HE MAY have started taking cycling seriously a lot later in life than most but Ian Baldwin is certainly making up for lost time.

Baldwin, from Bassaleg, began riding bikes when he was young, yet he had never raced competitively before going to see his girlfriend in Taiwan last year.

However, the 47-year-old, who left Wales to live in London to pursue a career in photography, won the first event he entered and instantly became hooked on racing.

Since then he has taken on, and conquered, some of the toughest tests on the planet, most recently the lung-busting Taiwan KOM (King of the Mountain) Challenge.

And not only did the Welshman finish the course for the second year running, he won his age category (M40), completing the punishing 105km climb in under four hours.

Baldwin was one of nearly 400 cyclists to take part in the race, which starts in Hualien and climaxes at the summit of Wuling Mountain, some 3,275m above sea level.

“Although I’ve been riding bikes nearly all my life and I’m 47 now, I never raced until I came to Taiwan to see my girlfriend in 2015,” he said.

“I won the first event I entered and became hooked on racing, with my goal being to enter the 2015 KOM Challenge.

“I had trained hard and was feeling great, and all was going well in the lead group 25km in, but then I had a puncture and lost 20 minutes waiting for a new wheel so went to dead last.

“But with adrenaline pumping I still managed to get back to 47th overall at the finish. I decided then to stay in Taiwan until the next one much to my girlfriend’s delight.”

He continued: “This year pretty much all went to plan. I had team support and on race day the weather was perfect.

“There were far more professional riders this year but I still felt could do well with my aim to finish in under four hours.

“I was in the front group for the first 60km, sometimes leading the pack, but there is a point when the legs say no. The strongest guys carried on up the road but within the second group I managed to finish ahead.

“To ride the 105km race with 90km uphill from zero to more than 3,200m feet is a tough task I must admit.

“Although it’s not until the final 10km the incline gets really steep, by that time fatigue has taken its toll and it’s sheer determination to keep going and turning those pedals – I also had a four-pack of beer waiting at the top to urge me on.”

Baldwin had been approached by cycling team Starbike to try his luck again in this year’s KOM Challenge after finishing second in August’s Maxxis Taroko Challenge, which was held over the same course.

He added: “I lived in Newport until I was in my 30s when I moved to London and worked as a photographer. I still love riding in Wales and do wish I gave bike racing a try earlier.

“But I was partying hard and smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day until I quit in late 2014, so I never thought I’d be any good at racing.

“Anyway, I achieved my goal by coming first in my age group and finishing in under four hours.

“I also beat an Olympian and a few pro riders so I plan to come back in 2017 and have at least eight beers waiting for me at the top next time.”