11 November 2008

Championship Reflections

Someday in December, when JCRC will send me the champion jersey for 2008 and I will be the official recognized winner of the "2008 Road serise", I will definitely invite for a party, possibly at the Positivo shop and then close by. Until then, some reflections on the 2008 JCRC racing season:
For sure I had a lot of luck. Also persistence and power, but most of all luck. Out of the 14 JCRC races I have attended this year (counting the actual races, not the events), 10 have been hill climbs or similar elevation intensive races. And I am not a fast hill climber at all. But luckily some of the strongest contenders this year have given up in the midst of the season, or where promoted to C class. Like fourteen year old Nishimura - who continues to beat me at every single race.
And I was also lucky that the JCRC rules were in my favour. 60 points for attendance of a race and arriving at the goal without getting lapped. And in addition a maximum of 30 points depending on the race result. One could virtually secure championship by just attending. At one point I was at risk to be relegated to E class. That happens if one finishes three times in a row with a time 10% slower than the 10th place rider in a race. But miraculously after finishing 10% lower in the races at Gunma and Shuzenji, the next race (hill climb at Shiobara) was exempted from this rule and the race afterwards (again Gunma) as well. Finally I made the cut in Yokkaichi. But the most luck I had with the weather and that I didn't encountered any crash or mechanical problems. Weather conditions were good at almost all races, except for Hitachi-Naka and somewhat for Yokkaichi. My competitor and later friend Ishii crashed at Hitachi-Naka almost in front of me and I had to ride over the grass in order to get out of the danger zone. At the Tokyo race (not part of the JCRC series) also in the rain, a guy riding next to me on the inner side of a curve slipped and started to slide in my direction. Instead of cornering I rode straight and straight into the guiderails, barely managing to escape the crash as well as the rails. Is Saiko, at the last race, a rider crashed 30 meters in front of me during the finish sprint and again I was lucky that he felt on the left side and I could pass on the right. At the hill climb in Shiobara, I rode over a chestnut which punctured my back wheel tire. Luckily that happened only 200 meters away from the finish, so I was able to walk to the goal.

And I was lucky that I had no injuries, no colds, nothing. If anything, the JCRC series has told me something about the meaning of luck and that a tiny mishap can ruin the hard work of a complete season. This is not a single race where one can have a good result or not and then again try next year. This was my once in a lifetime chance to achieve something extraordinary in the field of sport and if I would make only one small mistake, I would have wasted my chance and never get a new one.


And this is actually the dark flip side of riding for championship series: I was very worried all the time. Worried that I will crash, get a cold, don't know the JCRC rules or simply do not race very well and that killed a lot of the fun associated with racing. At Saiko I thought that it might be too risky to ride along with the main group, and just cruise behind them at 30 km/hr in order just to finish and not to get lapped. Because this would have been enough to clinch the title. Just because I was worried, I would have given up to enjoy the race and sprint for victory. I did not in the end, but again I was lucky that I did not crash.


It is less fun to race when one has to race, in the rain or in races where one finished in last place, just because one needs to gather the points. This has been what I have learned this year and I have now much more respect for sportsmen and women who achieve their goals over a long season, be it bicycle riders, soccer teams or figure skaters. I will not try to repeat this again, one season of worries have been enough.
From a point of performance I am a miserable champion I guess. How where my results over the season?
  1. Kawagoe : 30th place out of 38 riders in the goal. Got dropped in a flat course race. Early in the season I was in miserable shape.

  2. Shuzenji : 25/25 Last place, of course at Shuzenji. Couldn't even keep the pace of the pacemaking motorcycle at the start.

  3. Gunma : 37/37 Last place again. Was lucky that I didn't got lapped and disqualified.

  4. NATS: 15/22 That was OK, however I also got dropped by the main group in this flat course race.

  5. Miyakejima : 8/9 A lot of points for me because there were only 9 riders in D class. The 9th place was Stephen who I forced into this race. So basically last place again. The solo race the next day was cancelled due to a high poisonous gas concentrations.

  6. Hitachi - Naka : 32/53. A little bit unlucky. First I needed to avoid a crash and temporarily lost contact with the main field, than I choose the wrong wheel to hang on (Alain), although that wheel normally finishes strong.

  7. Gunma : 28/28 Last place again. But I was getting stronger; would have been lapped with my earlier Gunma performance.

  8. Shuzenji : 47/48 Second last place. First indication of performance improvement!

  9. Shiobara : 32/33 on the first day hill climb, 36/37 on the second day hill climb. Apart from the result, this was one of the best races this year.

  10. Gunma : Disqualified. Got lapped shortly before the end of the 8th lap, despite being pulled by Tom.

  11. Yokkaichi : 15/20. Could stay with the main field one lap on this hilly course, but not a second one. Was happy not to end in last place.

  12. Saiko : 14/34. Best performance this year.
In summary, out of 13 races, I finished 8 times in last or second last place or got disqualified.I am not sure how others would judge this, but I think this is not a very champion like performance. My best finish was an 8th place in Miyakejima. Counting from the front, because I left only one ride behind me. Counting from the back, I was good in Saiko (20 riders behind me) and Hitachi Naka (21).
On the other hand I felt that I became stronger and stronger through the season, thanks to a lot of racing and long training rides. In Saiko I felt at the peak and I still had much power let at the finish.

I am really happy, relieved and whatever that everything is over. I am so tired as well. So what is in for next year?

If time allows, I would like to attend some of the races which are either fun to do or where I have at least a chance to make the podium:
  • JCRC / ToJ Kawagoe in March, a 15 km point race
  • Tokyo Tomin race in Oi Futo, a 21 km solo race
  • JCRC / ToJ Hitachi Naka in June, a 30 km solo race
  • JCRC / ToJ Saiko in November, a 20 km solo race
Then I would like to so some of the really challenging races in terms or elevation or distance:
  • Fuji Hill Climb - 1.200 meters up with 5.000 riders
  • Itoigawa Fast Run - 290 km, if we are allowed to start.
  • Tour de Okinawa - 200 km solo race
I also enjoyed the endurance races, such as Tsukuba, Motegi, Fuji Speedway, Yokohama and Tokyo. Preferable in a team. And finally I would like to try some track racing. I hope that a lot of PE guys will join me next year as well.Much of the fun this season and much of the next season as well depends on the good composition and mutual support within the Positivo Espresso team. I am very proud that we have built up a team with very few constraints and rules on the one hand, but a lot of support from and to all riders. I always hated clubs, because one has to go drinking with club mates after the training and there is always this "Are you a member?" feeling which distinguish the good riders (team members) from the rest (not team members). There is so much time spend on club-activities and less time on the real purpose, the sport itself.

But Positivo Espresso is different, we have of course some hard core riders, some hard core bloggers and maybe some hard core drinkers, but in general we are open and inviting to new team members and try to integrate them. Sometimes I feel that this and that could improve and some things disappoint me, but all in all this is probably the best set-up I have ever been in. We recognize that all our members have their weak points: Juliane? Always late, or not there at all. David: Starts at 210% of his performance level when riding out, finishes at 21%. Tom? Demands too much from us non-hill climbers. Me? always too competitive, cannot loose. Jerome? Sleeps too long. And so on. But again, as a group compared with other groups we are doing very well.
This year was hard in particular, because many good riders left us. david went back to England; Marek moved on, first to Southeast Asia, later to Australia. Juliane will leave in December. Alain from NFCC who was a fabulous sportsman moved back to France. James and Ian from the Irish rovers went to Hong Kong and Singapore respectively. To loose such good riders and friends was hard. On the other hand, some new guys were joining us as well. James did a good job to encourage his friends to make even smaller trips out with us together, so did David. Laurent and Stephen joined us again. Jacques was another funny addition. Ludwig succumbed to the bike bug within record time. And Tom's daughter should be ready every day after conquering Wada.

So, in a way I guess we are all champions on our own and Positivo Espresso is therefore the team of the champs. I hope that I could make myself somehow understandable without being too melodramatic. I also do not want to write funny posts all the time.

Team Time Trial Performance at Saiko

1 comment:

David L. said...

Michael:
Thanks for the great summary of your championship year. As Woody Allen once said, seventy percent of success in life is just showing up. He clearly had the JCRC D class point formula in mind, and as you note, given the risk of injuries and illness, plus the need to avoid being lapped or dropped to E class, "just showing up" is harder than it sounds.
Congratulations,
David
P.S. You don't need a funny post if you have a photo of Jacques.