Hangzhou: Rapha Worldwide Challenge Day 1

I could not have asked for a better winter day than today, it was just simply superb riding in the Moganshan mountains without too much traffic in the middle of chaotic China to begin my Rapha Worldwide Challenge.  To avoid the nasty section between Hangzhou and Moganshan where it is full of overloaded trucks, fumes, dust and chock full of other road users, I opted to ride the 8kms to the North Bus Station and caught the bus to Wukang City (15rmb or $2USD). From there I had to contend with the Chinese traffic for several kilometres before turning off the main road and riding up to the Moganshan Village.

Moganshan it all its glory...

Mark Kitto, an English expat who has lived in China for 15 years and owns the Moganshan Lodge (author of the book “The China Cuckoo”), showed me some brilliant routes.  He also has this Sub 30 Challenge, where riders attempt a 4km steep climb from the Moganshan Village to the top where the Lodge is.  I had two full water bottles, my Nikon D90 camera and four bags of muesli slung over my shoulder when I did the attempt today!  It was much harder than I thought it would be.  The plan was to go slowly and work myself into the climb, but after only 500m of seated climbing I was forced to stand and that’s how it was for the rest of the climb:  a granny gear grunt with tiny respites (20m leveling out) before kicking up even steeper!  It is expected that reasonably fit cyclists can break this 30 minute barrier, and thankfully I still fall into this category after 24 days of no riding whatsoever.  My time was 27min 30seconds and this is now my bench-mark time for future attempts!  At the top, I enjoyed a hot latte and a USANA oatmeal-raisin bar outside the Lodge while Mark got ready to ride.  If you plan on visiting Moganshan to ride, be sure to contact Mark for details on the best routes and perhaps even make a weekend of it at his Lodge.  If he is not too busy, he may even show you around on the bike.

Perfect Latte to celebrate conquering the Sub 30 Challenge climb

As I had already climbed to a high point, the only way out was down the other side, an awesome twisty curvy decent on smooth road for at least 15kms.  It was the type of decent that would have most pure road cyclists salivating and chomping at the bit.  The circuit that was completed was one to remember, consisting of bamboo forests, native trees, interesting villages, and workers busy with chopping down bamboo which even blocked the way on the road… there were several decent climbs, each with passes to stunning vistas of mountains.  This is an area that is slowly gaining in popularity, mostly with mountain bikers, but as more roadies come to see what this place has to offer there will be a steady stream of weekend riders in the future.  The villagers we met en route were friendly as we practiced our Mandarin with them asking questions about the area.  There were some interesting buildings from the Mao era and several ancient bridges hundreds of years old.  Keep scrolling down, as I have added nine more photos to illustrate today’s journey.  The photos are click-able if you want to view them in larger sizes. Enjoy!

Friendly locals enjoying the sun...

This Chef has been busy preparing the food (behind him) for the Chinese New Year.

Riding through the bamboo forest....

A climb through bamboo forest...

More stunning scenery...

Mark Kitto soaking up the beauty of Moganshan

Bamboo is the livelehood of the Moganshan area, and this is going to be used for weaving.

This little boy would not smile for me…perhaps I looked like a foreign devil to him clad in strange clothing!

Summary of today (note I have provided links for some of the products I use in case you want to check them out, excuse the promotion! ;))

  • 93kms in Moganshan with four major climbs and 16kms in Hangzhou city, total is 109kms
  • Bike used:  Velocite’s new 2011 Magnus ‘the Dark Horse’ you can see in some my photos.  It is a real sweet ride…
  • Gear used: Champion System’s custom-made Hansaton winter jacket with wind-stop.  It served well to keep out the chilly mountain air while decending.  Pearl Izumi arm-warmers worn under-neath to keep extra warm.  Soigneur’s Classic Le Cannibal jersey kept me amazingly warm and none of the damp sweaty feel like most regular jerseys.  Pearl Izumi’s carbon full-finger gloves were perfect wind protection and kept those fingers warm. The SKINS bib shorts were extremely comfortable (comparable to ASSOS!) and the FUNN woolen socks kept the feet warm inside my Specialized BG S-Works shoes. For leg-warmers I used the Champion System custom-made ones and they served well for this weather but as it gets colder I’ll need to switch to something heavier duty with fleece lining.  I was probably a little overdressed for today’s weather – the high was in the mid-teens but it would have been lower than 10 degrees on the mountain tops.
  • Food: 3 bananas, 1 Latte, 1 Usana Oatmeal Raisin bar, 4 bottles of water, 2 small cookies….

While I got glorious riding weather today, it is unlikely to stay this way with rain and snow forecasted to fall overnight and the temperatures are going to be sub-zero, with single digit highs for the remainder of the challenge period here in Hangzhou.   So it is certainly going to be a REAL challenge with rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, plus nail-biting temperatures.  I hope that my winter gear is going to get me through this…

391kms left to complete the Rapha Festive 500 Challenge!  Personal goal is to double it!  I’m taking predictions on how close to 1000kms I can get!