31 October 2008

Mama Charinko Race

Just signed up for the Mama Charinko endurance race at Fuji Speedway next January. Will be in a team of about 15 riders, mainly fathers from the figure skating class of our daughter Karen.
A new world.

Map My Ride Software

Through TCC I was forced to use the Map My Ride Software. Which was actually good, because it is a very convenient tool to outline cycle tours on the PC, without needing GPS hardware. There might be better systems available, I don't know but I would recommend this one to outline weekend tours and use the data for communication on the Positivo Espresso Blog.

Here is a typical example, outlining the approach to Matsuhime Toge from Okutama. I think James also used something similar when posting the tour next weekend. One can also embed the maps into the blog which I will try, hopefully it will work out.

And here is Tom's favorite OHSMK-loop (Otarumi, Hinazuru, Suzugane, Matsuhime, Kazahari):

Tokyo Cycling Club Hall of Fame

Similar to the Positivo Espresso TOGEBAKA records, TCC has included a Hall of Fame in their website, displaying best times for various standard hill climbs in the region.

Another possibility to compare yourself against the rest of the world is the Wada Climb Site, where everyone can enter his best times for a limit number of climbs, Wada (from Takao), Yabitsu (from Hadano), Shiraishi and one other climb I do not know.

30 October 2008

Bike weight vs. bike aerodynamics

This is an interesting technical presentation from Cervelo, discussing the importance of bike weight and bike aerodynamics. I hope the link works on your PC, otherwise check here, "Col de la Tipping Point."

The company's conclusion in a nutshell:

"Let's look at the 2007 Etape du Tour, held on one of the toughest stages of the Tour. Our model predicts a time of 8h00m35s (including turns, stops and group riding) for the aero bike. This is 35 sec faster than the light bike with the same 250W rider - despite the very hilly course."

My conclusion:

"At the average 30 minute duration JCRC race, a better bike would bring an advantage of 2 to 3 seconds. This will probably not be enough to close the two minute gap between myself and the second last rider (unless, Stephen Coady attends)."

Still, I love my Cervelo. As I loved my Cannondale.

Carbon Failures

After the Cervelo Wolf SL fork product recall, I became somewhat interested in failures of carbon frames and other bike components. Is carbon the equivalent to kryptonite [superman] or just shitty plastic [Asako]? Well, the boring answer might lie inbetweeen, but the cycle industry certainly did a good job of marketing material which is essential plastic, as a high-quality wonder-thing called carbon, given it a totally different image.

One has to be aware that carbon bikes are not made foreever and that sudden failure cahracteristics are different from steel and aluminium. Cozy Beehive and other blogs have some interesting notes about carbon component failures.











Yokkaichi Race Photo Update

Some photos, courtesy of Allschrott from the miserable weather, miserable place JCRC Yokkaichi race. Plus Ciclo performance chart (not miserable).

29 October 2008

Proposed Ride - Sunday 1 November

Tokyo-Takao-Yabitsu-Odawara(-Tokyo) 130ishkm
Ebisu Stn. 6:30am.
David's Hse 7:00am.
Elsewhere as required.
Odawara - Tokyo via Shinkansen is 28mins and will require a bike bag (or several bin liners).
As per last Sunday, we should get to Takao around 8:30am.. arriving in Odawara around Midday at best guess.

Any suggestions or route changes gladly accepted.
If you're not in you're out :)

28 October 2008

CYCLINGFELLAS - the Cycling Community

CYCLINGFELLAS - the Cycling Community has gone LIVE.

CYCLINGFELLAS is a social networking website made for cyclists.

Please join now and help me to make this website a success. Thanks, Marek

26 October 2008

Yokkaichi JCRC #10 Race Report

Yokkaichi makes it difficult to visitors to love the city. I came in on Saturday night from Nagoya and while in the train I flipped through the tourist guide leaflet that was provided by the organizers of the race. Oil refineries. Yes, this is the first thing that is mentioned in the uppermost right corner of the leaflet to describe what distinguishes Yokkaichi from other cities in Japan. Even the mediocre cycle event I was going to participate in found it's way into the leaflet. As does the reconstructed Australian pavilion from the Osaka World Exhibition - in 1970 that was.

Nikkan Sports newspaper conducts one of the races of its 2008 Tour du Japon series at Yokkaichi and it's part of domestic development assistance. The overseas development assistance might be handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but its domestic sister is a different matter. Conducting races on islands which are due to explode any matter amidst clouds of toxic sulphuric gases [Miyakejima] or in boring industrial towns which are deep in recession [Yokkaichi]; lurking hundreds of cyclists to these places with their family and give locals a chance to exploit them ... what else can it be than to be considered domestic development aid?

So when I checked into the NEW YOKKAICHI HOTEL close to the station, I should have been warned that "new" doesn't means new in Yokkaichi. Rather the "new" in a traditional way, say what was new in the Seventies (Limahl, Boy George, Bay City Rollers). But it was cheap and could be conveniently booked through the Internet without going to the trouble to spell my first and family name countless times to the unhappy receptionist.

Outside the hotel a bososoku gang was testing the maximum noise level from their exhaust pipes. There was no police to be seem in the middle of the town, although an illuminated Koban was just right on the spot. Inside I filled out the forms to get my room key.

"Can I please have a room which is located on the other side of the road, away from the noise?"
"Don't worry, your room will have no windows at all".

Yes indeed, so it was. The room was located in the centre of the building, no windows, no ventilation shaft, nothing. A truthful replication of the Fuehrerbunker, app. April 1945. I went to sleep and dreamt of the hits of Russian artillery coming closer and closer. I woke up and started to dream about teaching at the ICU which was somewhat more pleasant.

The alarm clock rang at 5 AM, it was still dark. What did you expected the inside of a room without windows looks like anyway? So I switched on the light, packed my things and mounted my bike on the way to the Yokkaichi Sportsland which was about 15 - 20 km away. Of course I couldn't find the proper road out of town, so I went out and had to come back. My optimism that I will eventually find the way is always playing tricks with me. And once I was on the right road, it started to drizzle and then to rain.

Of course I tried to ignore the rain, which is an approved method of stopping rain. I have done this thousand times, although I have to admit that it normally doesn't work. But that's how humans are, getting the problem solved by pretending it is just not there.

Finally I arrived at the venue and made a first test round of the track. The D class race, which I was registered for, called for two laps of 9 km each. So with very little chance of getting lapped and after the DNF (DID NOT FINISHED) in Gunma the week before, out of the 10% rule (one get relegated to a lower class when one finishes three races in a row with a time of more than 10% slower than the rider finishing in 10th position), I just had to attend and to finish, not more was required.

But being ambitious I also wanted to come in with a good time and get some points from my closest competitors. My goal was to stay with the main field at least one lap and then stay within 10% of the winning time, if possible not to finish in last place.

The track is actually not easy. After a short downhill after the start there is a long climb of 80 elevation meters up, which is 2/3 of the climbing which needs to be done in one lap. So I know that I had to survive this climb with the field if I wanted to stay with them for the first lap. After that there is a nice and fast downhill part, where one can oversprint one little hill. Followed by a straight part with some curved and two smaller hills, followed by a nasty climb again. Then there is a flat part which lead to the finish, but 200 meter before the finish there is another crazy curve which leads to the uphill finish sprint. More than 120 meter of climbing per lap and some nasty metal gratings and curves, so one has to take care not to get dropped and also not to slip.

After one lap in the rain I felt already cold and miserable. Before the start I went to the toilet and in such miserable circumstances, even small things like a warm toilet seat can make one happy. Until I discovered that the seat was not electrical heated but warmed up by the hundreds of people who were sitting and shitting there before me.

At the start I met Yanagi-san from Miyakejima and saw some other familiar faces. Then the race was started behind a pace making motorcyle. To my surprise I could keep the pace and finish the mighty climb more or less with the main field. In the downhill part I simply had more mass momentum and could close in again. I was doing well until the nasty climb about 1.5 km from the finish, where I got dropped. But at least I knew I was not in the last position and I have lost maybe 200 meters overall.

I then started for the second time the mighty climb which was now harder to do without any draft. Nevertheless I was involved in some serious superhuman efforts here [note: the definition of a human is a white Male, 46 years, 96 kg of weight, moderate talent for sports. Thinking it over, I should rather use the term "supermob efforts"].

And I saw another D class rider 100 meter up the hill which gave me additional motivation. Shortly before the top of the climb I was almost overtaking him. But I did not, which in hindsight was a very clever move [although not planned]. I stayed behind him on the downhill part and when the small oversprinting hill came, I had so much momentum, that I zoomed along at mobonic speeds. Yes I virtually mobaculated myself from the bottom of the hill into the sky and left him there standing in pure admiration of the God of speed. This must have demoralized him completely. He fiished way behind me.

The rest of the race I tried to go fast but even better not to slip. When I was attacking the last nasty climb, I got overtaken by the leading E class rider who has started 2 minutes behind me. So I knew that after all I had done well. I did a last sprint up the hill to the finish and then the race was over. I was not being overtaken by any other rider.

Later I checked the results - 15th place out of 20 riders, this is pretty good for me as normally I tend to end in the last place or second last place at this kind of races. All my direct competitors for the D class JCRC championship did better than me (notably 7th and 9th place) and also the Tour du Japan competitor was doing better. But it looks good, I just need to attend and finish the Saiko race to become the champion. Tour du Japan championship is now a little bit impossible, but that was never the goal anyway.

Later I took a look at the Ciclo data which was quite impressive and confirms that I am in good shape. I mean for my shape.

Actually after all the cycling and rain I was so tired of everything that I just rode to the next station and took the train back. Unfortunately I managed to end up in the smokers compartment when I left Yokkaichi. So this will be my last impression of the town. Oil refineries in the rain, viewed through smoke stained windows from the train.

PS I visited Mie-Ken in 1985 in 1990 and in 1999 and I have been to the most wonderful places there, including Mikimoto pearl island and the Spanish village. This one is different.

[some other material to follow]


It was time to see 紅葉 (kouyou, the turning of the leaves), so I headed for Okutama yesterday. At the rest area overlooking the dam holding Okutamako, I met Chris from Canada who had just rediscovered doing bicycle tours and who had been consulting POSITIVO ESPRESSO for tour tips.

Further along the lake, I sought a place to have my first rest for food and found a sobayasan cum omiyageten where after buying some biscuits I ended up being served tea and kaki (persimon) by the two friendly and chatty ladies running the place. They were quite impressed one could cycle all the way from Tokyo within just a few hours. In old times, their ageing father who was also present had taken two days to do the same trip. Lucky I have a decent bike!

There was not much of kouyou in sight around Okutamako. This year's autumn seems rather mild, delaying the onset of the season. So I decided to cycle on, up into Tabayama Valley, where indeed I found kouyou - plenty of it. It was a real pleasure cycling through the beautiful landscape, so much I didn't really notice how much uphill I was going.

An overall leisurely ride across the Yanagisawa Pass took me onto the Autobahn down to Enzan.

Arriving at Enzan station, a special express bound for Shinjuku was about to pull in and I would have had to wait 40 minutes for the next one, so I decided to test the patience of the JR attendants by taking my bike onto the platform and into the train without even any pretence of having covered or wrapped it. Nobody stopped me. When I had to pay for the express fare on the train, the attendant told me that normally I would have to wrap the bike, but again no attempt to expel me. I apologised, and was about to explain that actually I knew what I was doing and I even had my bicycle bag with me, but then thought that was probably better left unsaid.

Takao Attack

Thoroughly enjoyable Sunday ride, Takao and back, thanks to David, Bryon, Ben and Dominic.
Left home just after 6:10am, met Ben in Hiro-o, Bryon and Dominic at Ebisu, then off out to David's house. Straight down the Tama as usual, said bye to Dominic around 7:30am who was on kid watch duty and had to get back home, an hour later we were at the Seven-Eleven in Takao, not too shabby at all. Raining however! We set off to do the Otarumi TT. What started as a half-hearted attempt became far more serious as Ben took on the pacemaking at the halfway mark providing an excellent wheel to hold onto. I only fell away in the last few metres, but we both held our own against a couple of local (and much lighter!!) domestics. I timed both from the Family-Mart at the Takao Crossing and at the Seven-Eleven further up the road, stopping the clock at the brow of the hill. 20:09mins 7.39km or 15:20mins 5.35km. We re-grouped and headed back to Takao. My brakes are really rubbish in the wet, scary almost, the 'cork' blocks on carbon rims give me no confidence whatsoever, but made it back down with no drama, if a tad more slowly than my companions. After another quick pitstop in town, we headed for home. One final quick stop for more fuel at the Tama Seven-Eleven and then back along the river. One flat for David, quickly changed in just a few minutes and we were back at his house before you knew it. Back up Komazawa dori for the rest of us, I was home at the strike of midday. Perfect.

View Larger Map

Garmin download here

24 October 2008

US-bekistan Wind Tunneling

from cozy beehive

Saiko Race on 09.11.2008

Often called the "Rund um den Henninger Turm" of the East, the JCRC race at Saiko is undoubtedly one of the more charming races of the season. An almost flat round course around one of the Fuji lakes [I hasten to add that nevertheless David and me experienced some problems at the hills in the past], beautiful autumn scenery with a splendid view on this big mountain which name just doesn't come to my mind, tasty mushroom pasta at Cafe M, a handy rotemburo and some racing can make a very nice weekend out there [which accidentally collides with the Cycle Mode Show].

POSITIVO ESPRESSO and it's associated teams and friends has a rich history of splendid appearances at Saiko, going back to the year 2003. I guess that nobody will ever forget the display of pure discipline and willpower of the now almost defunct IRISH ROVERS time trial team in 2006, as evidenced in this photo.
In the same year, David, heavy on drugs, tried to overtake the pace making motorcycle at the start in a show of utter determination. In combination with me, we completely exhausted ourselves then on the first lap only to find ourselves trailing everybody during the final and second lap.

Jan Ullrich crashed here during his short-lived return to pro-cycling in 2007 and was not seen ever since.

Many children of Positivo Espresso team members were forced by their fathers to start their [extremely short] cycling careers at the shores of this lake. The lake must be full of tears.

This year the whole Kraehe family will start at Saiko [with the exception of my dear wife; I wrote to JCRC to finally add a new category: "75m shopping on a electric-bike while talking on the mobile phone" where I am pretty sure she would make a good finish, but they have not even added the now obligatory mama charinko class]. Chief assistant Jacques D. from the legion etrangere will also attend. And newcomer Ludwig aka Manfred von Holsten as well.

I have also put in a registration for the team time trial at 7:20 AM, where so far only Jacques and me are nominated. So please feel free to join us.

And of course I hope that I will be able to celebrate the win of the JCRC championship at Saiko after the race [I really shouldn't write these things].

Anyway, what I just wanted to write is, that the damned deadline for race registration is on Wednesday next week. If you want to come, don't miss it.

Like Andreas Moeller, famous German soccer star answered the question for which club be would like to play with "Milano or Madrid, it doesn't matter as long as it is in Italy.", I would like to say "X or D class, it doesn't matter, as long as ... whatever."

23 October 2008

Tokyo Endurance Race Update 14.12.08

Here is a short update of the recent developments:

I have registered one 4 rider mixed team (must be paid by 14/11) with the idea to have Juliane, David, me plus Laurent in this team (Jacques has dropped out in the meantime).

I have registered another 3 rider team for Jacques, but as he dropped out that could be used by Tom, his daughter and my son if this is OK for all parties involved.

Ludwig has found a place in the
D team of the TCC.

The organizer have closed the registration - was written on the TCC website, but I cannot confirm this. But when I checked today, I found out the the race will be held not only on Sunday 14/12,
but on Saturday 13/12 as well.

A world of new possibilities.

We can attend both days, stay the night in Tachikawa and have a bonenkai there - at least I will propose this to the TCC. By the way I challenged them that we will have a better result than their A team. So please ride fast or be willing to pay.

I would like to conclude the registration in the coming days. So please let me know, if you would attend and be ready to pay the registration fee of 6.500 JPY/person which I will forward.
We can also take Tom instead of Laurent in the 4 rider mixed team and forget about the second team.

2009 Tour

Looks awesome.. particularly looking forward to Stage 15, the climb into Verbier and then Stage 20, up Ventoux!

July 4, stage 1: Monaco ITT, 15km
July 5, stage 2: Monaco - Brignolles
July 6, stage 3: Marseille - La Grande Motte
July 7, stage 4: Montpellier - Montpellier, TTT 38km
July 8, stage 5: Cap d’Agde - Perpignan
July 9, stage 6: Gerona - Barcelona, 167km (Spain)
July 10, stage 7: Barcelona - Andorra-Arcalis, 224km (uphill finish)
July 11, stage 8: Andorra-la-Vella - St-Girons
July 12, stage 9: St-Gaudens - Tarbes (via the Tourmalet)
July 13, rest day and transfer to Limoges
July 14, stage 10: Limoges - Issoudun, 192km
July 15, stage 11: Vatan - St-Fargeaud, 200km
July 16, stage 12: Tonnerre - Vittel, 200km
July 17, stage 13: Vittel - Colmar (via col de la Schlucht)
July 18, stage 14: Colmar - Besançon
July 19, stage 15: Pontarlier - Verbier (Switzerland)
July 20, rest day
July 21, stage 16: Martigny - Bourg-St-Maurice (via col du Grand-St-Bernard and Petit-St-Bernard)
July 22, stage 17: Bourg-St-Maurice - Le Grand Bornand (via 5 climbs, starting with Cormet de Roselend, finishing with col de la Colombière)
July 23, stage 18: Annecy, ITT 40km
July 24, stage 19: Bourgoin - Jallieu-Aubenas
July 25, stage 20: Montélimar - Le Mont Ventoux
July 26, stage 21: Montereau - Paris/Champs-Elysées

Cycle Mode 2008 at Makuhari Messe 7 - 9.11.08

Cycle Mode 2008 is again held this year at Makuhari Messe. I was there last year and it was quite good as one can actually test ride some bikes on a trial course constructed outside of the halls. David Marx was exhibiting with RGT Enterprises Assos, AX Lightness and Gravity Zero and he had a Trek test bike available which I could instantly use. But I guess I will leave the bike-ignorant, selfish, nerve-wrecking kids at home this year.

Here is a comment from the English website which explains it all :

"It is said that approximately 100 million bicycles are ridden in Japan. Rising concern over the enhancement of physical conditions such as beauty and health as well as the preservation of environment will contribute to encourage people to attend the show. In fact, the current trend of increasing number of bicycle buyers who are on bikes for fitness or communicating purposes.

CYCLE MODE international will be enjoyed not only by those who love bicycles but also by those who might be interested in bicycles in the future."

I would doubt that there are approximately 100 million bicycles ridden in Japan, but I would agree that at any given time there are more than 200 million bicycles parked in front of railway stations in Japan. It is a similar relation here as in case of the population of New Zealand and the number of sheeps I reckon.

I also have also never seen bicycle buyers who are on bikes, but I will tell Nagai-San to change his store lay-out to allow for potential bikers to drive-in on their bikes and make a purchase as this seems to be the new trend.

As I do not love bicycles but might be interested in bicycles in the future, I might enjoy Cycle Mode if I go there in the future for fitness or communication purposes and contribute to encourage of people to attend the show for the enhancement of physical conditions such as beauty and health.

Just discovered the missing Sandra Palin gene in me.

Proposal for Sunday 26th October

Sunday Ride, Ebisu Stn 6:30am, David L. House 7:00am (or so), Sekidobashi 7:45am(ish?) - Ride to Takao Seven-Eleven, if time quick Otarumi TT, return, back at Ebisu by midday, from Central Tokyo this is approx. 120km round trip.

MK's Positivo Quote 14 July:
"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."

With this in mind this ride should be considered a friendly junk mile trip..

22 October 2008


www.bicyclelinks.info is an old-school, 1996-style site packed with links to purportedly every useful cycling institution on the web. Sorry if this makes you waste the next 12 hours surfing the interweb. via thegoat

21 October 2008

Matsuhime Loop

With the decisive race in Yokkaichi/Mie-Ken around the corner next Sunday, I thought that I should include a brutal ride into this weeks training regime and add some substantial distance. So far I did rarely rides of more than 200km distance: Itoigawa Fast Run, Shimoda, that's it almost. So I decided to go to Matsuhime and back, something I have done with Marek, Jerome and David last year in the rain and which turned out to be a most memorable trip. This time I tried it solo.

I left the house a quarter past nine, much too late already. I tried to contact Mike from TCC from which I knew that he would go to Matsuhime as well. Also I mad sure to wear my Positivo Espresso jersey to be easy recognisable.

I took it slow, but not too slow and went along the Tamagawa river towards Ome. Got into a quarrel with an idiotic truck driver.

As I was already late, I decided to skip the break at Ome station and ride on to Okutama Station instead. This was a very hard decision, as it meant that I would not be able to ate the famous royal milk bread from the Ome station bakery. When I passed the station I closed my eyes and tried to think about something else: lung cancer, Bayern Munich, cricket - anything just to forget the royal milk bread. It was one of the most terrible moments of my life.

When I arrived at Okutama station I was less than 3 hours on the the road and the sky was blue and the weather just awesome. I took a short break and pressed on to Okutama lake, then to Kosuge village where I refilled my waterbottle. So far I have been on the road for 4 hours.

I then started the time trial up to Matsuhime Toge. The Positivo Espresso time trial point is the signalled crossing in Kosuge [I guess it is the only signal in town], however that's quite inconvenient if you would like to do Matsuhime Toge after coming from Otarumi through Tawa and Tsuru Toge. In this case the crossing of both roads is better. Just in case I took both times.

From Kosuge signal it is a gruesome 10 km climb of about 570 m elevation up to the top Matsuhime Toge at 1.240 meters. I started to go up at a regular speed and fully under tension. This went very well and I was able to keep the tension up to 1.050 m elevation. Then I lost it a little bit, but after going into survival mode for some minutes I could speed up again. Very fast I could see the signboard shortly before the top. I tried to sprint the last 100 meters up but I was completely done. I checked my time: 42:05 minutes - a huge improvement compared to my July run. I know that I was in good shape as I felt just like Mario Pantani when I moved up the slopes [Note: Mario Pantani in his heydays, before he died, that is]. So after that I felt very comfortable going to Yokkaichi.

After a short break on the top I started the descent. Strange things were going on in my head. This synthetic melody popped up again and again and somebody said: "..to seek out new climbs and mountains, to boldly go, where no rider has gone before ....".

Not too far from the toge I saw something liquid, green and fast coming up the mountain which looked like this:
Well it didn't look exactly like this as the Liquigas jersey zipper has been opend fully to reveal the manly body below. This view however should be restricted to the over 20 years old I am afraid.

It was Mike from TCC who has started the attack of Matsuhime Toge from the other side. Obviously he didn't wanted to stop his brutal onslaught of the mountain, so we exchanged only very short greetings. Nevertheless I feel that in the TCC Hall of fame he is qualified for a 20 second deduction of the recorded time.

It was only one of the very few times I met some of the strong climbers from TCC (Thomas, Travis, Phil, Philip, Deej, Sergey, Keren and others) but I heard much from Tom about them. They must be awesome.

I then descended further in direction of Sarubashi and at one point I hit the 67 km/hr mark. Everything was just wonderful. Until I head route 20, which is just one nightmare. I mean, it is better going towards Sagamiko then in the other direction, but with all the trucks and traffic it isn't a very nice road to cycle. route 246 is even worth but 20 is close. Somewhere I wrote something about the similiarities between route 246 and my marriage (actually I met my wife the first time on 246 in Aoyama).

And then comes Uenohara, with its ridiculous amounts of hills and climbs and of course I had more crashes in Uenohara than in any other country of the world, including Japan, excluding Uenohara. But this time I came through unharmed and after a short break at a 7-Eleven at Sagamiko I made the last serious climb of the day over Otarumi and checked out the location of the Family Mart starting point on the other side of the climb. My estimate is, that it takes about 4 minutes from the Takao 7-Eleven to the Family Mart, or, an Otarumi time trial time of 19:30 min (my best) would be aquivalent to 15:30 hr on the TCC scale.

I continued my way home through Hachioji and then along the Asakawa and it was already twilight. Then something happened, what never has happened before: A flying bird hit me unbraked in the face. The bird must have been drunk, perhaps it was a salary-bird on the way back from a karaoke outing with the other birds from the office. Or it was just a stupid bird. Anyway I started to seriously thinking about upgrading the illumination of my bike.

I reached the Tamagawa when it was almost dark and continued in the dark on the cycle road. I didn't get hit by anything else but with all the dogs and old ladies on the cycling road in the dark, one has to ride very concentrated and cannot go too fast.

Also it should be noted that the part of the road which is normally closed by chain links, is open in the evening for car traffic and it is not nice at all to ride there.

Anyway, I came home shortly before 7 PM after a long day on the bike and 215 km in my legs. It was an excellent training day and I am ready to do what man must do in Yokkaichi.

20 October 2008

Saturday Tama

I was out early Saturday for a quick training ride. David was a blink of the eye at some point on the return leg and then stopped to have a quick chat with Michael. I was riding with Dominic who is new to the road riding scene but participates in the spin classes at TAC with me. He just bought a Pinarello FP2 as his first 'steed'. He complained of a little lower back ache early on but otherwise seemed very comfortable on his new bike. I have been pushing him and a couple of other guys to get out and ride with me recently with reasonable success.

Tom (not sure) and Bryon (Specialized) who you guys have met at this year's Fuji are keen; Aussie Ben (Cannondale) has already heard of Tom via TCC; Pat (Antares) from my office who kindly lends Walter his bike for the Fuji Hill Climb every year (maybe he will attempt it himself this year!); and David (Smith) (yes! ANOTHER David!) who is an experienced Japan rider.

I am looking forward to gettting everyone out for a ride together, but for the meanwhile these guys, just like me, prefer early rides of 3hrs or so to be back home around 10am. David, Ben and I have all had babies within the last month and are still working out the boundaries of what is required, reasonable, necessary and needed. The river is as good as it gets for now I think.

Looking forward to introducing you all sometime soon, and if anyone wants a short weekend ride then just let me know.

PS. Really looking forward to celebrating Michael's JCRC championship :) Gambatte sir!

19 October 2008

Gunma CSC Race

On Friday night I hi-jacked the black company's sales Porsche 911 GT Turbo, picked up Ludwig and Tom, strapped our black leather bags to the spoiler and our Ridley bikes to the top and off we were to spend a first night in a luxury hotel in Maebashi.
Slept bad, had an even worse breakfast but when we arrived at Gunma CSC the sky was steel blue and it was warm enough to enjoy the ride - perfect cycling weather. Tom and me were starting in D class and Ludwig has his first start in X class.

I managed to damage the rear derailleur of the bike during transport and was suffering all the race from slipping gears. I went to Nagai-san immediately after the race to fix it - luckily he could.

Tom pulled me through the race but it was to no avail: shortly before the finish of the 8th lap we got overlapped by the D class field and were disqualified. I don't want to put my bad performance on the damaged derailleur. Or on the lack of warm-up. I was just doing not as well as I thought I could. Poor Tom, he was cheated out of 4 of his planned 12 laps.

But when I went home later and checked the results against the point rankings, my closest competitor also got lapped and the next closest starts now in C class and is out of the D class ranking.
So before the last race I have a lead of 79 point on the number 2 and 90 points on the number 3; there are no other riders in the competition for the first place. With 60 points for attendance and 30 points depending on the finish, I just need to complete the last race to become D class champion. Or I can even skip the race and speculate that #3 will not finish first in the last race (to collect 90 points) and/or that #2 will not finish 5th or better in the last race (to collect 79 points or more). With a best result of 13th place for both of them that seems unlikely.

Ludwig did a good job in his first race, he was only lapped in his 7th lap of the x class race, if he would have gone a little faster, he would have been able to finish this 8 lap race. For a start he did a very impressive job.

We were back in Tokyo by 3 PM already. I guess this is the last time I raced in Gunma, next year I will concentrate on the flat races, some favourites (Fuji Hillclimb, Itoigawa Fast Run) and try the bank.

Michael nervously waiting for his rankings print-out...

Yokohama King of Enduro Race Statistics

18 October 2008

Beautiful Hutchinson Promo Video

...the day before

Did another pilgrimage ride into Chichibu again today. This time I visited Shinpukuji 真福寺 on top of Mt. Ootana 大棚山. Very steep a la Wada!! In three hours from now I'm meeting Michael and Ludwig...looks like I'll be in German company this evening. Tomorrow's JCRC race in Gunma is, according to insiders, SHINDOI ....backbreaking !!! Helping Michael solidify his lead will be my job...I'm getting very nervous!!

15 October 2008

Yokohama Stadium Race

Jacques Daumont from NFCC and me started on Saturday at the Bike Navi Nissan Stadium Race in Yokohama. The category we have chosen consisted of a three hours solo endurance race in the morning, followed by a two hours solo endurance race in the afternoon, followed by a week in the intensive care unit of a Japanese hospital of your own choice. Only 62 riders choose this "King of Enduro" category, otherwise they opted for either 3 or 2 hours, or riding as a team. Wise guys and girls.

The race course starts on the field track inside the stadium and follows a mostly flat lay-out in the park area around the stadium with a length of 3.2km. The course was peppered with "
virages en épingles", this is at least how Jacques described it in French. There is also one brutal ramp leading from park level to stadium level. Although it is only 40 meters long and has an inclination of perhaps 15%, this proved to be the location where riders fell off their bikes later during the race in a state of complete exhaustion.

Of course it started to rain when I was on the way to the stadium and that was the running theme for the whole afternoon. Not a hard rain, but steadily small drops. I met Jacques at the parking lot and he was in good mood nevertheless. He is always in good mood and he is one of the funniest guys that I know. Of course I do not include all the funny guys working in the company in this comparison. Perhaps he is also so funny because he speaks French (which I do hardly), almost no English (can) and almost no Japanese (can too), so our conversation is a mix of three languages. He also speaks some German, or one sentence to be precise: "Warum bist du nicht meine Mama?"

So we had long conversations about the state of the world, pro biking and the new French embassy in Tokyo which is equipped according to Jacques with "vegetable lighting". I am not sure what this is, perhaps "les legumes lumieres" in French?

Anyway, then we did a test lap and found out that there are a lot of metal gratings and one cannot be careful enough to maneuver them well. The course is not easy because it is very hard to find a rhythm. There is constant acceleration and deceleration and that makes one very tired over the course of five hours. So an average of 30 km/hr doesn't seem much but even good riders don't do more than 34 or 35 km/hr.

We proceeded to the start area and watched the cheerleaders, who were not half as good as the ones in Tsukuba. If you look carefully, you can see them in the picture of Jacques on the monitor in the upper right corner.
I asked the guy in front of us to take some pictures and he turned out to be a JCRC A class rider who knows Goro-san. Being one of the very few foreigners in JCRC races and the only one who attended every single race this year, everybody seems to know me but I don't know anybody. Shinji was very kind and he actually finished in third place of the morning race.During the start countdown Jacques made many, many noises like the horn of a big truck, or a bicycle bell which brought all around us to laugh and gave us the chance to overtake our immediate surrounding even before the countdown was finished. The course was then full of riders, following the pace making motorcycle. I maneuvered myself to the front, not as skillful as Alain but nevertheless I was able to ride the first 4 laps with the fast group. My problem was that I lost too much time on the ramp and then it was hard for me to close the gap again on the straight parts.

After half an hour I wanted to give up as usual. But then I found some rhythm, jumped from group to group and drafted and felt the strong sensation that I was leading the race. This was of course completely untrue and some faster riders constantly overtook me, but somehow I felt like the king of the road and that motivated me to continue to go fast. After two hours I overtook Jacques. He was having fun with the other riders next to him and enjoying himself. I almost slipped two times on the metal gratings and rode the corners extremely carefully, loosing perhaps some time. But there were some crashes, one even inside the stadium and the riders involved didn't look good at all. In particular the ramp was a place where the suffering of mankind was displayed on small scale.

After 2 and a half hours I felt better as I knew that the race would come to an end. I was riding very constantly lap times of 6 minutes and it would be possible to cross the finish line after a little bit less than three hours with 30 laps and add one more lap (this year the rule who finished the most laps with the last lap starting before the three hours deadline, last year it was within three hours time).
So I gave even more but in the end I didn't made it and the result was
  • mob 30 laps 3:00:26 hours 31.92 km/hr 34th place
  • Jacques 29 laps 3:05:41 hours 29.98 km/hr 76th place
  • out of 209 riders in the morning 3 hours race.
As we rode in the rain for almost the whole race my bike and me were unbelievable dirty. Jacques was laughing and said that I looked with my dirty face like a coal miner, but I didn't took it too serious.

We retired, had some noodle soup and I slept in Jacques car. The weather was now much better and it seemed possible the road would be dry for the start of the afternoon race. I tried not to think about the fact that I had to add another two hours.

We came to late to the start so we needed to start from the very end of the better group. Jacques faked a start in the opposite direction before the countdown was over, bringing our neighbors to tears. Yes, Jacques, he can make you laugh and he can make you dead [Secret note: Jacques is employed as chief assassin of the French embassy in Tokyo. His road to cycling is littered with dead bodies. He never talks about work. Ever. Only about vegetable lighting.].

So I never had the chance to move up to the fast group from the start. But there were a lot of fresh riders who skipped the morning race and concentrated on the two hours only, so I felt that the general speed was a little bit higher compared to the morning. And I was also definitely slower, I thought.

After half an hour I wanted to give up as usual. But then I found some rhythm, jumped from group to group and drafted and felt the strong sensation that I was leading the race. This was of course completely untrue and some faster riders constantly overtook me, but somehow I felt like the king of the road and that motivated me to continue to go fast [I copied this part from the description of the morning race - but it was exactly the same].

After a while I started to stop thinking and everything went automatically. But what I like about endurance races is, that you one is constantly motivated to close the gap to riders in front and that there are constantly some good riders in front. This is very much different, from, say hill climbs, where I am in last position almost immediately after the start, only the motorcycle of the organizer behind me and the gap to the rider in front of me is ever increasing.

Anyway, I was riding 6 minutes lap times plus a little bit more and after 90 minutes it was pretty much clear that I would finish with 20 laps. I didn't overtook Jacques this time, as he secretly sneaked out of the race to pee somewhere.

Then the final countdown, one more effort and the race was over.
The result of the afternoon race was
  • mob 20 laps 2:00:55 hours 31.75 km/hr 59th place
  • Jacques 19 laps 2:04:27 hours 29.31 km/hr 129th place
  • out of 238 riders in the afternoon 2 hours race.
I was surprised that I could keep my average speed in the afternoon, I thought I would have been slower. And here is the end result for the the KING OF ENDURO:
  • mob 50 laps 5:01:21 hours 31.85 km/hr 14th place
  • Jacques 48 laps 5:10:09 hours 29.71 km/hr 27th place
  • out of 62 riders that finished the race.
I think we did a pretty good job, riding solo faster than many of the teams attending. And we were competing against S and A class cracks and anyway only the hardcore riders start in the King of Enduro class. Actually last year I did only the three hours race in the morning and I was slightly faster, but the weather was much better than. So we were tired, but also proud of us.

And now comes the funny part. On the same day the Octoberfest of the German school was conducted and I promised my family to go there. As I was looking like a swine and I thought it would be a nice idea to take a shower at the nearby Nissan waterpark pool before turning up at the school yard and leaving behind me a trail of crying and disturbed children. Actually I looked like this:
So, here is a quiz; when I showed up at the ticket counter of the pool, which question was I asked :
  • A : Could you please wash yourself [you pig] before jumping in the pool ?
  • B : Do you have any tattoos ?
  • C : Do you have a bathing cap with you ?
Obviously, and as anybody knows who has lived a while in Japan, the right answer is C. Even if you are dirty as a coal miner and stink like a sewer, the rules must be respected. And the rule is that you need a bathing cap.

So, what was my answer to this question?

  • A : Yes, I have a bathing cap, but no swimming shorts.
  • B : Actually I only wanted to take a shower
  • C : Yes, but my bath cap has a tattoo.
Obviously the right answer is B, as I am not such a reaction-quick wisecrack, but more some kind of Milquetoast.

Summary : A good race, but very hard. I rode at walking speed to the Octoberfest where I found out that my wife didn't come by car so I had to ride back home on the bike as well. I was completely done. The next day I could hardly move. So most likely I will do it next year again.

Izu West Coast Cruising

Ludwig and me arrived started our Monday trip at 9 AM at Mishima station. It was the first time to ride with Ludwig and his new Canyon bike, the weather was splendid and as usual we lost the way before finding route 17 along the coast.

First we swapped our shoes and then we swapped our bikes and I had the chance to do some kilometers riding the Canyon. I was most impressed by the Dura Ace, in particular the braking is much sharper and stronger compared to my Ultegra setup. Although it has no benefits for me any longer, I was also impressed by the headset with integrated ashtray. There is no cover cap on the fork shaft, instead there is a nice whole which leads all the way down to the tire. Apart from the further weight reduction I cannot imagine any other usage than as ashtray.
A nice bike indeed. Dura Ace shifts very precisely. The carbon frame has a better damping effect over bumps than my stiff Cervelo Alu frame.Leisurely we rode along the coast road to Matsuzaki where we had lunch at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Nobody knows why we go and eat there, I guess Juliane started this tradition some time ago.

From Matsuzaki on we took the route 136 along the coast and made in to Shimoda beach by 5 PM. By now means this is an easy ride. There are many up and downs and in total we climbed more than 1.600 elevation meters.
After the good bowl of teriyaki curry pasta at Gaijin Cafe, we proceed to the Kanaya Ryokan and took a dip in the onsen. After a long trip back on the train I arrived shortly before 11 PM back at home.

It was a rather slow trip with a lot of breaks, but considering that Ludwig was riding this type of distances only for the second time he was doing well. I enjoyed the splendid weather after a rather dull forecast the evening before. My feeling was that this was the last warm weather trip before the start of the colder autumn and ultimately winter season.

[For the record: 160km, including return ride from home to Shinagawa station - MvH]

Shiobara Hill Climb Day 2

That's how winners look like. But before anybody can jump on the sacred podiums of the Shiobara Hill Climb and receive the holy radish from the hands of the pretty shrine maidens, hard work has to be done. Read all about it.

Shiobara, the race starts in the village below and leads through the roads criss-crossing the mountain up to the point of almost no return.

Goro going down after his splendid finish.

The next day we woke up, rolling from our beds which were fixed on the sloped ground floor of the hotel very early in the morning. Painstakingly trying to be silent, we moved our two beloved bikes out through the window and made our way to the start point of the Sunday race, located at TEPCO land.

The town of Shiobara was still very quiet and no local townsfolk were on the streets yet. However from all corners, backyard alleys and manholes, cyclist were gathering on the main street and silently proceeding to the start. Tom and me were lucky to find two riders from NALSIMA FRENDS [Yes, this is what they had written on their jerseys], who rode rather fast and gave us the chance to draft effortlessly along.

Just arriving at the start area.

To our surprise we found out that the start point was not on the top of the hill, as we have investigated the previous day, but on the very bottom, immediately after the start one has to climb a slope - not a good start for me at all.

Tom has made up his strategy, which was basically to start at a crazy speed, get away from the main field and then try to maintain the distance over the first 12 km of up-and-down-land; after that, on the last climb which was equal to the race on Saturday, he would take it rather easy. My strategy was to stay with the main group the first 12 km and try to survive the 7 km climb at the end. And take it rather hard.

At the start, training for the race.

Too soon our D class group was ready to start with Tom and me pretty much at the front. The signal came and immediately Tom started to accelerate as crazy in order to gain some distance already on the first hill. However, he was not successful, many other guys could follow him and closed the gap. But the consequence was, that the average speed became very high. Whileas I was able to match the pace on the flat and downhill parts, I lost ground on every climb and finally after 4 km or so I was on my own.

My mood improved slightly as I was able to overtake some of the earlier started riders (women, but even C class), but then I was overtaken by the E class main group (one minute late start) and at the end of the 12 km run also by the F class (two minutes late start).

Whereas the race has been held on the main road so far, now the course turned to the right, where I shifted from outer into inner gear and started the long climb up. The first kilometer of climbing leads to the start point of the first day race and for the complete climbing distance [from the main street turn to the finish] a special “Climbing Price” is awarded by the organizer JCRC.

Revisiting the monster slopes of the race on the way down.

Anyway, I tried to stay with the E class field on the climb but just couldn’t. I tried to keep a steady pace up. And much to my surprise I overtook some more riders, mainly women and I could also close the gap to a rider from the D class field. So I asked him if we should stay together and go only into competition the last 500 meters, so that we can ride up faster as a team. He said yes but the result was, that I mainly pulled him up. He was a little bit faster on the very steep parts, but I was clearly faster on some of the flatter stretches.

Carefully I avoided to ride over any chestnut on the road, the most important goal was to reach the finish and collect the JCRC points, a good ranking or a good time was only of second importance.

Finally we made it within 500 meters of the goal. We started to accelerate and to sprint towards the finish, but the other guy was younger, better looking and had more reserves so in the end, as the day before, I ended up in second last place.

At the finish, basically done.

Anyway, we had good results. In the D class field Tom finished in 14th place in 49:45 min and me 36th in 1:01:00 hrs. The D class winner did an incredible 45:12.

In the special mountain price category, Tom finished in 103rd place with 29:21 min and me in 204th place with 37:36 min out of 229 (male) riders. This shows clearly that JCRC races are not neccessarily for beginners and that there are many strong riders out. Even in the female category. This incredible thirteen year old girl, who won the women category on the first day also won the mountain price in 29:40 min, almost as fast as Tom.

As usual Goro-San had the most impressive result, as he finished in 9th place in the special mountain price. He is now eligible to start in the A class, a very considerable achievement in one season, given the fact that he started in E class at the beginning of the season. Chapeau, Goro.

Tom and me then rode down the hill to the event ground were both of us were presented with the “Giant Radish of the Day” prices, which we truly deserved.

Please check our complete results here, here and here.

Overall it was a very good race in splendid surroundings and I wonder why we don’t take more such opportunities as Positivo Espresso team. We can easily rent a bigger car, throw 3 or 4 bikes inside and head for the unknown countrysides on Japan.

Naturally, after spending that much time on hill climbs during the last two days, Tom and me were still affected by the side effects of this life style,as one can clearly see in the last picture, showing us on the way home in the car.

Shiobara 2009, here we come again.Please all take a look at the statistical data of day one and day two below.