29 September 2008

sayonarA daviD, Zaijian Marek

On Friday last week the Positivo Espresso gather under the arks of the Yurakucho Yamanote Line. Older members might remember the place as the location of the black market after the war, where we tried to trade HED 4 wheels against bags of onigiris and vice versa.

We gather there because we wanted to say Sayonara, Goodbye, Zaijian und "Zisch ab Du Arsch" to some of the venerable and esteemed riders of our renowned club who will leave us in short time to head for foreign shores. david, who is heading the black market division of one of the financial giants of yesterdays, is heading to London, whereas Marek decided to continue to travel in Asia which, if we understood that correctly, boils down to visiting his new girlfriend in Shenzhen.

I think it is not appropriate here to list up all the achievements and memorable moments both riders presented to the club, I am sure that the whole storage capacity of Google would not be sufficient to capture only a fraction of their marvelous deeds. OK, let me start anyway:

David did many impressive things and I am not getting tired to tell everybody who likes to hear it or not, how he crossed THE ONLY RED LIGHT in the whole district of Okutama in front of the assembled police force and their voluntary helpers during the high season of traffic safety week.
I still believe it requires a very rare combination of courage and fine character to engage on such splendid adventures. Obviously it does also require a complete lack of understanding of Japanese culture and basic etiquette combined with the inability to speak and understand the language.

Marek join us on many fine racing events, notably Motegi, provided that he made it out of bed in time. Almost all members of our club were waiting at one point for him during the early morning hours here or there. Marek was then still in his favourite drinking hole in Shibuya, where the beers were cheap and mates easy to made. I know, because I have been there as well.

He decided to leave the capitalistic shores of Japan to head back to a country full of the political system of his new defunct motherland .

For the last gathering Juliane and david have selected an exclusive restaurant with very good food and beer. But I should stop here and let the pictures speak for themselves. Those who were there know. Those who weren't will never be able to understand.
Juliane and Jerome revisiting their transalp roots.
david, Knotty and two beers.
Everybody started to engage in signing david's shirt. Here we see Ryoko doing her part.
spontaneously some by passers wanted to join. Like this guy.
Here we can see him scribbling right-wing paroles on the brand new shirt. We let him do this to contribute to international peace.
Please also note the tight trousers.
Here we see Marek forming the "O" for Ost-Deutschland (East-Germany), while mob is showing the "W" for West-Gemany and Ryoko make the "I" for Ireland. Stephen makes a smile for smiling.
Here we changed the signs. Marek is making his "I kill that asshole" face, which he does every time somebody is overtaking him on the bike.

We will miss you guys.

Professionell Hill Climbers

I must say that I am very much impressed by the new photo on the top page of Tom's blog. It gives the impression, that either Tom has just rode up a very steep road and is taking his well deserved rest on the top of the hill. Or that he is a very skilled user of Adobe Photoshop.

But if I am really, really honest, I am not impressed at all. I have rode up in the past may much steeper slopes, also during race conditions. As you can see in the photo below :

This is me, disguised as Jan-Ulrich Kraehe in November 2007, riding up the crazy 54% slope at the Saiko hill climb race in front of the peloton.
What do you say now, Tom? - See you at Shiobara.

It's the Ups and the Downs as they say but at Saiko you were clearly going down!

We'll see you Jan in Shiobara!

(don't forget your catapult)

28 September 2008


Rode with Jerome and David L. today...first long mountain ride with my daughter. Tomin-no-mura turned out to be a bit too ambitious but she still made it as far as Kazuma, the teahouse before the tollgate where we ate a persimmon.
Picture taken by Jerome...showing off the jersey of David's law firm...beautiful design + great material for full summer! For some reason, the molecules on David's jersey appear more oval as opposed to the perfect circles on mine... Notice also the superb design job effectively "blotting out" tummies. On the way home, we met Michael with his heavily bandaged elbow...souvenir from last year's Saiko race but looking rather nasty. Hope it can be cured in a painless way.

27 September 2008


My local shop (Friend Shokai Nishikokubunji) was having its annual clearance sale...these German-made orange tyres were the only set left...30% off....orange is not popular apparently in this country! Nice thing about titanium is that it takes just about any color!

26 September 2008

5000 Hits on Positivo Espresso Website

The Positivo Espresso website is becoming somewhat popular - more than 5.000 hits in less than one year. Tom and me really stopped working and checked out the site every five minutes in the last months. Otherwise such splendid result caould have not been possibly achieved.

Tokyo Endurance Race December 14th

One of the more popular races in Tokyo, the Tokyo Endurance race is held on Dec. 14th at the Tachikawa Showa Kinen Koen. It is a four hour team endurance race on a 5 km flat round course
and TCC (Tokyo Ccyle Club) is now assembling teams for the event. I think Tom, Jerome and Alain raced in Tachikawa some time ago at the Duothlon event.

In previous years the wining team made app. 30 laps = 150 km = 37.5 km/hr in four hours, so after splendid performances in Tsukuba and hopefully next week in Yokohama, victory is almost ours.

You can check the TCC thread here.

As we always seen to have problems to get a team of four riders together from Positivo Espresso only, I suggest that we join one of the TCC teams. Please let me know if you would be interested to race there, so I can make sure that we are in the same team and register in time.

The registration starts on October 1st, however based on the experience in the last years, it will be sold out rather quick, so I suggest to come to a decision early.

More information [in Japanese].

Paul Kimmage on the Lance Armstrong comeback

Transkript eines Radio-Interviews mit Paul Kimmage zum Armstrong-Comeback:

"My reaction … I’m reminded of that memorable scene in The Shawshank Redemption, where Andy crawled through a giant pipe of steaming excrement in order to escape to freedom. That’s how I feel right now about Armstrong’s come back. I feel like we’ve been dragged through this pile of steaming excrement. And the enthusiasm that I had built up about the sport in the last couple of years has been all but completely wiped out in the last couple of hours.

Let’s turn the clock back to Armstrong’s last apparition in the sport. The Tour de France 2005. He’s standing on the podium. And he makes this big impassioned speech. Which is basically saying ‘The last thing I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics, the sceptics: I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry you can’t dream big. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.’ That was 2005, his last ride in the the Tour de France. And the people flanking him on that podium were Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich. And a month after that race ended the French newspaper L’Equipe reported that in his first winning Tour de France, in 1999, Armstrong had tested positive for EPO. Six separate samples taken during that race revealed positive tests for EPO.

This return, he wants us to believe that it’s all about saving the world from cancer. That’s complete bullshit. It’s about revenge It’s about ego. It’s about Lance Armstrong. I think he’s trying to rewrite his exit from the sport. He’s sat back and he’s watched the last two years and he cannot stand the idea that there are clean cyclists now that will overtake his legacy and buy the memory of all the crap that he put the sport through.

When I heard it being mooted first that he was coming back, I thought well that’s fine, because the first thing ASO are going to say is ‘sorry Lance, we’ve seen your results from the 1999 tests , you’re not coming back.’ I expected a similar statement from Pat McQuaid. What’s happened instead is that Christian Prudhomme has said ‘yes, you can come back, no problem.’ And Pat McQiad has said ‘I really admire this man, he’s a tremendous ambassador for cycling.’ What we’re getting here is the corporate dollars and the money that’s going to accompany this guy back into the game. The money that’s going to bring for Nike, one of the big sponsors of the Tour. And for the UCI, who have been experiencing some serious problems in the last couple of years.

Much as you want to say the sport has changed, as quickly as they can change their own opinions – McQuaid, who says one thing in private and quite the opposite in public, and Prudhomme – if they can change so quickly then I’m sorry, it’s really very, very difficult to have any optimism with regard to Armstrong and the way the sport was moving forward. For me, if he comes back next year, the sport takes two steps back.

I spent the whole Tour this year with Slipstream, the Garmin team. That wasn’t by accident. I chose that team deliberately, because of what they were saying about the sport and the message they were putting out. But also the fact that so many of that team had raced with Armstrong during his best years and knew exactly what he got up to. And the stuff that I learnt on that Tour about him and what he was really like was absolutely shocking, really shocking.

What’s going to happen now is he comes back and everybody’s going to wave their hands in the air and give him a big clap. And all the guys who really know what he’s about are going to feel so utterly and totally depressed. And I’m talking about Jonathan Vuaghthers, who raced with Armstrong that first winning Tour and who doped. And if you look at that Tour, Armstrong’s first win, there were seven Americans on that team. Frankie Andreu has said he used EPO. Tyler Hamilton has been done for [blood doping]. George Hincapie was exposed as a doper by Emma O’Reilly, the team soigneur. Christian Vand Velde and Jonathan Vaughters … both are members of Slipstream and would promote the notion that this was not a clean team by any means. When you look at that and what Armstrong’s done and how he’s seemingly got away with it, it just makes his come back very hard to stomach.

Astana’s the absolute perfect team for him. He’d be renewing his old acquaintance with Bruyneel, who wanted to hire Basso last year. Will he be renewing his old acquaintance with Ferrari, the famous doctor? Will Bruyneel be taking pictures of the questioning journalists and pinning them on the side of his bus?

When Armstrong talks about transparency, this is the greatest laugh. When he talks about embracing this new transparency … I’m really looking forward to that. I’m really looking forward to my first interview request with him and seeing how that comes back. Because that would really make it interesting.

This guy, any other way but his bullying and intimidation wrapped up in this great cloak, the great cancer martyr … this is what he hides behind all the time. The great man who conquered cancer. Well he is the cancer in this sport. And for two years this sport has been in remission. And now the cancer’s back."


24 September 2008

Izu Ride

Labeled 'David's Sayonara Ride', it was to be his last ride in Japan. And what a ride it turned out to be. The participants: Jerome, David, Graham, Juliane and myself (yes, I finally made it out of bed in time)

We met in Shinagawa, from where we took the Kodama to Mishima. The train ride only took 50 minutes - short - but long enough to catch up (having seen those guys in ages) and to discuss the route we were going to take. First step of action: Taking copies at the 'conbini' to be sure about the route.

The first hour (!!!) was spent finding road 17 - we had to ask for directions oftentimes. It was worth spending that much time finding this road - it led along the coast and saw little traffic. Just perfect ! The road eventually turned inland requiring us to do some climbing in order to reach Heda. We had a lunch stop by the harbor - where we had the opportunity to eat BBQ'ed fish from a street vendor. The ride out of Heda also required climbing ... all bearable,even enjoyable.

... the road eventually merged with road 136 - with the traffic also getting busier. We did not continue on the 136 for too long...as the most interesting part of the ride was yet to come ... the climb up Nishina Pass. Graham decided to skip this climb and continued on the 136 to Shimoda, where we would eventually hook up again.

The climb turned out to be a real challenge for all of us ... 8 km straight up ... with a steady incline between 10-14%. I had to stop more often than the others to catch my breath ... i dragged myself up very slowly considering more than once to give up. It took us close to an hour to reach road 59, where we would split paths. David, Juliane and Jerome headed back towards the west coast, heading for Shimoda, while I headed for Ito, from where I would take the train back to Tokyo.

Barely making it the top, my strength and energy was fully consumed. The descend was fun, but the remaining 40 km to Ito along busy roads was painful.

Nethertheless, it was a fantastic ride. Thanks to David, Juliane, Jerome and Graham to have made this a memorable experience. I will miss riding with you guys and the all the others who did not make it for this ride.

22 September 2008

Slick and Attired: Wearing Whatever You Want

We live in a time when having a brake on your bike is seen as a matter of personal preference, but not wearing a helmet is considered suicidal and an affront to human decency.

From Bike Snob NYC


Folks. whats the go for tomorrow ? I havent heard anything. I have really been looking forward to this ride. Maybe we can schedule something spontaneous for tomorrow ... i would love go riding with you guys again ... the thing is, it would not only be David's 'Sayonara' Ride, but also mine. I decided to move on as well - not to spend long office hours in Canary Wharf - but to go back traveling ... i know, i know ... but i just cant get enough of it. I will spend the next few months in China, before setting off to Oz and Nz.
Therefore I would much appreciate if we got together tomorrow. Awaiting feedback ;)

16 September 2008

Sunday morning in Shuzenji: A race report

[TCC readers, please start after the photo]

God created the earth and after almost finishing his work on the sixth day, he had still quite an amount of hills, slopes, gorges and sharp road turns left in his Lego Earth construction kit. As he spend already quite some time fiddling around with Norwegian Fjords and the like, he just dumped all this stuff in a place called Shuzenji in Japan, erected a high fence around the area and placed warning signs:


Everything went fine for the next 5 million years or so, then the first Japanese appeared in the place, lost a big war, started economical reconstruction and the time was right for building a splendid cycling track somewhere in the country. Almost naturally the choice felt on Shunzenji.

"Yeah God, what you wrote made very much sense five million years ago, but now we have carbon frames, Shimano Di2 electronic shifters and 98 gram AX lightness calipers for 169.000 Yen a pair. Hm, different picture, right? And by the way we will fully leverage the investment cost with syndicated bundled loans from Lehmann Brothers, convertible of course."

Since then, Japan enjoys the existence of a full fledged bicycling training track which is disguised as a bicycle-themed amusement park. And as the JCRC (Japan Cycling Racing Club Association) decided to hold at least two races a year in their annual championship series there, I need to go there to attend the races.


JCRC decided to let the D class race start at 7:44 AM, which in turn let me wake up at 4 AM, jumped into the packed car and drive the 140 km or so from Tokyo to Shuzenji. Amazingly the streets were full with cars, even at this time in the morning. The car navigation system, which is not really up to date, proposed some crazy routes, which are basically calculated on the fact, that the fastest road between Tokyo and Kyoto is still the Tokaido. First proposal : 3:20 hours. In the end I made it in 1:45 hour without speeding too much.

Arrived at the parking lot and already many cars and riders were there, even some tents from guys who spend the night there. I assembled the bike and did some training laps on the road circling the parking lot. As I did a training ride to Tomin no mori two days ago (700 meters of constant climbing) I could still feel the pain in my muscles. As usual I was overtaken by other riders, who even during training go 50% faster than I will ever be able to go.

This year I attended the first JCRC Shuzenji race in March as well. At the race in track counter-clockwise direction, I already lost contact with the main field after the start on the first climb when the pace-making motorcycle was leading the field. This should give a good idea of the hardness of the track, the level of the competition and the performance level I am living up to.

I think the only chance I ever have to win something in Shuzenji is, if all other riders would be forced to sit backwards on their bikes, with the legs strapped tightly to the front fork and pedalling with their arms. In addition it would help if they would also be blindfolded. In other words, I really shouldn't go there and race.

At 06.30 AM the gates to the amusement park were opened and I proceeded to enter. There was no registration desk outside and of course I did not bother to take the registration confirmation postcard with me. At the entrance I was asked, if I have the registration with me. This was a pretty stupid question, I thought, because what else would somebody at the age of 45, in full racing attire with his bike do at 6:30 AM in Shuzenji. All the attractions, like the rollercoaster for the six year of age were still closed anyway. So I thought, OK, let's nevertheless try the polite Japanese approach first:

" I am so sorry, accidentally I must have left the postcard at my house, is there really nothing that can be done?" Accompanied by much sucking of air and constant pulling of the right earlobe.

"It is absolutery forbidden to enter without registration."

Bull. What should I do?

"Ha.Ha.Ha. Prease enter, I was only joking."

I completely fell for it. I think that this is a good sign and gives hope for the internationalization of Japan, if people finally are able to do this quite of complex, Western type of joking.

I proceed to the track and did two training laps. The race was conducted in clockwise direction which suits me much more. At the start there is a slight slope which is followed by a steeper slope for some more time. From there on its a constant, fast downhill ride with some fast and sharp turns. It is easy to reach here 60 km/hr and more, but for milquetoasts like me, I constantly stand on the brakes and trying to stay on the road. Then a long climb starts, perhaps 80 elevation meters, followed by an even faster downhill where one comes close to 70 km/hr. And then there is the steepest part up to the finish line. In total the track is 5 km long and a total climb of 120 meter elevation is involved.
I never did more than 3 laps in a row on this track and I was supposed to do 5 today.

I went to the start at 7:30 AM and met Goro-san who started in the C class 2 minutes ahead. Also I met Ishii-san, one of the nicest Japanese riders I ever met and who is racing D class just as me. He crashed just in front of me at the Hitachi-Naka race in July, as he was trying to bunny-hop over a crashed rider in front of him: Result: Fork broken, carbon frame unusable, retired from the race. If he hadn't, he would have been a fierce contender for the D class title this year.
[Readers who are actually interested to read about the race, please start here].

Bang. And the C class is off from the start. 2 minutes later the D class starts. The light drizzling rain almost stops immediately. And 2 minutes after the E class starts. I can easily follow the peloton and I think: "Hey, I am in good shape". But then I notice that the pace making motorcycle is still in front of us and everybody is holding back. The leading motorcycle disappears at the start of the first downhill section and too early I find myself at the start to the long uphill part. Due to the huge mass momentum which my body is supporting, I have a good impulse which takes me beyond some riders for the first 20 meters or so, once I ran out of momentum, I am falling back into last place. I hear that familiar sound: The motorcycle, that is trailing the field behind the last rider.

After the first lap I am very much behind the peloton, but I can also see some other riders from the D class with white helmet covers which are within reach. When I go up the long downhill for the second time, the E class riders are overtaking me, they have made up for the 2 minutes delay in starting time.

I always find the first two laps the hardest: There is still so much in front of you and the body is still feeling the pain; simply not enough endomorphines running through one's vein. I go back into survival mode and try to keep some pace and stay at least above 15 km/hr on the uphill parts.

That works out fine. Finally I start to overtake some of the other D class riders, not many, but at least I cannot hear the sound of the motorcycle any longer. My lap times are around 11 minutes, so I am much, much faster than in March and I should not become overlapped if I stay steady. If I manage to do fast four laps, I can take it easy on the fifth one: There is nothing to win for me anyway but I must do four laps before the head of the field finishes the race in five laps, otherwise I will get disqualified.

There are some crashes in the downhill section. One rider is holding his head, it seems he has crashed just shortly before I arrived and he seems to be in pain. On the long uphill of the fourth lap I overtake one more D class rider from Nalsima who is struggling hard. I give him a smile and shout "Gambatte". This is not altruistic at all, I don't want him to give up, otherwise I might end up again in last place.

Then the C class is overtaking me on the uphill part. Now I should be worried. Really worried. In less than four laps these guys have made up one lap on me minus two minutes later start. The top of the D class field must be very close now. So I give it one more push to the top of the hill, than start the fast downhill and stay with the C class riders, then with good momentum I even overtake some of them on the last uphill. I am really worried that the D class will outsprint me and that I will get lapped. I give everything I have and finally cross the finish line.

Then I realize, that I still have to go one more lap. Oh yes, I should not get lapped, but I also must finish the race. I go relatively easy and risk nothing on the downhill parts. I am relatively fresh when I arrive at the last uphill to the finish line, so I make a good show and sprint into the finish.

No sound of motorcycles behind me, I shouldn't be in the last place. Great. So the evening conversation with my son will be slightly different than usual:

"I attend the race today at Shuzenji."
"In which place did you finish?"
"Well, 47th place."
"Was it the last place?"
"Actually, no."

Actually, I made a very respectable 47th place. Out of 48 riders of course. But some of the other riders I overtook gave up. Or perhaps they were lapped.

I met Goro-San after the race, of course he made another splendid show and finished third in the C class race. Ishii-san finished in 40th place, but still 4 minutes ahead of me.

Out of 8 JCRC races this year, I finished 3 times in last place and 2 times in second last place. One second last place was only due to the fact that I dragged somebody to the race who was definitely not prepared to race in D class. Everywhere in the world this would be considered a lousy performance. However, due to the somewhat peculiar point-system in Japan, I am leading the D class classification. Only three more races. Three more last places will do the trick, I will almost fly to victory.

14 September 2008

Sunday in Chichibu with Jerome

Jerome and I made a quick, 155 km+ trip via Oume and Naruki to Sho Maru Touge and then back via Rte 299 and Hanno City/Irima City, hunting and pecking back to the Tamagawa. Jerome pulled me just about all the way home -- the usual situation where he gets stronger as the day goes on, especially after soaking in a river for a few minutes on the longest climb of the day, but also his desire to keep up a really fast pace, something to do with a business meeting with his staff that he had hoped to get home by 2PM for ... we ended up getting back a bit before 3PM, but based on the mobile call he placed shortly before the end of our ride it sounds like the staff had things very well under control without the boss around, so it was all for the best.

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Nagai-san at Positivo swapped out my recalled Wolf SL fork for the new 3T Funda Pro on Friday -- recall accomplished. The 3T is rock solid -- with noticeably thicker material in the steerer column -- still light as a feather.

04 September 2008


This Saturday (rain or no rain) I will join the very disciplined riders of TCC on a re-run of a loop they have labeled the "Okumusashi Madness Loop" .
Departure is from the Higashi-Ome 7/11 (not too far from the Higashi-Ome Station, right on Nariki Kaido) at 9:30 so I propose to meet at Sekidobashi no later than 8:10 (of course you can take the train to Higashi-Ome if you prefer).

This ride has been conceived as a training for the GIRO DE HOTAKA, a 2-day event taking place on the 8th and 9th of November. For this Giro, M O B will unfortunately not be participating this year (coincides with Saiko Race) but I will definitely go again ! Applications for GIRO DE HOTAKA are still being accepted:

(David, It is OK to do only the Giro part of course...)