), Ibai Salas (2016), Cameron Piper (2017), Phil Gaimon (2017), post-retirement Cadel Evans (2017), Tim Cameron (2017), Héctor González (2017), Caley Fretz (2017, 2019), Laurens Ten Dam (2018), Jan Bakelants (2018), Pierpaolo Ficara (2019), Etienne van Empel (2019), Stef Cras (2019) and Nathan Haas (2019), plus of course in editions they didn’t win, Ebsen, Monier and Pujol were frequently back to try to win the crown or win it back.

As you can also see, speeds are increasing as riders get more used to the event, and it also happens less frequently to take place in typhoon season so road conditions improve. The concurrent women’s event has run similarly, attracting a number of world class names such as Emma Pooley (who has multiple victories), Marianne Vos, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Tiffany Cromwell, Hayley Simmonds, Claudia Lichtenberg, Pauliena Rooijakkers, Lucy Kennedy, Eri Yonamine and many more including Óscar Pujol’s semi-pro sister Cristina, with the current record sitting at 3’51’35 set by Lucy Kennedy in 2018, 20” ahead of Moolman-Pasio’s 2019 time and 34” ahead of Emma Pooley’s 2017 time. Perhaps the most notable moment was provided by 2019 winner Anthon Charmig, however, who committed a horrendous cultural faux-pas by posing with his bike and trophy on what he thought to be a seat close to the pass, but turned out to be part of a family tomb, committing a serious act of desecration in Taiwanese culture about which furious back-pedalling had to be done.

Anyway, by this point you know the drill. Let’s look at a few pictures.







The main body of the climb is not super consistent, but not mega steep either - the first 55km of the ascent average just 4%. It’s when, after all of that leg-sapping grinding for hours is done, and you have the brief downhill respite, you learn that there’s still a bona fide HC climb to come, that this one steps up to the stratosphere. I’ve separated out the categorisations to try to fool the UCI into letting me get away with this one!

The majority of the early parts of the climb take place in the Taroko Gorge National Park, which makes this one of the most beautiful climbs in world cycling. And much like other favourites, it saves its most brutal ramps for later, which giving us glorious scenery at the bottom. This gives it something in common with a lot of climbs, but you might recognise that description as being apropos for, I don’t know, the Passo di Fedaia, right?

(FEDAIA!!!)





Yea, that’s right - long, long, long low gradient chugging along for kilometre after kilometre, but at least the scenery is worthwhile, right? You can even see that for much of the time that is very much the star in the actual coverage, as you can see with the stream of the 2017 race here.


Final 10km profile - includes some of the steepest ramps

After the end of the interminable ascent there’s a tunnel and then the gradient switches down to a descent for a few kilometres. After that, however, it kicks back up at Dayuling and it’s a real pain train from here too. Renowned by those who know as one of the toughest climbs in the world, it doesn’t look like much - 10,1km @ 7,1% is not exactly Zoncolan for gradient at that kind of length, nor is it Stelvio or Mont Ventoux for length at that kind of gradient; what it does have, however, is that it comes after a 50km continuous uphill grind… and it comes with a start point at over 2500m. There are very, very, very few races that go to this kind of altitude, and those that do tend not to start near sea level. Races at the UCI level going above 3000m tend to be, well, Qinghai Lake or the Tour of Colorado (or whatever it’s calling itself right now), or the Latin American races at the 2.2 level, in countries like Colombia and Ecuador where this kind of altitude is expected. This is a one-off case for the Tour de Taiwan too - this is the highest point in their highway system and it isn’t possible to ascend further on the island. China and the US have this kind of geographical altitude spread, but not in such locations as for a 0-3000m climb to be possible (altitude that significant is too far from the coast or any low altitude flatlands), leaving us only realistically with the Alto de Letras as a realistic comparison - after all, that starts at 500m and ascends to over 3500m. The tradition in Colombia, whether in the Vuelta a Colombia or the non-UCI Clásico RCN, is to climb from Honda or Mariquita, up over Letras, then descend into Manizales to finish, because just the one climb is enough when it’s that. I concur, which is why this is a sub-100km hillclimb stage.

When the Vuelta a Colombia finished a stage at La Tribuna, between the Alto de Letras and the Nevado del Ruíz volcano responsible for the Armero Tragedy, in 2017, the top 10 was spread over 3 minutes, although realistically it was only 2’38 because Óscar Solíz was there but later removed for doping. That stage was also longer than this one. Those time gaps between GC men will not be insurmountable later. Climbs of different natures will follow as will tests against the clock and different styles of challenge. But also, this will remove a lot of people from contention and hopefully mean a lot of reappraisal of goals, meaning a lot of stage hunters and rescue jobs with riders hunting secondary jerseys in the days to come.

Well, you know, one more picture of the Wuling Pass climb for the road? Can’t hurt, can it?

 
It depends. Ordinarily nowadays I tend to aim for a realistic-ish race, so I'll use stage hosts that are of reasonable size to host starts/finishes rather than the stage finish in the middle of nowhere (so generally speaking for, say, a HTF I will want somewhere close to a town/city of sufficient size, and for an MTF I will want a sanctuary, retreat or ski resort that could reasonably serve as a host rather than just a pass which happens to have a viewpoint that has a big enough car park, whereas if I'm doing, say, Spain, I could just use a mirador on a pass or a HTF at a sanctuary or monastery well away from any towns, because the provinces and regions frequently pay for the stage hosting rather than the individual towns, plus after 10 Vueltas with a self-imposed "no repeated MTFs" rule I have to leave myself some future options!).

However, I may be less realistic in how I get from A to B in those stages, or will typically stick to the kind of stage length one might expect from a pro race rather than a smaller race in an area with little cycling culture. I have been trying to be more realistic in that respect, and as a result when I'm dealing with designs for real life 2.2 races or smaller events I'm staying true to what that scene is about, so there were a lot more stages in the 100km-150km area during, say, my Vuelta a la Independencia Nacional, because long stages are a rarity in the Dominican Republic. Races where there's a mixed pro-am field tend not to be averaging 180km, of course. Although as you can see from races like Qinghai Lake, you'll have stages at every length from 240km behemoths to 60km crits, and when I was designing an HTV Cycling Cup because I fell in love with the race a couple of months back, I included their beloved 40km circuit races because that's what the real race does. My Tour de Taiwan has some short stages but also a couple that bait the UCI. The three-week Brazilian race I did included more stages of sub-150km length than I ordinarily would include, because I was looking at something achievable for the péloton that I would expect to be racing this event. Where you're somewhere that's paying top dollar for top status, you can kind of circumvent that, so there would be less need to think about realism in, say, the wealthy oil states of the Gulf, or large parts of China.

I think over time, the thread has become more a haven for 'realistic' designs than the exploration of the boundaries of what is physically possible on roads. We've had some absolute goat tracks in the thread, we've had Tour designs which had a 60km ITT on stage 1 (!), Mauna Kea descent ITTs, and three entire Giri comprising nothing but mountain stages, Bavarianrider's three-week Grand Tour of Germany which included about five TTs but still averaged close to 180km per stage, and I've had Tour designs where the queen stage is 240km with five major mountains and not one kilometre in France. By and large, most of the route designers here have explored the boundaries of possibility and now will couch new discoveries within a more achievable route (after all, it's only occasionally that you can go full Zomegnan) and a lot of interest has instead in recent years been in doing something new or creative with the known options - new side of known climbs, for example - and also the type of climbs favoured sometimes vary. Most of us know all the big HC monoliths by now, except when we're off in little-explored parts of the world. But there's always the chance to find a completely unheralded murito or a cobbled berg hidden away somewhere to liven things up. We've had GT-length races all over the place - the USA, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Portugal, the Balkans, the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and Scandinavia - but we're still wringing new life out of Spain, Italy and France. And also we have our areas that we keep coming back to. Eshnar's Giri, Mayo's focus on the Südtirol and Austria, my multitude of routes in Euskal Herria, the Valle d'Aosta and my DDR fetishism.

Sometimes when exploring places well off the beaten track, you discover something that just merits going off the deep end and designing a full on pro race that could not and would not ever happen.
Thanks. Agree with the answer.
 
@Libertine Seguros , that's a wonderful MTF.
Back to my our de Suisse.
Tour de Suisse stage 4: Locarno - Chur; 225km


This one is the longest stage of my Tour the Suisse.
The stage starts in Locarno, a town known for it's international film festival that lies n the nothern shore of Lago maggiore.

The first 45km of the stage are false flat, then the big behemoth known as Passo del San Bernardino starts, 25.4km at 6.1%.

After that we have a 45km long descent to Thusis that features 2 longer false flatish sections, but also some stunning hairpins durning the first part of the descent.
Right afterwards the ascent to Wiesen/Wolfgangpass starts, more of a long drag with a few steep sections than an actual climb.

The following descent is 19km long and nothing special, then the final climb of the day starts, the aascent to the ruins of castle Strahlegg, 1.5km at 7.3% .
Afterwards we have 19km of a false flat descent, the final 15km of the stae are flat and will bring the riders to Chur.

This one really screams breakaway stage, that's probably the realistic outcome. Too hard for the sprinters and the few stagehunters will probably enter the breakaway instead of having the teams do all the work to catch the breakaway.
 
Stage 4: Hualien - Taitung, 176km





GPM:
Tropic of Cancer Marker Park (cat.3) 2,7km @ 3,7%
Baohuashan (cat.3) 3,1km @ 4,0%
Land God Temple (cat.2) 6,2km @ 4,7%
Lalaimenyuanxiuxi (cat.3) 4,6km @ 4,8%

We are back at sea level - back down to Hualien so the riders at least get to stay in the same hotel after their painful mountain odyssey yesterday. Today, however, we’re rolling down the east coast of Taiwan on the longest stage of the race so far.



We begin in Hualien, the biggest city on the central East coast of Taiwan, with a little over 100.000 people calling it home. The city is a relatively recent development, although it has its origins in a Spanish mining outpost, seeking gold in the Taiwanese mountains, in the early 17th Century. However, these were never expanded into permanent settlements and it was only during Han Chinese expansion into Taiwan that a permanent population in the region was established. The isolated location, hidden from the rest of the island by the mountains, meant it remained a quiet outpost by the name of Kîlâi (奇萊, often romanised in Europe as Kiray) until the Japanese acquired the island. However, “kirai” is a Japanese verb meaning “to dislike”, and so the town’s name was changed for superstitious reasons, to Karenko, meaning “Karen Harbour” after the Japanese name for the Hualian river, and then this was contracted to simply “Karen”; the city’s name was rendered in the local Hakka as “Hua-lien” and this name has stuck - despite having been derived from the Hualian river, which is now often called the Hualien through back-formation due to conflation with the city.

Though the city itself is not the most interesting in Taiwan it remains popular as the main base for tourist attractions on the east coast such as the Taroko Gorge and the aquatic attractions such as whale and dolphin watching or snorkelling. As a result, a number of high rise hotels and halls have been built, although the location of Taiwan on the Pacific Rim means that there is risk from high seismic activity, and the city was badly damaged in an earthquake in 2018 which hit 6,1 on the Richter scale and left buildings badly damaged. This dramatic backdrop perhaps lends it some of the romanticism that inspired the works of the poet, short story writer and essayist Wang Ching-Hsien (王靖獻), better known as Yáng Mù (楊牧), an award-winning literary figure who became the first Taiwanese recipient of the Newman Award for Chinese Literature among his many distinctions. He sadly passed away earlier this year at the age of 79, with the cause of death not published.

Hualien is also the hometown of a couple of sporting trailblazers - Lin Man-Ting, the first Taiwanese to play professional football in Europe, and Hsieh Chia-Hsien (謝佳賢), now pinyinized as Xiè Jiaxián, a baseball player whose records are contested due to straddling the merger of the Taiwan Major League with the Chinese Professional Baseball League - counting his early career games in Taiwan before the leagues were merged, he is the fastest player to 100 home runs in the history of the league. Cycling is less well represented; it last hosted the Tour de Taiwan all the way back in 2011, when Taiji Nishitani of Aisan Racing Team won a sprint in a 173km stage from Taiitung to Hualien (so running the opposite direction to me) on stage 8 of the race. However, of course, the city now hosts the Taiwan KOM Challenge, which takes up its cycling heart more than the national race, it seems. What Hualien does offer, though, is some scenery as we travel along the east coast of the island for the first part of the stage.



Early in the stage we pass through the town of Ruisui, home of Asus founder Tzu Hsieh Tung (童子賢, Cu Xie Tung in pinyin) and famous for its ancient stone pillars and hot springs. It also used to have a Tropic of Cancer marker monument near the train station, but due to changes during works this has had to be moved into the nearby hills, therefore we have a (pretty easy) categorised climb up to the Tropic of Cancer Monument in its current location. The rest of the stage up until 50km from home is pretty straightforward - it’s a generally flat road through the flat alluvial Huadong (this is in pinyin - Wade-Giles renders it Huatung but the former is preferred as transcription is not consistent in Taiwan!) Valley that sits between the Central and Coastal Mountain Ranges in Taiwan, the former obviously being much, much more significant than the latter.

This lengthy plateau is broken up by two metas volantes. The first is in Fuli, known as the home of actor-cum-director Umin Boya (his name derives from his Taiwanese aboriginal lineage) and actress Evonne Hsieh. Hsieh is a star of the popular Chinese film series Tiny Times, while Boya directed the baseball movie Kano, one of the highest grossing films in Taiwan of all time. The second is in Chishang Xiang (池上鄉), which is renowned for the Dapo Pond, one of the best-known freshwater lakes in the country.

The course deviates from the Huadong Valley when we reach the Xinwulü river, however. The main road crosses the river and continues along the valley, however we stay to the east of the river, which means we take a brief detour into the Coastal, or Hai’An, Mountain Range which spices up the final 50km of the stage, in which there are three categorised ascents. The first begins in Guanshan, albeit the small part of it south of the river, home of TV host and singer Donna Chiu, Olympic medal-winning taekwondo practitioner Tseng Li-Cheng, and most notably Lo Hsien-Che, a former military general who was in charge of the unit responsible for military communication in the country, who became the highest ranked individual in Taiwan to ever be prosecuted for espionage after he was exposed as an agent of the PRC in 2011, and sentenced to life imprisonment for his acts the following year.



The first ascent is pretty benign. Truth be told, all three are somewhat benign - averaging less than 5% - but I do have a secret weapon hidden up my sleeve. The route along highway 197 from Guanshan to Taitung includes a 14km stretch - beginning at the summit of the first climb here, at the Baohuashan Monastery (not to be confused with the much bigger forest park and monastic complex of the same name in mainland China) - which is on sterrato.



Yup, god bless it, we’ve got a proper rouleur challenge on our hands here. I found a cycling blog here from which I took that image, which gives a better description of this part of the stage. I didn’t discover that until I’d already designed the stage, and could also have used the same blog for much of the rest of the course in today’s stage, however as this part is the only topographically interesting part I have only linked to the one part that covers this part of the route. The sterrato lasts for the descent here, then the entirety of the next climb - 6,2km @ 4,7% so a bit easy for a cat.2 normally, but given it’s on sterrato I’ve upgraded it - and then a further 3-4km of slightly downhill false flat, before real tarmac begins for the serious part of the descent. 36km remain at the top of the sterrato climb, so I can imagine some people being tempted to go for a move for the stage, especially given there will be some tired legs for domestiques for the sprinters after yesterday’s mountain odyssey. The final climb is a much more straightforward affair - just under 5km at just under 5%, finishing 23km from home, mostly consistent and not too difficult but a good platform to work from if the bunch has been trimmed down by the 14km of sterrato. After this there is an uncategorised ascent - I estimate a little over 2,5km at 4% - which finishes with 13km to go, before the descent into Taitung to finish.



Taitung is a city of similar size to Hualien - 106.000 - and is also one of the most prominent cities of the Taiwanese East Coast, serving as the regional centre and de facto capital for the region known as Pilam during Dutch control and the subsequent Qing-controlled period. A number of earlier artefacts were discovered in 1980 which has become a cultural park, plus its location as the main city of south east Taiwan has led to it becoming a centre for access to the quiet offshore tourist attractive islands of Green Island and Orchid Island. The Pilam Prefecture was renamed Taitung Prefecture under the Japanese, but the settlement that is now Taitung City was known as 南鄉新街, Nankyo Village, to the Japanese. It was reorganised into a township named for the prefecture upon the handover to the Republic of China in 1945, and elevated to the status of city in 1976.

The main attraction within Taitung itself is the Beinan Cultural Park, the most complete prehistoric site ever discovered on the island and which serves as a major gateway to the understanding of Taiwanese aborigines and their lifestyle and culture. The National Museum of Prehistory has been added as an additional attraction to the park, so Taitung has rapidly become the site to go to in order to understand pre-Han settlement Taiwan. There is also the more recent Taitung Forest Park, which we pass through in the run-in in fact, which is a large forested nature reserve on the northern edge of the city, and also Báisè Lòuwū (白色陋屋) which is usually translated as “White Hovel” literally speaking, but is known in English universally as the Moving Castle, a gloriously ramshackle four-storey dwelling constructed over many years using salvaged materials, said to have inspired the Johnny Cash song “One Piece At A Time” the appearance of Howl’s Moving Castle in the Studio Ghibli animation of the same name, which has then been led to its English name being back-formed from the movie.



Taitung is one of the cradles of Taiwanese aboriginal culture, as evidenced by the Beinan Cultural Park, and the relative isolation of the city means that there are a few aboriginal cultural remnants within the city. Even from outside of their culture, the Taiwanese aborigines exert some influence on the city, with some of its most famous inhabitants being the aboriginal pop music family of Purdur, and his two nieces Jia Jia and Samingad (all three being stage names). Taitung is also home to one of the country’s sporting heroes, the decathlete Yang Chuan-Kwang (Wade-Giles as was the tendency at the time - the original is 楊傳廣), sometimes known as CK Yang. Yang won multiple golds in the Asian Games in the decathlon through the 1950s as well as individual medals in a number of the decathlon’s constituent events, but his crowning glory came in 1960, when despite losing major points in the throwing events, Yang was among the strongest in all track events and the jumping/vaulting events to leave himself with a silver medal at the Rome Olympics, thus becoming the first Taiwanese to ever secure an Olympic medal. He became the first man to beat the 9000 point barrier (although the scoring system has since been re-evaluated) - this record breaking result means he is the only person from outside Europe or the USA to ever hold the world record in the discipline.


Yang with friendly rival - and 1960 gold medallist - Rafer Johnson

This one should be a tricky one for the riders after yesterday’s mountain odyssey. Some may not be keen on too much strenuous work, but with 14km of sterrato and some smaller climbs, there are plenty of platforms to make this one a challenge, and after Wuling Pass, there are going to be some really tired legs out there today. While the run-in may favour the bunch, I’d be very, very surprised if this one goes to the spriinters.
 
Stage 5: Taitung - Kaohsiung, 168km





GPM:
Shouka (cat.2) 9,7km @ 4,5%

I’m playing nice for the riders here, giving them absolutely zero transfer before the start of the following stage, meaning that they get to stay overnight in Taitung and enjoy what the eastern city has to offer. It’s a city which only sporadically features in the Tour de Taiwan - it last featured in 2011, as the host of a stage start as they took a stage in the opposite direction to my stage 4, which was mentioned previously. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2005, when Tobias Erler won a stage from Tienhsiang/Tianxiang (near the entrance to Taroko Gorge) down the coast similar to my stage but without the sterrato. After that a 220km circuit stage around Taitung was won by Yevgeniy Yakovlev from a breakaway group of four. However, of note is that the city has retained some cycling value by hosting the national championships each and every year since 2010 - Feng Chun-Kai has won seven of the ten editions since then, with Wu Po-Hung winning in 2012 and Lu Shao-Hsuan has won in 2016 and 2019 so it makes for a sensible host as we transition back to the more heavily populated western side of the island.

In order to get back to the west, however, you have to cross the sizeable Central Mountain Range, and there are not many passes by which you can do this, so the first 50km of the stage are a flat rumble down the east coast as far as Dawu, known during European settlement as Daibo, and one of the hottest places in the country due to its southerly location combined with the Föhn effect. After this, however, it is time to turn inland. Highway #9 goes through a very long tunnel that takes you underneath the mountains so we’re going to take the old road which heads over the range, albeit at a relatively low point so as not to be too brutal. There’s an extract from a blog about this stretch, albeit rode in the opposite direction, here. There’s also another description here. A couple of extracts about the climb through the mountains to the Shouka Biker Rest Stop:

From Daren you continue along the 9 up to Shouka (壽卡) where you enter the lovely county road 199. Daren is where the climb starts, and you climb up to 487m, I think it was, over about 12km. Here at the southern tip of the Central Mountain Range, the sharp, rugged peaks have transformed into a landscape of rolling green hills, and every now and then you get to steal a peek of the clear blue Pacific.


We don’t take the common cyclotourist route via the 199 down to Checheng and into the Kenting national park at Taiwan’s southernmost tip, however; instead we continue down the Provincial Road 9 (now superseded as a highway by the tunnel route) into Shuangliu National Forest. Now that we’re back on the western side of the island, we turn right when we reach the coast at Fenling, and after a short trip along the coastal road where the mountains descend into the sea, we’re into a long plateau which covers most of this half of the island. Not before, however, one last piece of world class scenery; at the feed zone in Fangshan there is a route inland to Kayoufeng Falls, one of the most dramatic on the whole island. Fangshan is also the hometown of incumbent President of the Republic of China, ergo governor of all of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文, so Pinyin Cài Yingwén), the second from the Democratic Progressive Party, a socially liberal party serving as leader of Taiwan’s Pan-Green coalition and favouring closer ties to Japan and the USA.


Kayoufeng

From Fangliao onwards, however, there is nothing but pure flat floodplain roads to deal with. It used to be an outpost, as the mountains were the preserve of the aborigines, entirely encircled with the Han Chinese and Hakka settlers around the flatlands, so served as a boundary town; it was also where Japan completed its encirclement of the island in the Japanese invasion in 1895 that led to Japanese imperial control being asserted; being able to navigate the mountainous east and take Fangliao enabled them to undertake the classic pincer movement known in all of miliitary history, and lead to the ultimate defeat of the Chinese on the island.

We then head through Linbian (formerly Pangsoh) towards Donggang, passing through Penbay, which has had a brief moment of interest lately with the creation of Penbay International Circuit, Taiwan’s to date only attempt at keeping up with the Joneses in respect of the current trend of East and South East Asian countries trying to attract major motorsports leagues to town. Prior to the inauguration of Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia in the late 90s, high level motorsport in Asia had largely been confined to Japan, where the auto manufacturers were engaged in competition with one another, and the famous Macau F3 race, but even if we exclude the competing Gulf States, who obviously have been flexing their muscles in race tracks, since Sepang we have seen China, Singapore, Korea, India and Vietnam join the Formula 1 World Calendar, while Thailand (Buriram) and Indonesia (Sentul) also have a world class automotive facility, and numerous other circuits in China have joined the calendars of other major series - Ordos, Zhuhai, Guangdong and others. Japan obviously has its own highly developed motorsport infrastructure with Superformula and Super GT being high level championships in their own right (and sometimes travelling overseas to compete), while Korea has abandoned the Yeongnam circuit but is introducing the (far better) Inje Speedium circuit to WTCR shortly (initially planned for 2020 but likely postponed to 2021). Taiwan has been lagging behind somewhat, but in 2011 their attempt to catch up, the Penbay International Circuit, was inaugurated.



Penbay had a few problems, however. Covering a fairly small area, it had a very twisty layout with no real long straights, which made it not the most interesting of circuits, and largely only attracted lower level competitions like the R8 LMS Cup, before due to struggles with the lease and attracting top competition, closing up in 2019 in search of a buyer. The kartdrome remains open but the full circuit is in limbo at present, as obviously the 2020 lockdown crisis has hampered attempted buyouts to keep the circuit running.

We then head into Donggang Township, a city of 50.000 which is best known for the Donglong Temple (東港東隆宮), inaugurated in 1706 but now onto its third incarnation after being destroyed by floods in 1790 and 1877. Originally located across the river (which is also called Donggang) it was relocated into the town proper for its second incarnation and remains on that spot to the present day, and remains a major tourist attraction, not least for its burning boat ceremonies (dedicated to Lord Wen, the idea is that it is burning plagues, as Wen is a homophone for plague in Mandarin) which take place every three years, in the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 11th years of the Chinese calendar cycle.


Burning boat ceremony


Donglong temple

From here we head into Kaohsiung via the Siaogang (Xiaogang) district, which is home to Taiwan’s second biggest airport, Kaohsiung International (after Taipei-Taoyuan), and the Dalin Power Plant, a coal-fired power station which derives most of its resources not from the central mountains like most Taiwanese power plants but instead from imported coal, usually from mainland China and Indonesia, that arrives in the country via the extremely busy Kaohsiung port. It’s also the home of Sung Kan-Lin, now known as Sung Chi-Li (宋七力), a petty criminal who claimed to have been visited by a beam of light in childhood that reappeared to him in jail, and when martial law was lifted, he displayed a level of 分身 skill (Fenshen, or body appearance manipulation, giving the impression of being able to manifest in multiple places at one time), which drew large crowds and created a divination cult around him. He was, as so many such cult leaders turn out to be, a fraud when his photographs confirming his Fenshen abilities were proven to be doctored using early computer image manipulation techniques, and he was convicted of same in 1997 when it was proven he had taken millions of NT$ in contributions based around these falsehoods. Whilst in prison for fraud, Sung founded a new cult, and still retains a small but dedicated following, though he has been long relegated to the fringes.

The stage finishes in Taiwan’s third most populous city, however. Kaohsiung (again this is Wade-Giles - the original is 高雄, which is Gāoxióng in pinyin) is the main hub of Taiwan’s southwestern corner and has a population of 2,77 million with the busiest harbour port in Taiwan, and is the country’s manufacturing/industrial hub with a very strong background in steel and oil refining as well as a well-developed maritime industry from both the perspective of shipbuilding and breaking, and also from freight and cargo traffic.



Kaohsiung has an interesting and slightly odd history. Its original name was Takau, which was rendered 打狗 and literally translated means “beat the dog”. It is believed that the meaning here is not actually dog, but the aboriginal Siraya language spoken in the area prior to Chinese settlement, in which the ‘kau’ element means ‘forest’ and the name translated to bamboo forest. This therefore does not, as might be thought, bear any resemblance to the elements of Macau, which are similarly misleading - the area is actually originally called Ya Ma Gang, but there was a temple to A Ma, and locals mistakenly thought the Portuguese were asking about the temple, so advised them regarding “A Ma Kok”, which led to Portuguese Amacquão which contracted to Macau over time. Back to Kaohsiung, though - Takau became known as Tancoia during Dutch colonisation, before Takau was restored following their expulsion by Ming loyalists. The modern name is a slightly unusual development - the city retained its name, or something close thereto, when the Japanese took over, with the city becoming the capital of its own prefecture and its name being slightly adjusted to Takao, which brought it in line with the Takao local to Kyoto, much as we see cities in Latin America named for Spanish and Portuguese cities or North American and Australasian cities named for British and French cities (even if some of those names are then hidden, like Santiago de Chile being just Santiago in common parlance, or Santiago del León de Caracas being just Caracas). This was rendered 高雄 in Japanese; the name was not changed following the city’s being handed over to the Republic of China following World War II - it’s just that the Japanese name for the city was calqued into Mandarin - the characters 高雄 would be pronounced Gāoxióng and so the Japanese retained the old spoken name but changed the writing to fit their system; the Chinese then subsequently retained the written name but changed the spoken form to fit their system.

Like many of Taiwan’s biggest cities, this was a group of villages until the Japanese heavily developed the harbour to create the modern port of Kaohsiung, and then connected it to the existing railway structure to allow it access to Taipei. Because of its importance to the manufacturing and energy industries and its crucial port facilities, it was a major target for bombing in World War II and was heavily damaged in the last two years of the conflict. It was rebuilt rapidly and, once the ROC had been expelled from the mainland, it was rapidly developed, with the newly west-facing Taiwanese export industry along with climactic feature meaning that it took over from Keelung as the dominant port in the country, as the economy was no longer so heavily dependent on Japan.

Despite early success and rapid expansion, however, the North-South economic divide in Taiwan does hurt Kaohsiung, and as a result there are plans afoot to move the region’s economy away from heavy industry and towards a commerce and tourism-based infrastructure; the impact of the divide has led to the city becoming a hotbed of opposition to the Kuomintang, culminating in the 1979 Formosa Incident, when a protest was arranged by oppositional magazine Formosa, led by former political prisoner Shih Ming-Teh and veteran legislator Huang Hsin-Chieh, to promote the cause of democracy and to take place on International Human Rights Day. The Tangwai, as the opposition called itself, had been greatly concerned by the indefinite suspension of elections caused by Chiang Ching-Kwo reacting to the cessation of official recognition by the USA in January that year. By October, the Formosa magazine was banned, although informal meetings and protests by Tangwai were tolerated at least implicitly by the Kuomintang… but the government repeatedly denied permits to hold a meeting to mark Human Rights Day, and arrested and beat those parading the campaign wagons. A hasty protest at the Public Security Bureau was organised, and attendance was far higher than had been anticipated at the original meeting, following the actions of the police the previous day. But the military and the military police had been called to respond, and the Kuomintang used the event as a pretext to arrest and imprison all opposition leaders. When Lin Yi-Hsiung’s wife contacted Amnesty International after seeing her husband’s treatment in prison, the very next day she and her two daughters were stabbed to death in their home - a home which the government had under 24-hour surveillance but were strangely unable to capture any evidence of the crime. International response to the event led to a period of easing of the tightness of the Kuomintang’s control of the country, and wider tolerance of dissenting voices. The movement which became the successor to the Tangwai became today’s Democratic Progressive Party, and Kaohsiung is seen as that party’s stronghold to this day, with the Formosa Incident’s alumni being prominent figures within the party throughout its existence. Taiwanese President Chen Shui-Bian, who ran as leader of the DPP from 2000 to 2008, was a defence lawyer for the Kaohsiung Eight arrested in the Formosa Incident, with his vice president, Lu Hsiu-Lien (known in the west as Annette Lu), having been one of those sentenced in the wake of the incident.



It’s not even the only major political incident in the city, but is definitely the most important. The other notable incident was the prison hostage crisis in 2015, when a group of six inmates acquired weapons and took prison guards hostage; eventually after a 14-hour standoff the group committed mass suicide. In less depressing matters, the city is also home to Taiwan’s National Stadium, while Kaohsiung Arena was used as a host for indoor events at the 2009 World Games which took place in the city. The National Stadium was used for the start and finish. Due to doping issues this was the last time that bodybuilding appeared at the World Games. There are a few other sports stars from Kaohsiung, notably Chuang Chia-Jung, a tennis player who specialised in doubles and won 22 WTA doubles titles and 34 ITF doubles titles in a decade-long career. Chan Chin-Wei, also a doubles specialist, also calls the city home. At the moment Hsu Ching-Wen seems like the best hope to continue this tradition, having won five singles and twelve doubles titles on the ITF circuit at age 23. More prominently within her chosen field is world #1 badminton player Tai Tzu-Ying, who holds the record for most weeks at number one in history and holds a host of medals across the Asian Games, East Asian Games, Universiade, and Asian Championships. All this and she is only 26, so has the potential to really step into the pantheons of history in the sport in the coming years. Another badminton player from Kaohsiung is Joanne Kuei, or Kuei Ya-Chen, who represents the USA.

Kaohsiung also has arguably the most vibrant music scene in Taiwan, perhaps influenced by its oppositional tradition. For example, Taiwan’s best-known alt-rockers Fire-EX, whose ballad Goodnight, Formosa was used as an anthem of the Sunflower Student Movement in 2014, call the city home, as do a number of Hokkien Pop and Mandopop acts such as A-Lin, Sun Shu-Mai and Tsai Hsiao-Hu, and folk singers such as Huang Fei and Tsai Chin. More interesting (to me at least) is the youthful alternative scene, spearheaded by the virtuosic math-rockers Elephant Gym whose command of their instruments is matched only by their ear for harmony.

There are a good few tourist attractions I am not talking about here as they will be covered later, as we pass the finish for the first time with an intermediate sprint at just under 10km from the line, to head around a short circuit which includes a short repecho in it. The stage finish is at the Glory Pier, famously visited by a giant rubber duck, and then we traverse Yancheng District in order to access our little repecho, which comes with 5,3km remaining. The climb is around 1200m at just over 5%, and with only one hairpin, so it’s more like, say, an easier version of the Tropea ramp in the 2011 Giro, and a little further from the finish, so bearing in mind how deep into the race we are and its relatively unthreatening status I have elected not to categorise it. The climb ramps up on the Shoushan hill in Gushan District in which the famous 1979 protests took place, between the monument to Love and the famous Kaohsiung Martyrs’ Shrine, originally the Takao Kotohira Shrine that was dedicated to Emperor Sutoku during Japanese rule. The shrine was modified to be a suitable Martyrs’ Shrine following the handover of Taiwan to the Republic of China, before anti-Japanese sentiment aroused in 1972 following their switch of allegiance to recognising the People’s Republic led to the shrine being attacked and demolished. It was swiftly rebuilt with modifications to the design to mimic the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei, and now has pride of place overlooking the city.





The descent is a little more tricky, so a small gap here could be useful for a breakaway, as obviously a single rider can take a better choice of line through these switchbacks than a full péloton, however the rest of the run-in will favour the bunch and, given there aren’t too many chances for the sprinters remaining, they will want to have their chances here.

After all, sprinters tend to predominate in Kaohsiung. The city has hosted the national race many times, often with circuit races, and these tend to end in sprints. The most recent stage to finish in Kaohsiung came just this year in fact, when Elevate-KHS’ sprinter Eric Young took the win on the final day of the race; this came after several years of the city being frozen out. It was on the route every year from 2005 to 2012 with only the one exception (2007), however, hosting stage 1 in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010, and stage 7 on the latter two occasions. The stages in 2006, 2008 and 2009 were criteriums, before the opening circuit race was moved to Taipei, and these were won by Robert McLachLan (a veteran on the Drapac Continental team), Wong Kam-Po (Hong Kong’s first ever World Champion cyclist, when he won the 2007 Worlds Scratch Race on the track), and Park Seon-Ho respectively. 2010’s race was a road race from Kaohsiung to Chiayi, then the race-ending stages in 2011 and 2012 were won by veteran New Zealander Rico Dene Rogers and Aussie sprinter Jonathan Cantwell, in the midst of his short dalliance with the top tier of world cycling with Tinkoff-Saxo Bank and six years before his tragic suicide. In fact, the 2005 stage was the last time that a stage in Kaohsiung has not ended in a sprint, with Tobias Erler outsprinting his compatriot Jürgen Kotulla from a two-up sprint, coming in just under a minute ahead of the bunch. I would expect this one to be a sprint, but I’m allowing for a small opportunity to the escape artists if they want to try to deviate from the script…

 

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