31 August 2008

Last Summer Ride

Met David at his house at 8.30hr, full raingear in my back pocket. Juliane and david as well as James decided to take it easy on Sunday. The sky didn't look very promising, but nevertheless we were eager to give it a try and add some junk miles. As usually we speeded down the Tamagawa, taking changes in the front. Today was "No matter in which direction you go, strong headwind will always be there"-day. Then we met another American, Michael on his Cervelo Carbon Soloist. How impressive, three Cervelos riding side by side along the Tamagawa. As two of them were still equipped with Wolf SL forks, we were also a potential road hazard.

Michael left us somewhere along the Asagawa and we headed on to the 7-Eleven at Takao station. The Asagawa was full of water and at one point we saw a flooded underpass. I said "Let's pass through", and so we went on, but soon discovered that the water was up to the axle of the crank set. Both got wet feet.
We then decided to take the road through Hachioji rather than to continue along he river. When we arrived at the 7/11 to our surprise the sky was blue, it was also more humid then the last days and many many fire engines, fire motorcycles and ambulance cars were passing us in direction Otarumi. A lot of the guys from the Ouvest team came down from Otarumi heading back to town. We were a little bit worried that the road would be closed because of an accident. We decided that we would take on Yabitsu today. I put some sun screen on, didn't bother to do so when I left home. I did not enough and now at home I am looking naked like the Austrian flag (red legs, white body, red arms and face).

Nevertheless I gave a time trial up Otarumi Toge a try. Speeded ahead right from the start and felt OK. But there must have been some headwind. From the start to elv. 270m I was going at more than 20 km/hr, but for whatever reason I finished in 19:54min. A sub 20 min time is good, but not good enough to update the Toge Baka. David came in at 23:40min, obviously because of his fork. Never saw any fire engine again. We then took it easy down to Sagamiko and further on road 412/413/513 to Miyagase Lake. There are no particular points in this route and it is only the approach to Yabitsu, but nevertheless, one should not discount it.

We then took a very long break at Miyagase lake before we continue towards Yabitsu. Took it also easy up Yabitsu. Took as almost 1:07 hr. When we reached the top we were afraid of rain showers, but the other side looked good again and we immediately started the descent.
Met another fast guy on his bike going down. Some cars stopped to let us pass. David was first a little bit reluctant to speed and I could easily keep up with him, but once he saw the other guy he became more competitive and neither the guy nor me were able to follow him. We made it quickly to Hadano Station where we parted, David took the train home whileas

I was feeling still pretty strong and wanted to do some mileage before going on a slow business trip to KL. Also the 200 km plus ride to Shimoda paid off.
So I went along route 62 to Hiratsuka and then took a shortcut to the road along the coast, route 134. The weather was just beautiful and I felt like 1965 in California with all the bikini girls and surfers around me. Plus finally a nice, strong tailwind so I was going at 40 km/hr plus all the time. Now I started to feel even better. I felt like 1981 and the Barracudas were singing "Last Summer" in the background. OK, they don't have that on YouTube so take "Summer Fun" instead.

Oh, the Barracudas, they have passed the test of time. I love almost every single song of them and if I ever will be dropped on an island and I can take only one ipod with me I will load it to the brim with every available Barracuda song. Even if the island is Japan. And the Best of Album of David Hasselhoff (who, despite his name is not on a rider recall). Sorry, I deviated, I was lost in nostalgia.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I was approaching the shores of Shonan. This was actually the last day of summer 2008, because there is officially no summer in Japan in September. So the last chance to see the beach bars of Kamakura.
Here is a nice statement from Gaijin Tonic about them:

"I’m also looking forward to hitting the beach bars of the Shonan area of Kanagawa, around Enoshima, Zushi and Kamamkura. Many of my female friends hate these beaches because they are dirty, cluttered with gaudy wooden beach bars, and overcrowded with drunk university students in swimwear, setting off fireworks. I, on the other hand, like these beaches because they are dirty, cluttered with gaudy wooden beach bars, and overcrowded with drunk university students in swimwear, setting off fireworks."

Well said, Gaijin Tonic.

I called my family, to show them the beach and the dirty, cluttered beaches, but they refused to come out. I told them I would take a coffee at my favourite shack, the German restaurant seacastle, proud defender of German tradition on the beaches of Kamakura since 1957. I rode there and when I stood in front of the restaurant, it looked so dark and uninviting an I was so afraid to go inside that I could not muster the courage to ask for a coffee there. Instead I run for the station of Ofuna, where the good trains of the Tokaido and Toyoko lines took me home. I am looking now like Mr. Krebs from Sponge Bob, but it was a very nice riding day and well, it was also the last day of summer 2008.

"It was his last summer, and he started to think / and we stopped surfing and started to drink."

Of course from the Barracudas.

30 August 2008

Google Streetview

Pretty amazing, Google streetview had made in to Japan. The previous link connects to the help page, where one can get acquainted with the basic functionality of the software.

Now we can find out, if small white lines on a map are asphalt roads or dirt tracks and we do not need to rely on the self-confidence of Juliane alone.

Let's see, here are some cycling highlights from our weekly tours and long tradition. It is easy to copy and paste links on a blog page. See here:

One of our Positivo members used to live here.
Our bakery in Ome.
Approach to Okutamako.
A common target.

It is also possible to paste photos onto blog sites. Let's see if Tom is already waiting at Sekidobashi.


I read about Google street view perhaps one or two years ago and found it rather uninteresting. I have to change my mind. I am feeling like Alexander Bell, inventor of the telephone, who said about his invention along the lines: "I believe I do not exaggerate, if a telephone will be installed in every major American city within 20 years."

Beijing Olympic Bike Photos

M back in T

I got the following mail from Marek:
"hallo michael.
wie gehts wie stehts !?
ich komme naechste woche wieder zurueck nach tokyo.
hoffe dass ich bald wieder ins geschehen eingreifen kann,
aber erst einmal muss ich sehen wie fit ich bin ,,,
habe seit 5 monaten nicht mehr auf dem rad gesessen ..."
So, Marek is back in town after cruising around in the Far East for almost five months. I am not sure if I should be envious of five months holidays in a row, but I would sure have loved to stay at some of the places he went to and see saw of the things he has seen.

Let's give him a big welcome. A very big welcome. A huge welcome ride. My suggestion would be the WTTIK welcome.
Or, Wada-Tawa-Tsuru-Imagawa-Kazahari. Short stop after that at the Maison Paul Jason.

29 August 2008

My new idol Robert Foerstemann

I thought my bike race idol would be Wim Vansevenant, as he has managed to finish in last place in the Tour de France at least as often as I have ended up in the last place during JCRC races this season. I was wrong, I have to admit.

My new bike race idol, discovered at the Beijing Olympics this year is Robert Foerstemann. He is perhaps the only guy who looks even more bulky and out of place on a bike than I do. With a body weight of 90 kg and being 1.74 m tall, I almost feel a slight chance to beat him at the Tokyo hill climb.
Please also note the very creative name of his home team : XXL Erdgas.
And finally, for the Germans among us, he has a very creative theme for his life as well:"Jedenfalls ist es besser ein eckiges ETWAS zu sein als ein rundes NICHTS!" (Friedrich Hebbel)

Positivo Espresso Club Rider Voluntary Recall

All bicycles on alert

The Positivo Espresso safety committee has identified a potential safety issue involving one of its riders, David L. If ridden by David L. and under certain conditions, bicycles, frames and components can crack, disintegrate or simply disappear in small white clouds, which may cause the bicycle or its components to end up in the trash can, completely loosing any previous affection by its owner.

According to his own statement, he "
managed to break -- various ti [titanium] and steel frames, seatpost collars, wheel rims, etc.".

To date there have been some reports of bike-injuries in the field, resulting in major damage to the used bicycle. Though David L. completed visa procedure when entering Japan and properly obtained his alien registration card, this issue was not uncovered during these standard procedures and the damage on bike components only showed up in the field.

The Japanese government feels that David L. meets the immigration standard, that it is therefore acceptable to let him ride bikes and that no further action is required. Positivo Espresso does not share this opinion and therefore, is proceeding with a rider recall of David L.

However, please note that this does not affect riders named David in general, such as David J., David M., David D. or David N. in any way, as all of them have a completely different structural body design.

For some reasons, defying logical explanations, David L. is not able to break or destruct bicycles components which are already on product recall by the manufacturer, such as Cervelo SL forks or Look Keo pedals.


The recalled rider normally wears a Positivo Espresso team jersey, sometimes also an ASSOS Kachastan national jersey. Bicycles should be alert if they here the sound of a bell accompanied by a male voice shouting "torimaaaaaaaaaaaass".

28 August 2008

Weekend Tour Sunday August 30th

Looking at the Tokyo weather forecast, the prospects for a weekend ride or not that good on Saturday but might be better on Sunday. Now that it is not that hellish hot any longer, I feel more confident to go out for longer rides and climbs, but this is not a must for this weekend.

Would be anybody interested to ride out on Sunday, route and time still to be decided?

25 August 2008

Shimoda : A triology in four parts. PART 4 : The Day After

Just for the record: The next day, Juliane, david and me went out riding at noon around the Southern tip of Izu peninsula. We headed for Jaishi Toge and Matsuzaki, then went along the coast all the way until we were back in Shimoda. We were lucky that despite the forecast we experienced not too much of rain, virtually nothing. Juliane and david, both with fresh legs and properly agitated after all my talks of the wonderful ride I had the day before, went into racing mode up the hills and I had difficulties to stay with them. I went at my own pace up, all in all we did another 1,000 meter plus of climbing. It was a nice ride, with a lot of new explorations along the coast line. We had a coffee at Bistro Bear, the refined English coffee shop in the very Southern part of Izu and we did also great shopping there. The landscape is nice and it';s a pity to note all the dilapidated and deserted houses there. The guys at Bistro Bear told me that the primary school of their village will be closed next year - no children left. It always leaves me speachless when I see how fast the countryside in Japan is moving down towards extinction. It used to be concrete and bulldozers which ruined everything there in the past, but now it is simply the fast that there are no young people any longer. Despite screaming lovehole the country is moving down on the spiral of death.

Shimoda : A triology in four parts. PART 3 : The Spiral of Death

After reaching the highest point on route 1, I continued to ride fast down to lake Ashinoko and then further to Hakone Toge, which includes another 100m plus climb. Normally I take then route #1 down to Mishima, which is a very fast descent. But Mishima is not exactly in direction and Shimoda and I would have lost the chance to continue on the East coast road down the Izu Peninsula, so I decided to take route 20 from Hakone Toge through Jukoku Toge to Atami Toge.

This was one of the best decisions I ever made. This statement is limited to the selection of routes for riding out, naturally I made some other good decisions in my life. Some of them were even better than taking route 20. I just cannot recall one right now.

So on route 20, there is virtually no traffic, their is a 2-3% gradient downwards, just the right amount of fast curves which allows you to go in the 40 - 50 km/hr range all the time. The view is nice to the left and the right as the road is located on the top of the hill basically for the next 10 km or so. Really, this was clearly one of the best roads I have ever ridden on and it would be nice to go by Shinkansen to Odawara the next time, make the climb to Hakone and then take this road just for the fun of it.

I came to Atami Toge where the Izu skyline tollroad starts. Juliane, David and me went up there in 2005, coming untrained directly from the Shinkansen and immediately starting a 600m plus climb which had four interesting results:
  1. I had to stop in the middle and walk up.
  2. When we finally reached the toll road and found out that it was closed for bikes, david threathens the guys at the booth to sue Japan Highway Corp.
  3. We made a photo on top next to a map, showing where we are and where we want to go. Suddenly we started to realize that the goal was far away.
  4. We nevertheless made it to Shimoda, even crossing Kazehaya Toge and we completely exhausted and almost sleeping in the train home.
Now I had the choice: East cost along route 135 would be the most boring but also most shortest route. Through the middle of Izu on route 136 and 414 would be also short and it would include the "spiral of death", which I always wanted to ride anyhome. But there was no train station in case I wanted to give up. The west cost road on route 136 would have been the most beautiful one, but there would be still massive climbing involved and again no alternatives in case of failure.

So I decided to go through the middle of Izu and headed down route 11 and then later along route 136. I have taken this road many times by car with my family and I remember it as something like an up and down thing.

Of course I was completely mistaken. After a certain time in the flatlands of inner Izu, the next climb started at Shuzenji and again it was a very long one, almost 600 meters up. Then I finally reached Amagi Toge, or better to say the new tunnel below it. From there on the descent starts to the spiral of death.

Wow. I was a little bit afraid, that this wonderful engineering masterpiece would be off limits to bikes, but there were no signs in this respect. Then I was also afraid that there might be spiked in the extension joints as in case of the rainbow bridge but again there was nothing like that.
I followed the road until the town of Kawazu, where I found out to my dismay, that it would be another 19 km to Shimoda. I had already done more than 200 km this day, including more than 2,000 m of climbing and even going only another 19 km seems like really stretching it.

But I had no choice, took it easy and arrived just before the darkness at the Sunny Side shack in Shimoda [the dog wasn't there]. Great day. I have covered quite a distance in the horizontal as well as in the vertical, I done my Hakone ride of the year plus I did the spiral of death for the first time.

I than enjoyed a lot of good food, even more cold beer, some cigarettes and the pleasant company of Juliane, david, DaviD and Stephan.

I wouldn't do the trip the whole distance again, although. Riding out by train to Oadawara and starting there is enough I guess.

24 August 2008

Shimoda : A triology in four parts. PART 2 : The Hakone Climb

The Hakone climb starts at the Asahi bridge, conveniently located after another 7-11 and then continues for 14.2 km and 745 meters up to the highest point of route #1 at elevation 874 m. It is a very long and demanding climb and it definitely feels like more than the average 5% grade on which one would arrive mathematically. I never took somebody with me on this climb as well, as the traffic is heavy on this road and you also need to go 90 km before even starting to climb. So for years that used to be the hardest climb I did within a season. I normally did it only once, and until 2007 I was not able to climb up in one go. But today the weather was nice and cool, I was fresh as I have enjoyed a good tailwind up to Odawara and I wanted to go on an aggressive attack after the Tokyo hill climb race with a much steeper gradient. I started at a good speed and constantly checked the altitude meter. I continued to feel good and pedaled at a high cadence with 15 km/hr up. When I reached Miyanoshita I had to continue on the sidewalk for a while, as the road was clogged by cars and buses. But the higher one comes, the lighter the traffic gets. By the way, there is also a shorter backroad, but as the elevation difference is the same, a shorter back road means an even steeper gradient, which cannot possibly be balanced by a lighter traffic. I recognized all the places I have had breaks before, the small shop before the Fujiya hotel, the curve where the cable car is running close by, a Lawson along the road, and finally at elv. 600 this huge Yunessun spa, where I go sometimes with my family. There are large swimming pools and a series of outside onsens with different themes and different tastes, like tea, wine and other liquids one what not necessarily consider to take a bath in. Sometimes it seems to get crowded. I completely forgot how much the maximum elevation is, so I had no idea how much I would need to further continue. But I still felt good, although I switched from cadence to brute force and my speed was now more in the 10 - 15 km/hr range. But I made my way up steadily and finally I recognized the last curves to the top. There are two important lesson I learned about climbing: 1. As long as you see a river on the side of the road it is still a long way to the top. 2. When there is no water but wind, you are coming close. Temperature on top of route #1 was around 17 degrees, I started to feel cold as I didn't brought any windbreaker with me. And then I reached the very top: Oh, wow, cool, in less than an hour for 14.2 km and 745 meters up! I never did this before. That gave me a very boost of confidence for the forthcoming races in Shuzenji and Gunma. I took some photos and then prepared for the rest of the ride. I also introduced this climb as Togebaka #11 on this site, knowing that none of you will ever try it. So I included all my annual results since 2003.

Shimoda : A triology in four parts. PART 1: To Odawara

This weekend I had the option to go on a ride over numerous hills and mountains west of Tokyo with a bunch of masochistic and fast climbers from various clubs, or to join Juliane and david for a leisurely weekend in Shimoda.

After some eleborate thinking, balancing the pros and cons of each option, I decided to go for Shimoda. But, in order to make the trip not too leisurely and not too expensive I took off a day from work and planned to go all the 200 km plus to Shimoda by bike. And furthermore I decided not to go the straight and somewhat boring way to Atami down the Eastern coast of Izu, but to climb up to Hakone first and then find a way to the South, depending on my performance up to that point.Thereby I could also do my annual Hakone climb, a tradition dating back to 2003. Actually perhaps earlier, but there are no records left. Well almost no records - I found this very impressive photo from 2001, showing me at Hakone Toge.
Obviously I had already my Cannondale bike, but otherwise I can only say that I have come a long way since that. I now own variety of much better looking jerseys and shorts (Id did own only one set in 2001) and I don' t steal any longer the helmet of my six year old daughter when sneaking out for a ride but bought an own one.

So I left the house rather late, around 9 AM, bidding first farewell to Natascha, one of the countless aupairs we have given shelter to in the last seven years. Now that I think about it, I should have introduced Natascha to David, as they originally come from the same beautiful country: Kachastan.

I enjoyed a strong tailwind and made good speed up to 384 km/hr - that was at least what my Ciclo speedmeter was showing when I crossed below the railroad bridge at Tamagawa station and had the usually interference with railroad signaling equipment. My heartbeat went up to 360 bpm.
But really I made good speed and enjoyed the ride. I never take anybody else on this ride, because for the most part it leads along major roads through the environmental polution that divides Tokyo and Yokohama (aka Kawasaki), through heavy traffic and most other riders don't enjoy it. I don't care so much; when I started to ride out from Tokyo I went often to Odawara, simply because I could get home fast by taking the Shinkansen back.

The road s pretty boring in Yokohama, with many many smaller ups and downs. There is a nice and fast stretch at the military installation at Atsugi, followed by industrial wasteland. At Chigasaki, the road joins route #1 and then the traffic is still bad but not that bad and the traffic lights get fewer until Odawara. I reached Odawara in almost 2:30 hr, not bad for a distance of almost 80 km. I looked for my favourite Mosburger outlet at the station, where I used to have my lunch on the annual Hakone rides, but it was replaced by a (non operating) Bamiyan family restaurant. Instead and as usual, I opted for a quick lunch at a Seven Eleven. At this particular 7-11 I found a poster for a live concert of my favorite Japanese punk band:
To be honest, I don't know the band, I never heard a single song. But a band that has the creativity and the right mind to come up with such name must be a punk band and furthermore most become my favorite band. After lunch I rode the boring 9 km or so from Odawara to Moto-Hakone, which is about level 100m and to the start to the climb on route #1 up to Hakone.

21 August 2008

Cervelo Product Recall : Wolf SL Fork


I got the following e-mail today concerning the product recall of a Cervelo Wolf SL fork. My Soloist has a CL type of fork which is not affected by the recall, but I am almost 100% sure that your Cervelo R3 SL has the SL fork assembled. Please check this out.


From: Cervélo éNews [mailto:newsletter@cervelo.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 8:52 AM To: [deleted] Subject: Cervélo éNews - August 20, 2008

True Temper Sports Wolf SL Fork Voluntary Recall

Cervélo has identified a potential safety issue involving the Wolf SL fork. This fork is designed and manufactured by True Temper Sports of Memphis, Tennessee, using a blade shape supplied by Cervélo. All other aspects of the structural design, development and manufacture were done by True Temper Sports.
Under certain conditions, the fork steerer can crack and eventually break during normal use, which may cause the rider to lose control, fall and suffer potentially serious injuries. To date, there have been reports of injuries in the field resulting in minor abrasions and one broken wrist. Though the fork passes US and international standards, this particular problem was not uncovered during those standard tests and the fork only showed this weakness in the field, typically after being damaged. After much work, we did develop a new test protocol that was able to replicate the same failure mode as seen in the field. If the fork steerer is damaged by impact (eg. by a crash, a fall from a roof rack, or another impact) then the damage may progress very quickly during use to complete separation. We have seen that incidence of failure on this fork is higher than on other forks, and there is a potential for injury upon failure. True Temper Sports feels that the fork meets the industry standards and that the fork is therefore acceptable and no further action is required. Cervélo does not share this opinion and therefore, is proceeding with a recall of the True Temper designed and manufactured Wolf SL forks ourselves. True Temper Sports has declined to participate. In order to conduct a recall one must be able to demonstrate that any replacement product does not display the same failure mode. We have demonstrated to the authorities that the forks we will use as a replacement - the 3T Funda Pro and the Easton EC90 SLX - pass all standard industry tests as well as the new Cervélo test that the True Temper Wolf SL fork fails. We have obviously discontinued all use of the True Temper Wolf SL carbon bicycle fork. However, please note that this does not affect the Wolf CL and Wolf TT in any way, as both have a completely different structural design (and have passed the new Cervélo test protocol). Although it is not usual for a third party to recall a product manufactured by another company, we feel it is a necessary step to take care of our customer, and we will proceed with the full recall at no cost to the dealer or consumer.

This Saturday (Agu 23): OHSMK Loop

Start: 7:30 from Sekidobashi....
More details: http://www.tokyocycle.com/bbs/showthread.php?t=943

20 August 2008

Law Firm Cycling Kit

Yet more proof that I made a great choice when I joined MoFo last year -- here is the new firm cycling kit, designed with input from some of our intellectual property lawyers in California. I'm told that the molecule is mofebutazone, an M01AA class non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent. It could be my secret weapon on the grand tours.

Tokyo Hill Climb Nariki ALLSCRAP PHOTOS

Just checked by chance my e-mails and noticed that I got an urgent request from Tom. The IT department of his company asked him to check, if the Allscrap site (for reasons of security the name has been changed) is well protected and if it is still not possible to make screenshots from the photos posted there. Well equipped with the relevant software [Quick Screen Capture] I made a few test hacks and sadly I need to report that there is a huge security problem with this site. Virtually every information can be freely copied from the screen. It is a scandal, a disaster and a national disgrace. Of course there are lingering doubts with all of you, that my claim is not true. In order to free you with this doubts I have attached some randomly selected photos from a recent event at Nariki to proof the fact that indeed countermeasures should be taken immediately by Allscrap to prevent further leak of valuable data.
Juliane at the start. Clearly, there are no dogs nor penguins in sight.
Mob at the start.In the front Mr. Ueda [Alphahawk] experience his first climax of the day.
Tom, still going strong after approximately 26.74 meters.
Astroman during the race

Hill climbing can be even more fun when one is carrying his camping gear to the top.
Dennis during the race in normal shorts.
Juliane, first followed by the other girls, then on her own..
Mob followed by his group, including Mr. Ueda....
... and here he comes. Virtually.
Stephen not so much enjoying the race after very much enjoying the party the night before.

Tom strong as usual. His photos are here by pure coincidence.

In case you wanted to know:

1. That's how a winner looks like.
2. That's how an envelope with 100.000 Yen inside looks like.

18 August 2008

The secret behind the selection of Dennis new shorts


Tokyo Nariki Hill Climb Race Report

Rain. The sound of rain. Rain. I turned around and tried to fall asleep one more time. But unmistakenkly it was already after dawn and pouring outside. I stood up and looked out of the window, mist was covering the slopes of the nearby hills. As usual, when staying with the Coadies, I was involved in some serious drinking the night before and I didn't felt too well. I could still remember saying "No way" when Stephen offered me another glas of wine, however I also remember that the glass in my hand was nevertheless moving in direction of an open bottle. Why am I wearing this ridiculous pajama?

Tom has arrived already, he just came back recently from his trip to Belgium and is still jet lagged. He tried to beat the rain, but couldn't and is now relaxing on a mat downstairs in the house. It is Sunday, 7 AM in the morning in Ikusabata, close to Ome, and three hours before the Tokyo hill climb race, where the winner can collect a handsome price money of 100.000 Yen.

Finally everybody is up and Ryoko is providing us generously with coffee and a good breakfast. Still, with the exception of Tom, we do not look like a bunch of hungry young riders on the way to collect a fortune, but more like a group of middle-aged salarymen the next morning after a company party. Anyway, we grow accustom to the fact that we will race today.

It is drizzling when we leave the house. Somehow Juliane cannot get the shoes out of her speedplay cleats and it takes some time to somehow fix that problem. We give the cleats a good lube with the only lubricant we have: sunscreen. Not needed today. Stephen is nowhere to be found so we continue to ride to the race. First we go over the hills between the Route 411 and Nariki Kawa, not so easy if this is the first thing to do in the morning on a bike. Amazingly we see some other riders and they have are walking up the hill. Is this the competition?

We arrive at the registration, get some goodies and take cover under in some kind of barn. Julianes, davids and my bike are arranged in a pattern which is called in German "ein flotter Dreier" and where there is unfortunately no equivalent English word which can describe all the wit, beauty and deep meaning of this expression. In any case, we have hope that in some days we will see small Italian race bikes with 20 inch wheels coming out from this. I think that perhaps I should do some warm up, but I really don't feel like this. I look at all the other riders and bikes around me. It is just amazing, there is not a single "bad" bike, famous brands only, a lot of carbon, expessive wheel sets everywhere. 90% of the riders are looking young, slim and if they could beat me everytime at any race. But I know that it is not like that. I will overtake a lot of these guys on there fancy bikes with their 60 kg body weight and I will be overtaken by 50 year old chubby guys on mountain bikes. There is really no relation between the price of a bike, the look of the rider and the chances he has in a race.
Finally Stephen arrives as well. I never asked him where he has been so long and as I am getting excited close to the start of the race I don't need to know. I give up the plan to start in my Chinese silk pajamas and collect a price for best dressed rider.

There are some other foreign riders arround, all in all perhaps 15, so this is most likely the largest number of foreigner riders I have seen at one event. Tom starts a conversation and I later join briefly. Astroman looks pretty fit, he should be able to make a good finish.

We move to the start area and then we see Jacques, Stephan and Kenichi from the NFCC team. They have choosen this day for a club tour to Shomaru Toge and for some reason they are now at the start. Jacques recognizes me and comes up. I ask him if he would like to race, at this point I would gladly give him my Sekken, but he doesn't get the joke. But he is one of the most funny guys I know and immediately everybody arround him is laughing and relaxing.

About 400 riders have assembled at the start area and are now taking off in groups of 50 riders. Later I find out that more than 80 riders have not showed up [Hello Knotty], most likely because of the very poor weather. But then, the temperature is between 20 and 25 degrees and that's better than to race in the heat. Now it is getting exciting. But before coming to the race, some information about the race itself. I don't write what I thought the race would be like, but what I learned AFTER the race about it:

The original plan nevertheless, called for two runs of 5 km each on the same road. The first run was supposed to be leisurely and one has to make it to the top in less than 45 minutes. The second run then was supposed to be the real race. However because of the poor weather, the first run was cancelled and the first and only run was the real race.

The road runs up next to the Narikigawa. It is a typical paved mountain road, about 2 to 3 meters wide and 4.14 km long. The elevation difference is 383 meters, that comes to an average gradient of 9.3%. One has to take care because there are many metal drains on the road [Hello david] and some slopes are much steeper than the average, my guess what be up to 15 - 18%. Once out of the saddle one has to balance properly, so that the back wheel is not loosing traction. Or, if staying seated, one has to take care that the front wheel still touches the ground.

To cut a long story short, it is basically a copy of the Wada Toge +10%. Fast guys can do it in 15 minutes. I checked the Wada Hill Climb Time Trial website: Fast guys can do Wada in 13:39 min.
Precisely 10% difference. Tom's best time for Wada is so far 18:18 min, thus Nariki should be 20:08 min. My best Wada time is 21:56 min, I should aim at 24:08 min.

The groups are taking off now. david and Stephen are already gone, Tom is one group behind me, Juliane another one. Off we go, there are maybe 30 riders in my group. The first part of the race is not too steep, along the river and some houses. I can keep a good pace and I move up, taken over some of the riders. Thanks to the good training by Alain, I am not afraid of getting into physical contact with the others any longer, so I rechlessly overtake. But after 500 meter there is the first steep climb and I fell back. From there onwards it is a succesion of very steep climbs followed by steep climbs. But the steep climbs offer some room to relax. I loose contact with the fast guys from my main group and my heart rate goes off to 170+. Now the first riders from the previous group come in sight, mainly mountain bikes. They are suffering. And now I am getting overtaken by the first riders from the group behind me - oh they are fast. Yoshinori in his Belgium jersey is the first one. But he is way ahead of the other guys in his group. There is a second guy coming and Tom is then right behind him. I shout: "You are in third place" and he answers "I know" and keeps sprinting after the second guy. Astroman overtakes some time later.

I have now given up any hope to go fast and go into survival mode. I am used to this, after the excitment of the start, the next 10 - 15 minutes are the hardest one. However, I overtake some more riders from the previous groups and even some of my own group. There is a guy in a Yellow Alphahawk jersey how groans loudly all the time. I screen my memory, but I do not recognize his face from the Japanese AV's I have seen in my life. I am down to 10 km/hr and still HR 170 but I am managing one steep slopes and one hairneedle curve after another. Sometimes my back wheel is slipping on the ground but so far no critical situations.

More steep slopes and more hair needles. My cadence is going down and I am more and more relying on brute power than on spin. I feel like giving up, but somehow I manage to stay focused. A mountainbike on 1:1 gear ratio is passing by, the rider spinning like hell. I catch up on him again and see some riders who have gotten off their bikes and moving them up the hill. No way, that I will do the same thing I think and move on.

I have now covered about 350 meter of climbing and I mistakenly think that there are 150 meters still in front of me. Behind me, I can hear #396, Ueda-san, aka the rider in the yellow Alpha Hawk jersey. It seems that he is now experiencing his seventh orgasm of the race. He overtakes me, I think let him go, or come, I will catch him later when he has his cigarette after.

But now there is a group of people standing on a corner, one foreigner is shouting: "Only one more bend". I can't believe it, I thought the race would be longer. So I asked stupidely "Really?" and he is answering postive and I think OK, I go into sprint mode. I quickly take up speed, but Ueda-san is already too far away. Obviously he has done his research and mapped a good strategy. I can still overtake one more mountain bike rider from my group (#374) and which substantially improves the result from 269th to 268th place out of 403 attendants. The time is 25:16 min which is less than I have expected (after making the Wada calculations after the race, without the calculations I was aiming for less than 30 minutes).

Stephen has come in slightly earlier, so I did not manage to make 2 minutes time on him. he finishes in 318th place with 27:05 min. Tom is already there since a long time, he has made 2nd place in his starting group and overall 77th with 19:37 min; clearly better than his Wada benchmark. He should try to set a new Wada Toge Baka record. david is also hanging arround, waiting for Juliane to come. He has finished in 24:35 min, 245th place. He also seems to be 36 years old, according to the result list.

We are waiting for Juliane. There she is. Amazing. I mean, how good she looks after such a hard race. Oh yes, and she also felt good, she says, she could have even gone faster but was also unsure about where the goal would be. So she finishes overall #206 in 23:10 min, but more important, in 2nd place of the women category. Unfortunately the second place does not receive 100.00 Yen, but zero. david is looking happy as well. The expected outcome, Tom clearly better than everybody else, and Juliane, david, me and Stephen very close together. I don't know the TCC riders so well, but Astroman made finished with 20:07 min in 90th place. Most impressive is Dennis, who managed an incredible 36th place with 18:15 min.
So we hang a little bit around at the goal area and I speak with some of the other riders. There are some Cervelo bikes and some nice guys from a club in Kamakura. I am happy that this race is over and given the fact that I am not a hill climber, I am also satisfied with my result. I guess I would have made first place, not in my age, but in my weight group (> 100 kg with bike, I have some pretty big water bottles). The general atmosphere on top of the mountain is not really inviting but it is easy to speak with many riders. Water melon pieces are handed out. Juliane has just eaten one and as this is organic, 100% natural stuff I think it is absolutely politically correct to throw this over one's shoulder into the scrubs. She does it, turns around and the next thing I see is a hailstorm of water melon pieces flying in the same directions. Obviously some other riders had the same problem and looked for directions. Japan.
We then move down to the start area are the last riders have arrived. The winner had a time of 15:01 min, and there were only two riders with times over 45 minutes, so the cut is very generous indeed. The complete results are here.

We don't wait for the ceremony and the free potatoes to be handed out. Potatoes for Germans, really, I could think of nothing more practical. So we go again over the hills and head back to the house in Ikusabata, where the house warming party is already in full swing.

There are a lot of nice people and a lot of good food. Dennis shows up and clearly, he is not only a very skilled rider and generous person, but also the best dressed guy I have ever seen at a after race party.Apparently he have picked up his new line of clothing during a recent trip to Equador. I am not 100% sure if I should believe this, but the combination with davids trousers on the left would have been even more vivid and colorful.

We are in good mood but after all the suffering it is time to go home. It is however raining hard. Later I see in the news that this has been a very rainy day for the Kanto area. But again, we were lucky that we didn't had to race in the heat.

All in all a very nice racing day to remember. A special thanks to Ryoko and Stephen for organizing the entry to the races for all of us and providing us with food and shelter.

Second Tokyo Hillclimb Nariki Stage Results

Here they are: http://www.gem.hi-ho.ne.jp/kfc-onishi/htm/result_Tokyo_hillclimb.htm

(story on Tom's blog)

Beautiful Sunday Forecast

Approach to Tsuru Pass - in the Clouds

I woke up early Sunday anticipating a long ride in somewhat cooler and dry weather. The morning paper predicted cloudy with a 20% chance of rain in the morning, and sunny with a 10% chance of rain in the afternoon. I usually ignore forecasts until the night before or day of a ride, since the Japanese weather changes so quickly (or the forecasting is so bad) that the forecast is worthless until the last 12-24 hours. Well, now I've confirmed yet again that the forecasts are worth very little even during the last 12-24 hours.

I had a nice ride in misty rain to Uenohara and up Tawa/Tsuru passes on Rte 18 ... but turned back on Tsuru when the rain got too heavy and the weather too cold. All in all, a peaceful solo ride, the longest I've had in two months (165 km+).

Thanks to Tom Spillaert for showing me the road to Tawa/Tsuru two years ago. Rte 18's "Uenohara-Tabayama Line" is still a beautiful valley, good road surface with almost no car traffic.

15 August 2008

Revenge on Yanagizawa

Some weeks ago Positivo Espresso was planning a tour climbing Odarumi from Enzan. On the day before we rode over Wada, Tawa, Tsuru, Imagawa and Yanagizawa to Enzan, however I had to give up before Yanagizawa -just too much climbing during too hot climate. Unpaid bills need to be paid, criminals return to the place of their crimes, so finally on Thursday I found the time to complete the trip and conquer Yanagizawa Toge. I left the house rather late and cruised at a leisurely pace in direction Ome. On the way I met Laurent who was riding aimlessly along the Tamagawa. Funny enough, he had the same idea as me: On the Positivo trip he continued to Enzan, however he dropped out the next day before the climb to Odarumi. Haunted by the memory of this missed chance, he took off one week for biking, drove by car to Enzan and climbed up Odarumi. Well done, Laurent.

We split and I took the first break at Ome Station. I just cannot pass by without dropping in at the Aurora bakery and buy some "Royal Milk Bread", the most delicious massive piece of fatty bread I have ever eaten.

I the continued to ride to Okutama Station. It was just before noon and it became really hot. I didn't felt that I was in too great a shape. So when I arrived at Okutama station I felt tired and it was just the ride time for a short nap on a bench. And this is what I did.
I woke up, don't know why and immediately it started to rain. Real, heavy rain. The dices, the hearts of the women and the weather in the mountains are unpredictable. This says an old Japanese proverb which I just made up. I took cover at the station and after 20 minutes or so the rain stopped and I could finally start the approach on Yanagizawa. I rode about 200 meters and then I noticed something very strange: Only this distance away, he road was completely dry, that means I hadn't rained at all there! This must have been a special rainfall limited to a very small patch of land. But the sky was cloudy and I could hear thunder and seethe lighting. The rain front was moving in, but luckily I managed to escape somehow.

Okutama Station is at elevation 320 m app. and Yanagizawa at 1.460 m, so I had a long climb in front of me. I have done this only one time before with David, david and Juliane in April, when there was still some snow left on the top. It took me almost three hours then. The climb to Okutama Lake at elv. 520 m is nothing special. 5 years ago that would have been a major feat for me, but now it is really nothing special any more, even in the heat. The next part is then cruising along the shores of the Okutama for quite a while which is almost flat. Then the first part of the climbing starts, but that's also more an up and down portion which finally leads to the village of Tabayama at elv. 650m. I arrived there in much better shape then some weeks ago. The weather was also OK and not as hot as down in the city, so I really lost all excuses not to do the Yanagizawa pass. So I continued to climb at a pace of 10 - 15 km/hr and it took a lot of effort but I continuously moved up the hills.

In summer the landscape there is also much more beautiful and green compared to the scenario I saw in April. There is not too much traffic and luckily not too much public works (except for that complete unnecessary and stupid tunnel construction which will result in shortening the approach by estimated 200 meters). I climbed about 10m/min and when I was at elevation 1.000 m I was pretty sure that I would make the climb in one go. In was now much cooler, more in the range of 24 degrees but I was running out of water. And climbing became harder.

I reached the small soba shack at elv. 1.200 me and it was really getting hard to climb. Only 200 meters up.....only 100 meters up, my speed dropped to less than 10 km/hr and I was zigzaging the steeper parts of the road. Then I finally saw the toge. I still had the power for a final sprint and moved in: 2:22 hrs (see Toge Baka), much faster than the last time and, more important, without any breaks. But two hours of more or less continuous climbing had taken their toll and I was feeling very tired. As you can see in this photo, taken in front of the Yanagizawa rest area.
Actually this photo was taken, after I have rested for half an hour. When I arrived their the situation was like this: Totally exhausted I tried to each out for the gigantic soft ice which I thought was waiting for me.
I must remark, that the people running the restaurant up there are really nice and helpful, contrary to the witch at Wada Toge.

The day's work was done. I had a good training for the forthcoming Tokyo Hill Climb race on Sunday. I then prepared for the long descent to Enzan. This is really a very nice descent, leading over some long and curved bridges with nothing but depth on both sides of the road. I started cautiously in the beginning, but after a while I went faster and I almost hit 70 km/hr at some stretches.

I have much more confident on my Cervelo bike going fast than I had an the Cannondale one I used to many years and gradually I am improving. I used to be a real sissy, but now I am almost a rabbit.

Enzan is really beautiful with all the fruit trees, I took some photos of the peaches and grapes. Then I arrived at the station and I was lucky that I could jump on a fast express train taking my home. When the rain passed Otsuki on the way back it was raining, so I guess I was lucky with the weather this time.
So, revenge on Yanagizawa has been made, now I still have to climb Odarumi.