31 July 2008

Critical Mass

The cyclist violently knocked off his bike by a rookie cop was back at work on Wednesday - and friends said he's not the type to "hold a grudge."

"I'm really sorry, but I'm not talking to the press," Christopher Long, 29, said as he manned an organic fruits-and-vegetables stand at the Union Square farmers market.

"There are charges against me, and I don't want anything to affect my case," said Long, who had two large scabs on his knees from the body block.

Long, of New Jersey, was charged with assault and resisting arrest after the cop insisted the cyclist had tried to run him over in a Critical Mass rally Friday in Times Square.

A dramatic video starkly contradicted rookie Officer Patrick Pogan's statements. It shows the 22-year-old cop running toward Long and slamming him to the sidewalk.

Pogan, a former high school football lineman, has been stripped of his gun and badge while the incident is investigated.

Police sources have said the charges against Long would likely be dropped.

Long will "get over it and he's not the type of guy to hold a grudge," said Justin Ford, 25, a bike courier and a friend of Long's, but Long's lawyer said he may sue.

Ford said he was glad for the videotape record.

"It's really good and important that people are there to film stuff like this and show what really happens," said Ford, echoing statements made by Critical Mass riders alleging police brutality.

"Unfortunately, the . . . incident is part of a pattern of targeting Critical Mass bike riders," said civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, citing three prior occasions when cops were taped manhandling cyclists.



Last place in the Tour de France

[from Wall Streel Journal, July 25th, 2008]

SAINT ETIENNE, France -- As usual in a day following the last big mountain challenges, Stage 18 of the Tour de France finished without incident for its top contenders. Marcus Burghardt, a German riding for Columbia, won Thursday's 122-mile stage from Bourg-d'Oisans to Saint Etienne.

The top five in the general classification crossed the finish line together in the main pack that finished 6 minutes and 50 seconds behind Mr. Burghardt. Spaniard Carlos Sastre, remains in first with the yellow jersey; Luxembourger Frank Schleck is second; Austrian Bernhard Kohl, the presumptive winner of the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey, is third; Cadel Evans, an Australian who is the best time-trialist of the group and the racer many think will claim the yellow jersey after Stage 20's time trial, is fourth; and Russian Dennis Menchov, who might also jump ahead of climbing specialists Mr. Schleck and Mr., Kohl in the time trial, is fifth.

But no matter how those five sort themselves out in the next few days, not one of these champions has a chance at achieving the historic record that's in reach of one of Mr. Evans's unassuming teammates.

Wim Vansevenant, a Belgian riding for Silence Lotto (ninth on the nine-man squad) is the favorite to win his third Lanterne Rouge, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since the first official race in 1903. The French phrase, which translates to "red lantern," is used to describe the racer who finishes dead last in the overall standings when the peloton reaches Paris. (The terminology is borrowed from railway jargon for the archaic practice of hanging a red light on the caboose of trains, which assured station operators that no cars had come uncoupled.)

The designation falls somewhere between insult and accolade. Mr. Vansevenant, who after Stage 18 sits in 150th place, some 3 hours and 45 minutes behind Mr. Sastre, is indeed the worst-placed rider in the Tour de France. But, in turn, he has outlasted those who abandoned the Tour through illness, injury or simple exhaustion; those who were eliminated for failing to finish within each day's time limit and are forced to withdraw; and those who were banned or withdrew for doping-related causes. From year to year, about 20% of the riders drop out. In other words, you can't simply coast to last place; you have to work for it.

The curious combination of a stubborn refusal to fail mixed with an inability to rise to victory traditionally transforms a Lanterne Rouge rider into a cult favorite, even though the accomplishment is neither recognized nor encouraged by Tour officials. The race organization, in fact, has at times had a contentious relationship with the Lanterne Rouge. In 1980, Austrian racer Gerhard Schoenbacher was on his way to a second consecutive last-place when, he says, race officials thought he was getting too much attention. "I got daily interviews," Mr. Schoenbacher told journalist Rupert Guinness in an interview that year. "I was very popular with the crowd and I continued to tell everyone that I liked being last. [The organizers] said I made a mockery of the Tour."

Mid-race, officials instituted a temporary rule: After each stage, the last-place racer would be eliminated. Mr. Schoenbacher defied the rule by finishing in second-to-last place until the final stage, when he plummeted down to collect his Lanterne Rouge.

Along with Belgian Daniel Masson (1922 and 1923), the Dutchman Mathieu Heermans (1987 and 1989), Frenchman Jimmy Casper (2001 and 2004) and Mr. Vansevenant (2006 and 2007), Mr. Schoenbacher is one of five racers in history who was twice Lanterne Rouge in their careers.

With 49 in all, the French have more Lanterne Rouge titles than anyone. Mr. Vansevenant's home country of Belgium is second with 12. Italy has eight, the Netherlands seven, Spain five, Czechoslovakia three, Germany, England, Luxembourg and Austria two, and Switzerland and Algeria each have one. The U.S. has never won a Lanterne Rouge. The closest in terms of general classification was Frankie Andreu in 1996, who finished 111th out of 129; the closest in time was Guido Trenti, who in 2005 finished 34 minutes, 48 seconds ahead of Iker Flores (whose brother, Igor, won the title in 2002, making them the only family members, let alone siblings, to claim the bottom spot).

Mr. Vansevenant, who is considering retirement at the end of this season, hasn't won a race in more than 10 years and has dedicated his career to the role of domestique. He's the rider who carries bottles and food for the team leader, shelters him from the wind, moves him up through the pack when needed for strategy, chases down breakaways that contain the leader's rivals and, if necessary, stops to hand over one of his own wheels or even his bike if the leader needs a replacement. He seems, characteristically, blithely unimpressed by his shot at history. "I do my job for Cadel," he said before the start of Thursday's stage, "and afterwards what happens doesn't matter anymore. Actually, I haven't looked at the General Classification for a couple of days. I've been having a hard enough time I haven't been paying attention."

Mr. Vansevenant's team director, Marc Sergeant, credited his rider's low placing to a combination of physical prowess and race savvy. "He can ride at the front all day when we need him to," said Mr. Sergeant as he stood beside Mr. Vansevenant near their team bus. "But when his part is done, he has the intelligence to know he should relax so he can come back strong the next day."

In winning three in a row, Mr. Vansevenant will not only set a record but also, within the decidedly ambiguous context of the Lanterne Rouge, assume the status of greatest last-place rider ever. Previously, that honorific probably belonged not to one of the two-time winners, but to Jacky Durand, a Frenchman who, in 1999, achieved the supremely counterintuitive feat of simultaneously winning the Lanterne Rouge and the official award for Most Aggressive Rider (which paid €100,000). "I don't mind being beaten," Mr. Durand said in a press conference that year. "What I hate is being beaten when I haven't tried."

Mr. Durand's Lanterne Rouge was the fifth in a seven-year run of last-place finishes by the French, who hold the record of 15 in a row (from 1903-1921, with a three-year gap in the from 1915 – 1917 when the Tour was interrupted by World War I). The antihero nature of the Lanterne Rouge feels modern, but its mystique may have been established with that very first title. Arsene Millocheau finished nearly 65 hours behind the winner in 1903, then vanished into history, never to race the Tour de France again.

Some cycling fans discover the lore of the Lanterne Rouge and become captivated by how it rewards fruitless struggle and alchemizes failure into a kind of success. You'll know you've become one of them if, Friday, you look first at the bottom of the standings instead of the top.

30 July 2008

MOB's Open House

Never even in my wildest dreams, I would have thought that one of my friends would wait in line for hours in front of the Shinjuku Krispy Kreme Donuts Outlet, just to have a suitable present to bring to the open house party. Thank you so much, Natascha, we really felt loved by you.

Also the Shumai from Ryoko tasted wonderful the next day with German grill ketch-up (red bottle - light green cap).

We lightened up more than 300 tea lights which I bought especially for the event at IKEA in support of the more than 300.000 potential victims of a potential earthquake to occur one day in Tokyo - another brilliant idea copied from the Onion Network.

Yes, IKEA, the cradle of modern civilization. Various discussions in the evening centered around the question what IKEA really is. The biggest restaurant in the world? A convenient way for parents to meet and to get rid of their kids for two hours? For me, I check the catalog for new furniture and drive to IKEA to buy it. But once there, I don't like the design or the quality or it is so much different than I have imagined. So I never buy. But I always drive home with a trunk load full of tealights.

Another topic in which particular Joerg was very much interested was Fuko. I checked also some of her youtube videos but decided that I cannot possible post the links here. So please find out for yourself if really necessary. But don't do this in the office or if you are catholic.
So the open house party is over by now and I am left with huge amounts of beer, chips and other stuff. So please feel free to give me a quick call and come over to my house, I am there most of the evenings now.


To bring you in the mood...
fierce heat 猛暑 predicted for this sunday!

+ here's a movie:

Cyclist clings to hood in car attack

Watch out during your home leave, David.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A road rage incident between a bicyclist and a driver ended with the cyclist on the hood of the car and a witness got it on video, according to investigators.

The video, taken on a cell phone, was seized as evidence in the criminal case and Sgt. Brian Schmautz with the Portland Police Bureau confirmed that it was authentic.

“With the victim hanging on to the suspect's windshield wipers, the suspect drove northbound on 58th at a high rate of speed. When the suspect reached Southeast 60th Avenue, he slowed down enough for the victim to get off the car,” Schmautz explained.

It all started a little while earlier near the intersection of SE 58th Avenue and SE Washington Street in Portland, when cyclist Jason Rehnberg, 37, yelled profanities at driver James Millican, 21, and told him to slow down.

Schmautz said at that point, Millican stopped his car and began to chase the victim. Initially, Rehnberg got away, but then a short time later, Millican spotted the cyclist behind him.

“The victim stated that the suspect then backed up in an attempt to hit him with the car. The victim jumped off the bike just before the suspect hit the bike, damaging it,” Schmautz said.

Two witnesses told investigators that they stood in front of Millican’s car, along with Rehnberg, and tried to get his license number.

“As they did so, the suspect drove his car toward the three people. The two witnesses were able to get out of the way, but Rehnberg ended up on the hood of the suspect's car.”

That’s when Schmautz said Millican sped off with Rehnberg on his hood, clutching his windshield wipers to keep from sliding off.

“When the suspect reached Southeast 60th Avenue, he slowed down enough for the victim to get off the car,” Schmautz said.

One witness got video of the cyclist on the hood of the car and gave it to investigators.

Millican was eventually arrested on several charges including attempted assault, DUII, criminal mischief and reckless driving.

29 July 2008

In the clouds

With my family in Germany, I was planing a suicidal tour with Tom last Saturday in preparations of the races in Nariki, Shuzenji and Shiobara. However, all proposals coming from him were not suicidal, but a combination of different kind of tortures followed by suicide: Akiyama, Hinazuru, Suzugane ... if these three words come up in an IQ test and you are asked to name the logically following words, my idea would be Waterloo, Iwojima, and Stalingrad. All this followed by another ascent up to Matsuhime from Sarubashi. So after exchange of some e-mails we decided to go our own ways. The climbing performance level between us is just too big. Two weeks ago climbing up Dozaka, Tom was almost falling off his bike because of boredom, while I was in the process of melting away. Small lumps of myself were already scattered along the road and what was left was ghastly white and looked unhealthy.
The only hill I would ever climb again would be Dogenzaka, I thought then.
So, the logical conclusion was, that we do things independent from each other where we are clearly at different levels, and that we do things together, where we perform about the same. Concerning the later both of us came spontaneously to the conclusion that drinking beer at Ishikawa brewery should not reveal significant gaps in performance. So we opted for different ways to the same goal.

I left the house rather late and started to ride along the Tamagawa. It has been a long time since I rode on the right side (Kawasaki side) so I took the road to Noborito, then crossed again at Fuchu. I met another fast guy and pulled him at 37 km/hr along until the bridge after Y-Park. Then I took it easier until I reached the 7-Eleven at Itsukaichi. It was hot. Very hot. So I just bought some supplies and started the approach to Kazahari. I know that I would be slow and that I could not go for another Togebaka record, but it least I wanted to go in one stretch up to Kazahari Toge.

I was already slow from Honjuku to the Y-cross, surprisingly the road to Uenohara was closed for repairs. I was also slow from the Y to the deserted toll station. And even slower up on the road to Tomin no Mori. On the other hand, I never had the feeling that I wouldn't make it. My legs were feeling strong and steady, I just didn't hat the capacity to go faster because of the heat. I passed Tomin no Mori and went higher towards Kazahari. Later when I checked the records, I found out that only one time before I made the complete climb up to Kazahari in one go. The road was still dry, but I could hear already the sound of thunder from the mountains and I was wondering how the weather would be on the other side. Above Tomin no Mori everything was already hidden in the mist. Soon I was enveloped in the mist and the road became slightly wet. There were the usual amateur car and bike racers and at one time after taking a sharp corner at perhaps 10 km/hr, I heard a sports car approaching from behind and then the sound of screaming brakes.

This can make me quite nervous. Because you hear the sound of brakes and then you are from behind. Or not. I was not this time, but I had the strong desire to hit the driver. Preferably from behind, with a long piece of strong wood. Anyway, soon I was on the top and as the weather as getting worse, I started the descent to Okutama immediately and without a break on the top. But as soon as I had started, it started to rain heavily. No way that I would make it in this conditions down.

So that's why after loosing about 100 m in elevation, I turned back and climbed Kazahari again from the other side. Once I was on top the road was still dry. "Lucky", I thought the rain is moving in from Okutama and the high mountain is preventing the rainclouds to move on to Itsukaichi. So I started again the deccent to Tomin no Mori with the intention to take a break there.

I was soooo wrong. In fact, I was in the clouds when I was on top of Kazahari. And there is no rain in the clouds. And I was below the clouds on both sides of Kazahari - and there was a lot of raindrops coming out from the clouds. So I should have stayed in the clouds? Good idea, if to stay dry would have been my only goal. But it was already pretty cold. And there was a more urgent and pressing goal: To stay alive. A big thunderstorm going on and very close to me I could hear:


Which is Japanese, in English the thunderstorm sound would have been :


So I ignored the Tomin no Mori area and went on with the descent. The rain was getting harder. Just when I turned a corner, I could see a garage belonging to a farmhouse and I brought the bike to a stop and entered. It was a nice and cozy place - compared to what was going on outside.
Outside the raindrops came down in big splashes and the drain was not able to keep up with the downpoor of water. Inside I found some old newspaper, laid them down on the ground, unfolded my bike bag and took a short nap. I have no idea how long I slept. Gradually the weather was getting better and after a while I continued to Itsukaichi and then along Mutsumi Kaido to the Ishikawa Brewery. Speed was good and I felt well.

Tom and Nishibe-san, who decided to ride with Tom today where not there when I arrived. I asked the waitress if we could sit outside, as insider the temperature was close to 0 degress and anyway we were pretty sweaty and so we would scare away the other guests.

After 10 minutes Tom and Nishibe arrived and we had some nice beers. Ishikawa is a micro brewery and they offer quite some nice types of beer. We also had some good food to eat. Tom asked what the "pasta dish of today" is and the waitress answered "something with octopus". So I asked if we could have the "pasta dish of yesterday". Or tomorrow, whatever. Also we asked if the beer of today has something to do with octopus. So we had a great time and lots of great stories were told.

When we had soaked up enough beer we started the 50 km trip home. Tom turned a fast wheel on the Tamagawa and Nishibe and me were following in his draft. At one of the S-slopes to ascent to higher levels I crossed between some pillars and I didn't notice that between two gutters on the ground a gap has opened. My front wheel got stucked and I fell down. The bicycle was OK, my ellbow was bloody and a flat front tire was quickly exchanged with the help of Nishibe-San and Tom.

We then continued and at one point we have lost Nishibe and I was alone drafting behind Tom. I said goodbye when Tom was moving away from the Tamagawa towards home and when I was app. on the other side of Noborito on the dirt road I had another flat tire. And no exchange tube left. I had no choice but to pack up my bike, walk to Noborito station and take the train home.

I was pretty exhausted when I was home. But it had been a good day with some interesting things happening. Nothing special, just a good day.

UCI denies Japanese payments were payback for Olympics favors

[from The Japan Times, 29.07.2008]
more on BBC news

AIGLE, Switzerland —
Cycling’s world governing body on Monday denied claims it was involved in an Olympics corruption scandal.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said money received from Japanese cycling organizations in the 1990s was not payback for promoting the keirin track discipline as an Olympic event.

An investigation by the British Broadcasting Corp alleged that $3 million was paid to the UCI, including to cover marketing costs and some travel expenses of then-president and International Olympic Committee member Hein Verbruggen.

“A thorough examination of our records and interviews with those involved has turned up no evidence that this was anything other than a straightforward, completely proper arrangement to promote track cycling,” the UCI said in a statement. “The agreement did not include any provision regarding keirin’s acceptance as an Olympic sport or even a commitment by UCI to seek its inclusion in the Olympic program.

“As UCI exists to promote cycling, it is perfectly logical that UCI would cooperate with Japanese national cycling groups to encourage international interest in track cycling.”

The keirin discipline involves riders being paced around the track by a motorcycle before sprinting to the finish. It is popular in Japan as a betting event.

Keirin was included on the UCI world championships program in the 1980s after strong lobbying from Japan but was expected to be dropped in 1992.

However, it was granted Olympic status in 1996 following a promotion campaign led by the UCI, and debuted as a medal sport at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The BBC produced documents it said showed that Japanese cycling interests began paying some UCI expenses in 1997.

It reported that Verbruggen said the payments were received in “total transparency.”

The 67-year-old Dutchman was a member of the IOC from 1996-2005 in his role as head of an international federation.

Verbruggen was re-elected to the IOC after stepping down as UCI president and is chairman of the coordination commission for the Beijing Games. He retains an active role with cycling’s governing body as a vice president and member of its management committee.

The UCI said Monday there was nothing incorrect in the payments.

“The agreement produced clear benefits for all track cycling disciplines as evidenced by the superb progression of track cycling over the past 10 years. In addition, all expenses related to the agreement were reviewed by an independent auditor and deemed proper.”

The governing body said that Japanese money helped fund the hiring of a full-time cycling coordinator and contributed to building a world cycling center at UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland, which includes an indoor velodrome.

27 July 2008

August 2~3 all-weekend cycling to Enzan with attack of “Japan’s Galibier”: Ōdarumi-tōge


To all our cycling buddies :

Yesterday, while enjoying a couple great seasonal beers at the Ishikawa Brewery, Michael and I decided to organize the second edition of the “Enzan-Odarumi Classic” next weekend. Michael and I are inviting all our cycling buddies from Positivo Espresso, Team NFCC and friends to join us on yet another epic ride!

Important note: this cycling weekend is not conceived as a race or an event for demonstrating one’s hill climbing or downhill skills…nobody to be left behind + leisurely pace promised!

Barring typhoons, we will be attacking one of Japan’s most beautiful “hors-catégorie” mountain passes…the Ōdarumi-tōge 大弛峠 in Yamanashi Prefecture (no, again this is not the lowish Ōtarumi-tōge大垂水峠 near Takao!) on Sunday, Aug. 3. The previous day, on Saturday, Aug. 2, we will ride down into Enzan (塩山)after crossing a few short and some longer hills and stay overnight at our “base camp,” Sasamotoya-ryokan(笹本屋旅館)with onsen. For the return trip to Tokyo, we will take the train from Enzan Station.

Sat. (8/2)

8:30: Get-together at Sekidobashi

16:00: Arrival in Enzan – Check in at Sasamotoya-ryokan followed by onsen, tempura dinner with isshōbin (1.8 liter bottle) fruity Katsunuma wine for those who desire one… Following dinner, for those still feeling a little dry, the local Enzan bar where Snow-white serves cocktails of ditto name, is just around the corner (don’t worry, Guinness is served as well).

Sun. (8/3)

7:00 Breakfast

8:00: Start of our climb all the way to the top of Ōdarumi-tōge (66km)
This mountain pass/ridge boasts Japan’s paved road at the highest elevation (2,360m). The length of the climb itself is 29.7km at an average (and rather mild) inclination of 6.3%. We will start at about 500m and climb up to 2,360m…once above the 2,000m line, one feels the air becoming thinner! Views are simply breathtaking. Going down you see the entire Kofu Basin opening up in front of you.

16:00: return to Sasamotoya, pick up ruck-sacks with rinko bag, ride to Enzan Station (5 minutes from Sasamotoya).

17:00: train back to Tokyo

* For our Japanese friends joining:


* Here is the route:


* Sasamotoya-ryokan:
Excellent food / great hospitality…10,650 yen/person (inc. dinner & breakfast)

* “Must-bring-along” items:
rinko-bag for return trip
full-finger gloves (or inner gloves)

For those wishing to join, please drop a line either to MOB or TOM preferably before Thursday (7/31) ! The more souls, the more fun…

26 July 2008

Ishikawa Brewery

Mob, Tom & Ishibe assembled at Ishikawa Brewery after separate rides through the thundermountains in and around Okutama....
Discussed over a couple great-tasting beers the ENZAN-ODARUMI cycling trip planned for next weekend...more details to follow soon!

25 July 2008

Tsukuba Eight Hours Endurance Race Photos

Allsports has released today 20549 photos from the Tsukuba endurance race. Who has the time to look through approximately 400 web pages and check all the photos. Well, I checked the first 31 web pages (I admit, during work) and could find some photos of Alain and me. Then I gave up. No wonder that the Japanese economy is in a down spiral. The amount of time checking Allsport photos during work will take a heavy impact on office labour productivity. This is potentially more dangerous than Minesweeper and Solitaire in the Nineties. The clever folks from Allsports have disabled PrintScreen copy, so now you can not just copy and paste the pics as you see them on the web page. The even more clever folks from TCC have advised the usage of Quick Screen Capture to come around this nasty problem. So here we have two examples from Allsports. First we see Alain in his chic AG2R shirt as he is battling it out for the top position during the early phases of the race. Then you see me, taking it easy after we have fallen back to 50th position during the later stages of the race. As usual I look awful fat on the bike. I thought that I could dampen the impact of this by buying a Cervelo frame with large members, but to no avail. Also, as we know now, we made a big mistake when designing the Positivo Espresso jerseys. For some reason, our design is enhancing potential body problem areas so all of us look double fatty in the jerseys as we normally are. Even Marek will look like Bud Spencer (right, not middle). For some mysterious reason this effect does not work on Tom's daughter.

Here are some more photos from Tsukuba taken by Alain. This one shows four members of our three rider strong team; Alain is taking position at the start.
Then I gave him a big push so that he gains momentum at the start. Actually I pushed him so hard, that three seconds later he has completed the first lap and appears on the left side of the photo. I like my super-dynamic pushing style. Actually I look much more dynamic than riding on a bike. Perhaps here is where the future lies.
Some small buggers try to use the big draft I am creating. Of course I flew away before they could hang on.
See, I am basically gone.
But the shape of my body really gives me to think. See, I stopped smoking in May 2007 and as usual after stopping I rapidly gained weight, in particular during the Christmas season. I am now down again to 98 kg, which is still much to high to survive the forthcoming races in Shuzenji, Gunma and Shiobara. My leg power and heart is OK, but there is just too much weight to be shifted upwards. With this power and 15kg less, I should have no problems.
So I will try to loose some more weight for the Shuzenji race on 9/14 and later for the 72 km of CSC Gunma. So by the end of the year I will keep up with Tom and compete for the Toge baka records in earnest. Be warned, Tom!

23 July 2008


I would like to make a longer tour through the Western mountains on Saturday, is anybody interested to join? I desperately need some hillclimb training to survive Nariki, Shuzenji, Shiobara and Gunma races in the month to come. So I was first thinking about a Honjuku- Tomin approach, down to Okutama, then cross over to Chichibu and try the track for the Tokyo Hill Climb race on August 17th. It might also be possible to visit the new house from Ryoko and Stephen close by on this tour.

But then yesterday by chance I found this secret bicycle route map of Japan with new great routes. I suggest we start at the tower protecting the bay and proceed to the East over the three hill of Japan until we reach the edge. Careful, you might be shot at from the castle in the mountains so bring some armor.

Any other suggestion is also welcome.

22 July 2008


On Thursday my family will leave for a two week vacation to Germany which will allow me to have two weeks vacation from my family. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and I am looking forward to the day they are back in Japan. I am also nostalgic about my teenage-punk-lifestyle and in the tradition of "parents are gone - the house is open" I would like to invite everybody to come over on


I thought that everybody wanted to ride out on Saturday and perhaps on Sunday, so I didn't want to spoil the riding fun. Better to be tired next day in the office perhaps. Please also bring your own family and friends along. We even have two rooms free if you want to stay overnight.


This is not a Japanese party so please be aware of the following deviations from the classical local party rules (party tradition since 1990):

  • There is no fixed starting time
  • The party will not be over after two hours thirty minutes
  • It is perfectly OK to arrive four hours too late
  • Please bring some food and drinks, very little will be prepared by the host
  • The host will not take care of his guests but focus on his own amusement
  • The music will be loud and noisy
  • The host has not thought about the composition and matching of the guests
  • There might be some guests there you don't know
  • It is not appreciated to bring flowers, presents or tsumaranai monos
I will bring a beamer from the office and we can watch some movies on the screen. We also have a soccer table. During the week I will send out invitations, so that you know about the location and how to come there. Please give me a quick note if you have not received an e-mail on Wednesday night.

21 July 2008

Race Report: JCRC CSC Gunma

After racing in Tsukuba on Saturday I left the place early as there was not very much to celebrate and drove my car in direction Gunma CSC.

There are no highways connecting Tsukuba with Gunma as both are places where noboby want to go in the first place and if, then only from Tokyo. So I drove about 120 km to Takasaki on country roads and had the chance to witness the decay of the Japanese countryside.
There are places which are basically deserted at 8 PM in the evening. Everybody seems to be 90 years or old and is sound asleep in bed at such late time.

I saw also some very big pachinko parlours.

It took me almost three hours for these ridiculous short distance - about the same time it took us to ride 120 km during the Tsukuba race on our bikes.
I was still under the heavy influence of Jerome's wonder dried plums and continued to fill the cabin of my car with inflammable flatulent gases. That is not so bad when you are driving, but at one point I stopped at a 7-eleven to buy some food and when I returned to my car and opened the door the pure disgust was so extreme that it took utmost self discipline to enter.

Anyway, many times I lost the way as the cars navigation system is running on a data set which is more than five years old. Be ensured that despite the fact that nobody is living in the country side any longer, there are many new roads built, tunnels dugged and bridges erected. The navi ignored them all and showed me the way through the most backward tracks and the "hosoi michi" of the North.

I arrived at Takasaki at around 11 PM and started the demolition of the toilet. Hard to imagine that this hotel room can be ever rented out again. Looked for a Ramen shop (or "Law men shop", as I have seen recently in Tokyo), couldn't find one still open and went to wara wara. Then I had six hours of sleep before I left the next morning for Gunma CSC.

The track itself is at 800 m elevation somewhat close to the ski resort of Naeba. There is a Shinkansen station near by. This is all very well, but it is extremely hard to find the road to the place. When I went there the first time in April this year I thought that I have completely lost my way. Or lost my mind. Or both. Or somebody else did, but I could not imagine that this road was used by somebody else then lodging trucks. But this is exactly the way to Gunma CSC.

There is a very good documentation on the web about the
current state of the city of Chernobyl, which was evacuated after the reactor catastrophe in 1986. And there is one photo I like in particular, showing a ferris wheel. Take a look at this photo and then you have more or less the precise image of what Gunma CSC is like. Sure, it must have been nice in the sixties, but now it is hard to imagine why somebody should some here to visit. There are nowadays many places like this in Japan and one would like to scream "Can't you see that your country is falling apart?". I was once a guest in a village close to Itoigawa n Niigata prefecture where the youngest inhabitant was more than 60 years old. It was a beautiful village with a lot of old farm houses and the people were so nice and friendly. But it is not hard to imagine that 20 years from now there will be nobody left there. The school was locked up since decades. There was no store, nothing. If you don't believe me take a look for example at the book Deathtopia. Here are some more photos of the Gunma CSC.

Refreshing room at 2. level
Terrace with greenery [green roofs are now a must in Tokyo anyway, thanks Ishihara].
The restaurant Turini, named in plural after an Italian town.

And last not least, for every cyclist with a body weight of 90 kg and more Gunma CSC is a hell of a course. Constants ups and downs don't let you find your rhythm and suck all what is left or energy out of your body. Especially if you attended an eight hours endurance race the day before. Here is a layout map of the track:
I added some comments. Funny enough, this maps explains the resting places around the track. You probably need them. It is really a difficult track. It may not be as hard as CSC Shuzenji, that's true, but for me it is cycling hell.

I was starting in the D class, 6 laps of 6 kms, total 36 kms. In April it was five laps and I finished in D class in 37th position with 1:01:38, the winner was at the finish in about 50 minutes. Oh, did I mention it? 37 riders reached the finish. With this time I would have made also almost last place in E, F and X class. So basically it was a complete disaster. This time my goal was to give everything until the fifth lap. Then I could not be overtaken any longer and would be allowed to finish. The highest risk was to be lapped and get disqualified, I didn't even thought about reaching a good position.

Before the race we could do one practice lap. The down part is no problem, I could easily stay with the peloton. The exhausting up and down was even exhausting when done in a training lap and at the uphill hell I was not even able to keep the pace despite the fact that this was training.

My plan was to stay with the main field as long as possible and draft until the uphill hell on the second lap. Also Goro Akiyama was in the same D class race, he had woken up at 4:30 AM in Tokyo and took the Shinkansen and a Taxi to the race.

Then it was already time to start. The first kilometer was behind a pacemaking motorcycle and I was in the front group. Then the pace increased as the race started and I could keep up with the peloton during the up and down part. I utilized my down momentum to accelerate up which went very well until we reached uphill hell. My speed dropped to 17 km/hr and the other guys overtook me until I was the last one and then I lost contact. So despite having a good lap time of 11:01, I lost already one to two minutes on the top. I was then on my own for a while until I was overtaken by the D2 group which has started three minutes behind us. I tried to keep up with them, but again I lost contact at the uphill hell. I took me 11:31 for the second lap, which is still good for me and what I needed not to be overtaken.

I was subsequently overtaken by riders from the E1 and E2 class groups. Nevertheless my lap times were OK. with 11:20 min and 11:38 min. I could even overtake some guys from the endurance race that has started at 8 AM and which continued until the end of our race. There is this guy who I meet at almost every JCRC race and who looks like the killer in Silence of the Lamps. I overtook him.

After five laps I had a total time of 57:15, more than four minutes faster than April. And I was not overtaken. The winner finished in 59:38, so much faster than my April time. From the forth lap on I even closed on another D class rider and we stayed together for the remaining distance of the race. I started to took it easy at the last lap. I would reach the finish and it doesn't matter if I come in in last or second last position. As I had only a lap time of 12:43 min, I then finished in last position.
Believe me, I am not ashamed to finish in last position at Gunma CSC. I have been much faster than in April and I have made it to the finish line. I was so exhausted but happy. Goro Akiyama of course made a much better job and finished in forth place.
Goro was so kind to allow me to carry his winner certificate and prizes to my car so it looked like that I have won something. We then stored all our belongings in my car and re-dressed. As we were standing more or less naked in the countryside, I threated him to take pictures and post them on the NFCC website to provide some more excitement there.

We had a very nice trip back, it is so much more fun to travel with somebody as pleasant as Goro is. We were discussing the most urgent and pressing issues of the Japan of today: Why do streets have no names in Japan? But why has almost every slope one? [Goro's explanation: Because we Japanese like hillclimbs). How can you avoid getting tickets? Why should you not run over red lights during traffic safety week in front of the assembled police force of Okutama? And so on.

So within no time we were back in Tokyo and I could finally collapse in my room.

Anna went home

After living with us for almost one year, Anna has left us to return to Germany and to start studying architecture in Germany from this autumn onwards. She has attended our races in Saiko and Hotaka last year and at one point I had her close to buy Tom's TREK bike. Virtually on the day before it was sold to david who wanted it as a gift for his father.

We had a nice Sayonara dinner with Stephen and Ryoko some days ago which ended very late in he morning at the bar in La Tableaux in Daikainyama. The next morning I tried to climb the slopes of Yamanashi with Jerome, Tom and Nishibe-san after only four hours of sleep.
Anna made in safely home to her hometown of Braunschweig, also called the pearl at the zone border. Unfortunately her turtle was arrested at London airport and her fate is still unknown. Goodbye Anna, come back any time.


Tom's best-kept secret...


Japanese cheerleaders trying to spell "TOKYO" in alphabet letters.

It is Monday morning and after a hard weekend of racing I find the time to write about the race on Saturday.

From the start on we had difficulties to form a team. Alain and Olivier were on board almost immediately when the proposal came up to race in
Tsukuba this year, but with only three riders and eight hours racing time we would have not stood a chance. And be very exhausted in the end. Alain and me tried to contact as many other riders as possible, sending personal e-mails, calling, resorting to blackmail and even offering money (well, 500 Yen of sweets to my son), and finally Jerome and his two sons Leonard (13) and Augustin (10) came to our rescue. I was very happy, as I had planned to attend another JCRC race in Gunma CSC the following day and I don't want to race 2 - 3 hours on the day before in Tsukuba. As we didn't know how many riders we were, I registered only Alain, Olivier and me as a three rider team.

So when we arrived at the race, we got only three team numbers and we need to change them secretly between the riders. This is not exactly the way it should be done, but as we had no ambitions to make the podium no harm was done [
Note: Please delete all traces of e-mails discussing race strategy and podium ambitions send before the race from your PCs. It is just embarrassing.]

We were nevertheless probably the only six rider strong three rider team in
Tsukuba ever and I still believe we deserve a special price for most skilled cheating and one more for radiating appropriate image of foreigners in Japan. I arrived early at 7:30 AM at the race track to reserve a good place close to the pit. (note: This is the image of us Germans, that we go to the beach at 4 AM in the morning, place a towel at a good place and come back at 10 AM to demand our rightfully reserved place). At least I thought so. But at least 298 of the 300 other teams seemed to be there as well. I found a nice place close to our pit nevertheless and erected our sunshade. After I fixed everything I was approached by two officials who told me that tents can only be erected at the yellow line and that I had to remove my stuff immediately. Yes, this is unfortunately Tsukuba. A lot of rules which are not necessarily logical but there since the race started. Tradition since 2003. More conflicts with the officials would follow in the course of the day.

Nevertheless I like
Tsukuba. First of all, it has been the first race I have ever attended, at the tender age of 40. I was there with Juliane and the Veloz team [now: Tamagawa Cyclists] and we were doing pretty bad. But I was much impressed with racing. In 2006 we went there again with David, david and cycling Jane, targeting a podium place in the "racing mixed" category and in fact we ended up 56th overall and 10th in our class. Also there are always a lot of good looking female riders attending and many similar good looking family support staff. It brings tears to my eyes when I see how some of the riders are pampered by their wives and girlfriends. They prepare barbecue for them, hold umbrellas to provide shade on the start grid and they do many other chores I can only dream about asking my wife.

So I took our tent to the top of the pits where there was just some space free and then Jerome and his kids and Alain and Olivier came already.

There are some important traditions at
Tsukuba (since 2003) and one of them is the cheerleaders performance from nearby Toyo Highschool before the race. I took a lot of photos this year. Actually I didn't bother to take much more photos after the cheerleaders performance. Of the race or so, for example. Cheerleading is very important in Japan. The main purpose is to cheer up the audience to survive baseball and shogi games. Often cheerleaders are supported by dynamic music bands to even enhance the cheerful atmosphere.

Then it was already time to start racing.

Alain taking position in his new NFCC team uniform in blue and white at the start grid

As Alain is extremely skillful of using his extended elbows (I still believe that he has some steel rivets attached to his bones below the skin) to push and shovel his way through large group of riders, he was the rider to start. And as usual, despite starting from position 174, so almost in the middle of the field, he managed his way to 7th place after the first lap and stayed with the fast group. After some more laps he was even in 2nd position which made us, and especially the kids very excited. Our best standing ever!

Alain in second place after the 10th lap (4th from the right)

Actually the kids should not have been that excited, as we decided before the race, that they would not ride in case we show a good performance. But of course we couldn't kept the pace. We cheered up Alain as good as we could, I even used what remained of my French language knowledge ("Allez Alain - only 140 laps to go!") and hoped that he stays out forever, so that I could enjoy the relative comfort of my camping chair and the good food brought by Jerome. But then it was Jeromes turn and then mine and then Olivier and we dropped to 20th place. So we decided to let the kids do some laps, whereas we dropped to 30th place. But that was ok.

In the meantime one of the race officials kept picking on us. First he was not satisfied how our team entered the pit area. Then he gave us a warning because we were standing outside the yellow line in the pit (as everybody else did) and then he asked me to fix our sun shade better. He was clearly looking at us and trying to apply some ijime at every occasion that was offered to him. I didn't want to claim, as our rather unique six rider three rider team was anyway constantly in danger of getting disqualified. It was getting really hot. Later the CICLO speedmeter on my bike showed 47 degrees Celsius. I don't believe that, but it was really, really hot.

The key to success in
Tsukuba is to stay with a good and fast group and hold out as long as you can.
Key to success : Stay in a fast group, cooperate.
The track is very flat, so there is no much variation of speed, although you need to accelerate some times. Basically one can run all the time in a 35 - 45 km/hr range if you are riding with a group. If you are alone on the track it is rather hard to keep a good speed. In the afternoon it also gets windy, so in some places your speed might drop to 30 km/hr or even less. So the best strategy is to go out, take it easy at 30 - 40 km/hr and wait and preserve energy for a fast group to overtake you, then hang on to their tail as long as possible. My first round of laps was not very good, as I was on my own almost all the time and I couldn't find a good group, neither restricting myself to go slow. But the second and third time were much better and I hang on to some fast guys, even leading these groups some time. We all did a good job, but with the kids doing slower laps and more frequent changes we dropped down to the 50th position.

Jerome had his bag of
wonder dried plums with him. This, he explained to me, is his secret recipe for reviving his energy levels and showing good and strong performances during long races. Well, I am not sure what exact performance enhancing impact it has on his metabolism, but in my case the only performance enhancing impact I could notice was a more physical one, similar to jet propulsion. This was becoming more pronounced during the races and it has the interesting side effect that other riders drafted behind me only for very short periods before dropping from their bikes. Leaves were turning brown, insects stopped chirping, beavers started suddenly to prepare for the winter despite 47 degrees of heat and flocks of birds migrated in direction Siberia. Why is there no big yellow warning label on the packing?

In any case we had now stabilized our 50th place. Actually unknown to me, we were called by the race officials and told that after 4 hours or so we were in 3rd position as a 3 rider racing team, so Jerome collected some (useless) prices, which we nevertheless will put on display someplace.
Stabilize the pace at 50th place midterm during the race.

After some more warnings from the race officials (Jerome had to remove his speed bars of his bike, one of his kids was not wearing gloves when he rode) Jerome and his kids went home and our six rider three rider team was reduced to three riders, Alain, Olivier and me. We all felt that this was somehow unfair after all this unfair discrimination we had to endure during the past 6 hours. Jerome has told his wife that he would be home at 7 PM, assuming that an eight hours endurance race would include 4 hours of transportation to and from the race track. An understandable thought when one considers the patience and endurance one need to navigate a car through the traffic in Tokyo.

As the pit closes 30 minutes before the finish of the race, we fixed again our strategy. We were down to 55
th place and we wanted to recover as much as possible. So we asked Alain to do some laps, and then Olivier and me would alternative until shortly before the pit closing whereas Alain would do the last 30 minutes. Alain hold out very long, so I did additional 6 laps after him which were fast and done with a strong group of riders. At the very end I accelerated to more than50 km/hr and sprinted away even from this fast group. Some guys tried to follow me and they were left dumbfolded when I entered into the pitlane at the very last moment.

This left only a few laps for Olivier to go and then Alain hat to come out again to do the last thirty minutes in one go.
He was doing well in a fast group and we cheered him up ("Go Alain, only 20 laps to go to the top!") from the comfort of our pits. Also we flirted with the women teams to the left and the right, as there was nothing else to do. Then the last lap was called and as it was getting dark the race came to an end.
Fast and furious final sprint.

As I found out later, we ended overall in 49
th position. My best Tsukuba result so far, a good start for Jerome's kids and Olivier who did his first race. And also a nice goodbye to Alain who is leaving for France soon. After the last lap all riders assemble on the track and then they ride together one more ceremonial lap to the start. There is some music (I guess it was Titanic or so) and some fireworks, really nice, festive atmosphere. This is also a good old Tsukuba tradition and we were all very happy that we survived to see the fireworks and made a good show.

We were a good team and we had a lot of fun. And that is all we ask for.

Good teamwork by us.

Race analysis will follow later, once I have the lap chart from the organizers.

Best team name newly discovered : UGA ("Ultra Genki Athletes").

Favourite You Tube Cycle Clips

On the TCC website there is a good post about the favorite youtube clips of its member. The idea is so good and being in Japan and getting used to local customs, I copied it immediately. So here is a selection of the clips from TTC, please feel free to add more.



[note : mute volume]

15 July 2008

Remembrance of Things Past

My commute today brought to mind a special ride that I enjoyed with Jerome almost exactly 3 years ago in the summer of 2005.

We had each returned triumphant from our respective major cycling events of the year. Jerome had completed the Transalp Tour with Juliane, along with hundreds (thousands?) of other two-person teams. I had survived the less-well-known "Matt Tour," going from Knoxville Tennessee, over the Smokey Mountains and then along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive back toward its terminus in Front Royal, Virginia with two vans and about 15 riders, led by Dr. Matt Parker.

We were both in peak condition, and the heat of Tokyo summer seemed no barrier as we headed out Yaen-Kaido (Local Rte 20) to get out of town as quickly as possible toward Doshi Michi, Yabitsu and scenic country in the hills.

What, you might ask, brought the 2005 ride to mind as I commuted to work this morning? It was not the heat, but an aroma. A very ripe, sweet, rich and complex aroma, perhaps better described as a stench.

Yes, back in 2005, as we headed out to the country we repeatedly got stuck behind, passed, were passed by, and then got stuck again behind, a sky blue colored truck with a familiar shape to Tokyo residents, a garbage truck full of "nama" (raw, ripe) garbage. The stench made Jerome pretty nauseous, and we eventually pulled off for an unscheduled stop at a 7/11 store to recover. As usual, Jerome's recovery was fast and the rest of the ride went fine, but the memory of the garbage truck lingered (maybe it was in our clothes?).

This morning (Tuesday), the trucks must have been picking up some very ripe garbage that had been sitting in a very hot garbage bins since late last week. Maybe the truck we saw in 2005 had been driving around and around for the past 3 years, as the same load of garbage grew more and more ripe? Except today I passed MANY of these trucks. I must have been going through an area where Tuesday is scheduled for burnable, raw garbage removal. The smell was, memorable, even unforgetable.

And now for something completely different, a report from the Onion News Network on President Bush's latest disaster relief effort:

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

Saturday Ride Profile

14 July 2008

This Heat

In the eighties there was an experimental new wave band called "This Heat". Some of their live performances are even preserved on YouTube. Hearing the music today, looking at their complete uncool aspire on the video, one cannot imagine why somebody would have considered them to be the sharp edge of music advantgarde in 1980. But they were and so it was considered uncool to dislike this heat when I was 18. Now I am 45 and it is hard to imagine why I should venture out on a bike when people have to be collected by ambulance cars on the Tamagawa river just because they engaged in a little bit of sport in this heat on this weekend.

But I rode out which gave occasion to many comments after I almost collapsed on the top of Dozaka Toge. Right so, I have wrote less nice things about Jerome, David and everybody else so I deserved this. Here is the second part of this "this heat" story about the Sunday ride.

I woke up at 6 AM, and got ready to greet Ludwig who was heading for my house. We then spend some time together to setup my trusted Cannondale R1000 bike for him, including the old SPD pedal set. It was Ludwig`s first longer ride and I wanted to make sure that he has all the right gear ready. We then rode to David where we met him and the other members of the ride. Juliane came relatively on time (I should mention that) and also two guys Tim and CJ from his office. We were late already to meet Tom at the Sekidobashi, so it was left to me to tell him so. Tom then decided to go on his own which was probably the right decision, taking the varying and at this time unknown performance levels of our group in consideration.

It is always difficult to ride with new riders when you don`t know how good they are. If they are fast you are looking stupid and you have to exhaust yourself to keep on. If they are slow you either a) bitch about that because they were invited by other members from the group or b) you wait for them impatiently because you have brought them with you and everybody else is bitching.

We started the usual ride along Tamagawa and Asagawa which brought as to the 7-Eleven at Takao station. It was already getting very hot and a lot of riders where on the road. We saw a large group of Nalsima Friends riders with surprisingly many girls. This must have been the group that Tom later met. As everybody was ok so far, we decided that we will head on further to Yabitsu as planned. Otarumi was the first hill to pass. David, CJ and Tim went ahead in the flats, Juliane and me overtaking them when it became steeper. I pushed hard at the last part and managed to come up first, but my time was only around 21:30 min, by far too slow. But Juliane and me took it very easy in the beginning and also she told me that the POSITIVO ESPRESSO JERSEY has become her favourite jersey. A statement which made me so proud that I was still under shock when I reached the top of Otarumi. It certainly adds to my self esteem as well, when I see riders wearing the Positivo jersey on the road.

Juliane came up second, followed by David, CJ, Tim and Ludwig. But there was not much of a gap, everybody looked sharp so we continued towards Yabitsu. At the downhill David was superfast as usual, and then the long up and down road to Miyagase reservoir started. We were not fast, but considering the heat we were doing ok. We then took a long break at Miyagase, ate, drank, cooled down her feet in the stream. The we left for Yabitsu.

Yabitsu is my favourite route, I don't know how many times I have wrote this. But I never saw so many cars and bikes on the road as this Sunday. Luckily they were getting fewer once we were past the camping grounds. While the others decide to check out the river, Ludwig and me headed on as I had a mongen deadline at home (which I missed of course). We had one more break at elv. 440m. then pressed on for the climb. I stayed with Ludwig until the teahouse at elv. 620m, the sprinted through the nasty steep part, overtook another rider and waited for Ludwig at the top. 1:18 hr - pretty slow time, but good enough during this heat and also some chances to see the landscape for the first time.

On the top I saw a father on his scooter with his perhaps eight year old daughter. They have ridden to Yabistu together to get away from their daily life and to talk and relax. They were both siting on the scooter, the daughter in front, the father behind curled int each other. He was smoking and she talked about her friends and about school. It was such a peaceful scenery.

Ludwig arrived and we started the long descent towards Hadano. Ludwig was rather slow on the Otarumi descent but here he overtook me easily and speeded ahead. Another candidate for the revered red-dot polka jersey? I had this suspicion since I was driving in a car with Ludwig a long time ago in Fukuroi. His blood donation ASB car driver skills developed into a dangerous weapon and he might apply this also on his bike.

Arrived in Hadano, tried to buy garbage bags to pack our bike. Could not. Ludwig went to a far away supermarket to buy them. In the meantime David, Juliane and the others arrived, including garbage bags. Packed our bikes, waited for Ludwig went home by train to Noborito.

Nice trip, all in all I covered perhaps 270 km during the weekend. Good training for the forthcoming races in Tsukuba on July 19th and in Gunma 20th. Despite the fact that we rode out together for the first time, the coordination and atmosphere was good.

I wish however that the summer will be over soon.