Taiwan's most popular annual King of Mountain (KOM) challenge at the Taiwain Cycling Festival. (Focus Taiwan)

Taiwan’s most popular annual King of Mountain (KOM) challenge at the Taiwain Cycling Festival. (Focus Taiwan)

The 2016 Taiwan KOM (King of the Mountains) Challenge attracts 385 cyclists from 36 countries set for Friday in Taiwan.

The fifth edition of the Taiwan KOM Challenge forms part of the Taiwan Cycling Festival, and has established itself as Asia’s premier hill climb event and one of the toughest races of its kind in the world according to the Tourism Bureau.

The 105-kilometer route takes the riders from the Qixingtan scenic area on the coast of Hualien County at sea level, and then climbs 87km via the breathtaking Taroko Gorge to a 3,275-meter peak in Wuling near Hehuanshan, the highest point in Taiwan accessible by public road.

The total prize money for the Taiwan KOM Challenge this year is NT$2.41 million (US$76,411), with NT$1 million going to the winner of the men’s event and NT$200,000 to the winner of the women’s event.

Almost half the total consists of 175 foreign participants including Spanish racing cyclist Omar Fraile, who won the mountains classification in the 2016 Vuelta a Espana; and Ibai Salas Zorrozua, another Spanish professional cyclist.

Emma Pooley, a former British professional cyclist who specializes in time trials and hill races at the highest level, and has won several gold medals in British time-trial championships, will compete in the race for the first time.

The participants from Taiwan include professional cyclists Feng Chun-kai (馮俊凱), Huang Ting-ying (黃亭茵), Fan Yung-yi (范永奕) and Chen Chien-liang (陳建良).

Read more on Focus Taiwan.