By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

The United Kingdom’s deputy representative now has a more personal connection with Taiwan after he recently completed a 920-kilometer cycling challenge around the island. Damion Potter, Deputy Head of the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO), told The China Post during an interview earlier this week that accomplishing the challenge last month has given him a different perspective on Taiwan. Potter said he was invited to take part in the Formosa 900 ride, organized by the Taiwan Bicycle Association, during a visit with Tony Lo, chief executive officer of leading bicycle brand Giant Manufacturing Co., in Taichung this June. Potter, who took up his post July 2013, said he and his family cycle a number of weekends in Taipei. Although he had never ridden more than 20 kilometers at a time, he decided to accept the invitation for the 900-plus km ride. Potter said he took up the challenge not only to physically and mentally challenge himself, to network with commercial contacts and promote the British Office, but also to have the opportunity to get in touch with more locals and ��to show that diplomats don’t just meet other officials and ministers.�� The BTCO official was also participated to raise money for British charity Children in Need. He ultimately managed to raise NT$40,000 during the trip. He was one of the few foreign participants in the Nov. 8-16 tour that attracted 430 participants. The nine-day trip took him and participants through most of Taiwan’s major communities, spending the night in eight different cities during which he met a lot of people and ate all the varieties of local food. He felt warmly welcomed during the whole trip when many people in cities and counties around Taiwan shouted their support as the cycling group passed by. The BTCO official said that he already knew that Taiwan is a beautiful island with incredible mountains and sea views.

But it is a different story when he actually experienced the ��gorgeous nature and scenery�� on the bike. ��Brilliant�� is the word he used in describing his impression of the nine-day bicycle ride around the circumference of Taiwan. There were times when he felt it was extremely painful to continue the cycling challenge after his knees hurt because of the average 10-plus hours of biking daily.

But the strong support of his teammates, colleagues and friends via social media helped him to go on and complete the venture that very few Taiwanese have done. Potter noted that the varied and stunning scenery are the most unforgettable memories he has after concluding the trip.

��I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively around the world �X Taiwan is arguably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen,�� he noted.

He recommended that expatriates in Taiwan join such cycling trips to have a closer and more personal contact with the land.