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.

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