30 November 2008

Can I get you an energy bar ? Some water ?

Maybe not that new, but new for me.

27 November 2008


I would like to ride this Sunday, proposing Takao and back on the following route.
Ebisu stn. 7am, 120km, back by midday.
Any takers?
Obv. can add or subtract to this as you see fit.

via Bryon, read this.. John Korioth Shares His Thoughts (and SRM file) About Racing with Lance at The Tour de Gruene ..inspired or awed?

24 November 2008


I promised my family to be back from cycling by 1 PM. And I was back at 1:15 PM, which is unprecedented and breaking every existing Positivo Espresso tradition. So what went terribly wrong - how could this possibly happen?Well it started with all the ingredients of a typical Positivo Espresso tour at David's home at 7 AM. I needed to devour my 7/11 breakfast and delayed our start. Juliane didn't show up at all and couldn't be reached by phone. Jerome was assuming that she might be on her way to Ome, so we even didn't had a clear plan where to go. I had previously discussed with David, that we will ride to Wada and then return through route 76 to Doshi and back into town through one of the amazing maze roads David was able to identify in the mess of Western Tokyo.

We started to ride along the Tamagawa and immediately tried to make up for the lost time. Three quarters of the members of our superior Saiko race time trial team were present and we rode a fast pace line which went exceptionally well. At Seikobashi we made a last phone call to Juliane, finally giving up on her and then deciding to do the original plan in reverse: First riding out to Tsukui, then travelling along the Doshimichi road 413 until the crossing with road 76, which then leads back to the notorious route 20.

The roads selected by David were very good, it was still early in the morning and even the traffic on the big roads was light. He led a through all the shortcuts with sherpa-like qualities. There were some fast downhills and a lot of climbs.
The crazy Tsukui climb. Almost as high as the offical approval rating of Kim Il Jong in North Korea [close to 120%]

I have done some of this roads before with David, but always in the opposite direction. Now going there it felt less than going downhill, but more like "reverse-climbing".

We continued to pull each other through at a fast pace; David also has improved compared to the last Chichibu trip. And finally we took a break a a Daily Yamazaki Conbini where not only us, but also other customers of the shop could witness a highlight of the day:

It was cold outside and we were sweaty, naturally we rested inside the Combini at the adult magazine corner and ate our replenishments. All three of us were wearing high quality, overpriced Assos jackets in the colors of the German flag, but what was hidden beyond that jackets was quite different.

When Jerome peeled off his jacket, his space-technology grade high-tec underwear was revealed. As he explained, this garment was originally developed for the Usbekistan army as a full body condom for contraception of male army members. One cannot see this on the photo, but it fully encloses every possible boundary of the human body, starting from the toes on the neck. It also provides labour to the rural knitting community of Usbekistan, having much free time during long winter hours.
Unfortunately after extensive testing by the army, for unknown reasons, it failed to shown the expected contraception functionalities, upon which it was sold to France as cycling gear. Jerome swears that it keeps him warm and the amount of sweat emitted by his body should proves him right.

We then continued along road 413 and finally to road 76. Beautiful ups and downs in the autumn scenery. When we reached route 20, Jerome decided that he would try to ride over Wada as originally planned (again, clearly against the Positivo Espresso tradition as we never ride as planned), whereas David and me decided to go home along road 20 and make it back home by lunch.

With a nice tail wind in the back we went fast to Sagamiko station where a big truck lorry, coming up the hill, wanted to turn left and almost crashed with a minicar. I stayed on the scene to watch the whole tragedy unfold, while David moved on to climb Otarumi. This was the second time in three days that I encountered a crazy truck driver.

On Saturday when David, Ludwig and me rode into Chichibu, we made a fast downhill ride at 40 km/hr + on road 299 where we were overtaken by a very long speeding truck. He left ample clearance with us, but by doing so he occupied more than half of the opposite lane and as the road was winding along the valley, there was no way to tell if cars would come up or not. A motorcycle coming in our direction was barely able to squeeze in between the truck and the guiderail, and another white family van could just do the same. I remember all the details, as I was expecting to hear the sound of a crash any moment.

So David was ahead which gave me the motivation to start the reverse Otarumi time trial. The first part is mostly flat which even some descents, but I got blocked by traffic congestion three or four times. But I was feeling good and when the real climb started, a tried to stay at 20 km/hr spinning at a high cadence. Finally I saw David in front of me and overtaking him at elevation 300 meters. He was shouting encourageously:

"Come on Michael, keep going, PUSH IT!"

which gave me the neccessary extra motivation. The last thing I heard of David was:

"Ahem, I am keeping it easy, don't wait for me!"

I arrived at the top at 17:17 minutes, which is fast, but not my best time. But it is OK I guess.

I nevertheless waited for David on the top and together we made the fast downhill from Otarumi, which was blocked by traffic at the entrance to Takao. But after that the roads were OK and we continued at 35 km/hr towards Sekidobashi, first along road 20 and then later along the Asakawa. Where we went into pace line again.

After a last break at the Y park 7-eleven we started another fast pace line at 35 km/hr along the Tamagawa. Clearly it was starting to rain any minute and there were less people on the pathway as usual. We were really fast and that brought as home so early.

Much earlier as expected. Of course my family has given up all expectations that I would be back on time after many disappointments and subsequently no lunch was prepared. The Saturday trip to Chichibu must have been the last nail in the coffin, I guess. Everybody was out and they came home at 4 PM only, much surprised seeing me showered and neatly dressed.

Jerome made it over Wada, as usually excelling late in the ride. He was also home by 1:30 PM, so on his own he rode on the last stretch very fast as well.
Last 30 minutes are cut off, as the Ciclo stops after 6 hours recording.

A very enjoyable mid-length trip, just the right ride for autumn.

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A comment to Southern Chichibu

I want to scribble down this thought before I forget it and as there is no new Chichibu post in view for the immediate future, I rather do it right now: Imagine that you were born as a piece of rock millions of years ago in Southern Chichibu. As you are embedded in a gigantic puzzle with billions of other pieces of rock in the inside of a mountain, you feel safe and you have no idea what is going on in the world. However, chances are big, that you will end up tomorrow in concrete as part of a residential tower in central Tokyo.
The amount of dumper trucks, transporting to Tokyo what has been blasted, excavated and scraped away from the landscape of Chichibu is just amazing. Every time one rides out from Ome over the hill parallel to the Ome - Okutama railway line and enters into greater Nariki, one is overtaken by many dumper trucks and one can see the quarries lining up on the left side of the road to Ikusabata.
This is just crazy, because otherwise Southern Chichibu would be the perfect place. It is like travelling in time, or changing the set of mind by taking special medication. Ome still has the sounds, smells and the general feel of hectic of Tokyo, but once the hills are crossed one feels like entering a different part of the country, many miles away from the big city. The contrast is just mind-boggling. Sure, this is still Japan, but one rides through it very much like through rural Japan of, say, Noto peninsular and not like on the dog & Obasan infested pathways along the Tamagawa.
The impression of the time travel is just distorted by the dumper trucks. So one has to travel some more kilometers along road 53, before one has finally left allTokyoisms behind.

23 November 2008

Fuji Five Lakes

On the holiday Monday before the Saiko race, I did an exploratory tour of the area. By train to Kawaguchiko, then by bike around all five lakes, and on by bike down Doshimichi back to Tokyo (up to Hashimoto where darkness forced me onto the train).

138km in total, only modest climbing here and there and quite a bit of descending down Doshimichi where I reached a new top speed of 67km/h. If only the weather had been a bit nicer - it was overcast all day, but at least the clouds where hanging to high that Mount Fuji was always fully visible, as the below photos from all the five lakes show.






Saiko race

MOB has already written about the Tour du Japon/JCRC race around Lake Sai at the foot of Mount Fuji: D as in "Done" and Championship Reflections. Let me add a few short impressions of my own.

The best thing about the race is probably the scenary. Where else do you get such a beautiful view from your hotel room on the evening before the race?

My goal in the actual race was to survive: most importantly by not crashing (which is a distinct possibility when racing at 40km/h in the middle of a large pack of riders, mostly less than half a meter apart), secondly by not losing the peleton and thus the benefit of the windstream created by others, and thirdly by not doing anything else embarrassing in what was only my second race (MOB wrote on the first one in Gunma a few weeks earlier).

At the start - I'm in fifth row at the outer left.

I'm happy to report I did not crash and felt surprisingly comfortable in the tightness of the pack. Even better, I managed to stay among the top group of riders throughout, and arrived in the finish only 6.5 seconds behind the winner.

The final sprint in my E-class.

Unfortunately, another 20 riders managed to do even slightly better and I ended up only 22nd. (That's why I can't be seen in the above picture.)  Still good enough to earn me the official qualififcationto race in the E-class in future. Strictly speaking I had qualified only for F-class with my performance at Gunma, but somehow I managed to convince JCRC to let me race nonetheless in E-class (which I chose upon MOB's recommendation as being probably slightly safer than F-class).
The race itself are two rounds around Saiko, 20km in total. At an average speed of 39.33km/h, the race was over after just over half an hour.

One of the rather wider bends (photo is of another class). Some curves are nastily narrow.

At a heartrate of just over 160, the 7 degrees Celsius didn't feel that cold, despite relatively light dress.

After the race, in increasingly miserable weather.

紅葉その2 - Kazahari Pass at the end of October

182km in total, with a pretty steady climb to and then descent from 1,140m.
The temperature after 45km is due to a 1h phone conference for work, for which I took a rest in the sun.

A nice round trip, marred only by a countless number of roadworks. I got most of my rests in front of roadwork stops and coudn't help wondering whether this was 1945 and Japan was in the phase of reconstruction. If only it wasn't our tax payers' money that wasn't being wasted like this...

View from the parking space on the south side of Kazahari Pass

View of Tamagawa Lake from a parking space on the north side descent from Kazahari Pass


Finally after some wait, JCRC has sent me a confirmation about the registration of the POSITIVO ESPRESSO club in their membership rooster. This year I was officially racing for NFCC Peugeot Calyon, but as I have resigned with the team recently, next year I would like to start for the Positivo Espresso team, thus registration became necessary. In case you would like to attend a JCRC race next year as a member of Positivo Espresso, please write CID (Club Identification Number) 311 on the application form. (There is no advantage whatsoever).

Addendum to Mitsumine Shrine pilgrimage: Photos

155km distance, something like 1,700m climbing in total


After two unsuccessful tries in the past weeks to scale the heights of Mitsumine, two German alpinists and their American Sherpa started yesterday another run. Meeting at the Futago-Mandu, the capitol city of the small Himalayan country of Chichibustan at 8 AM in the morning, the first part of the TREK along the river was fast and various new techniques were tried to add momentum to the tour, thus proving everybody wrong who dared to call the expedition a "late local train".

At the basecamp in Omir, the friendly locals supplied the adventurers with the required freshly backed, fluffy bread which is traditionally eaten since many years at this place. The town was in a mild uproar, as the local festival of "International High Color Exchange", whatever that shall mean, was celebrated. From there onwards they entered the hilly lands of Chichibustan. A last supply of water at a holy fountain, and off they went to attack the first mountain of the day, the lowly ranked Yamabushi. Giving it all and, for the first time in the history of mankind, marking the start and the end of the climb, one can expect to see a new addition to the traditional records of the Togebaka.

From there on everything was a fast downhill to the abandoned city of Chichiborek, where a last lunch was taken and prayers for a safe journey were send towards the nearby skies. Along the old trading road to the lost state of Yamanashikan, the three proceeded with great haste and after many dangerous adventures, featuring fabulous creatures disguised as speeding dumper trucks, endless hairpin turns and inhuman exhaustion, they finally arrived at the entrance to a tunnel which should lead to the enchanted Mitsumine mountain. Under many tears they bate farewell to their faithful sherpa who needed to be back at his village before 6 and hunt down some dinner before that.

Thus they entered the tunnel, which was so small that a modern time commuter bus could barely fit into its cross section. The tunnel was dark and water was dripping from the ceiling and the remaining two were constantly afraid that a horde of wild animals, fearless warriors or
fabulous creatures disguised as speeding dumper trucks would turn up suddenly right in front of them without any place to let them pass peacefully. After about 170 meters, a branch of the tunnel was leading to the left and finally here they stepped out again into the light, seeing the most wonderful thing they have ever encountered.

Before their eyes, the vast lake of Chichibustan was extending to the horizon, the huge water masses conquered and impounded by a dam, built by a long lost civilisation which the older still remember as "The ministry of Construction". The two rode over the dam crest and started the final approach on Mitsuhime. Barren was the land and all traces of civilisation were long left behind. In an endless sucession of hairpin curves, the last 600 meters to the top were attacked, steadily moving up at low speeds. The bodies were close to fall apart from sheer exhaust ions and the temperature dropped to a life threathing 3 degrees (plus). Nevertheless the two pressed on and finally, after time has almost come to a standstill, the parking lot of the Mitsumine shrine was detected under shouts of joy.

Now it was only a matter of time until they reached the Mitsuhime shrine itself, which was built by a sage a long time ago on top of the mountain (Note: Why is somebody considered a sage who builds a shrine in such a goddamn difficult accessible place without any infrastructure?). The two planted the German flag on top of the mountain to claim the place once and for all times, before the much competitive Kingdom of Belgium would have any chance to do the same. And then it was already time to start the descent, as the darkness of night was approaching with great speed.

After many more adventures, which are too many and too boring to be told here, they finally arrived already in pitched darkness at the signpost of new civilisation. Their trip was such long, that in the meantime the Seibu department store company, a venerated and fast growing state-owned company has built a railway almost as far as the lake which facilitated very much their return to the capitol. Although, as they noted, the bloody trip on this local trains took more than three hours to complete.

And finally they arrived at home, welcomed by their loved ones and scolded for their emphasis on the adventurous and by not being back for dinner on time.

Thanks David and Ludwig for this very nice trip in late autumn. Ludwig made some photos which he might add to this post in due time.

Positivo Cervelo

Addition to the stable.

Wow. I think we should seriously consider a renaming of Positivo Espresso into Positivo Cervelo. In consideration of all the money we have spend with this company, we deserve some kind of sponsorship.

Still puzzled why the left side of the bike is barred from viewing with flickr (private photo) whereas the right side is not.

21 November 2008

Chichibu Trip Number Three

Autumn is here. Yesterday the Kakis were still hanging in the trees, today they are left to dry and become delicious Hoshigaki.After two weekday trips with Ludwig, I had another one with Juliane last Tuesday. Actually David joined us as well in the morning, but due to work commitments he could just ride up to Ome, buy some good pastry and the wonderful Aurora bakery in front of the station and return back to work by train. The Aurora bakery, where Positivo Espresso riders traditionally buy their pastry proviant, is really a wonderful place and one can see the delight of the things to come in the eyes of David and Juliane in the photo below.Juliane and me continues continued along road 53 up to Shomaru Toge where we exchanged our bikes against something more fast and agile for the downhill.We then rode up to Karibazaka and continued to Ono Toge, Shiraishi Toge and Sadamine Toge in a repetition of the Chichibu Two trip with Ludwig two weeks ago. Since my first trip I wanted to write something about the unnecessary road obstacles which are so abundant in Saitama. There must be a prefectural road construction guideline which advises to mount treacherous body traps in the middle of the road.And in addition one has to slalom its way down to avoid the speed traps, for example between Shiraiashi and Sadamine Toge.Then we mustered all our courage and had lunch at the Soba restaurant at Sadamine Toge. The Owneress was quite nice, more friendliness than on Wada and more water than at Shomaru in this place.They also produce a nice sake with giant bees inside there.Although I have to admit that there was not much meat in my Niku Soba, but finally with the help of a magnifying glass I was able to find it.An amazing restaurant by the way. With a lot of stuff inside. And a lot of calenders on the wall. They surely know which day it is [Note for readers of Wilson/Shea "Illuminatius" of the Seventies: " A man with one watch knows the time. A man with two watches is never quite sure."From Sadamine Toge we didn't take the right turn (road #11) in direction Ogawacho, but the left one which led as to Chichibu city. On the way down we passed another nice scarpyard which looked similar to the Soba restaurant.Finally we arrived at Seibu Chicchibu station and took the train home, app. at 15:57 hr in order to somewhat preserve our traditions (since 2006). A very nice ride in good weather conditions within a splendid setting enjoying Julianes company. I hope it will not be the last time.

Weekend Ride(s)?

Ahhhh ... a three-day weekend, good -- if brisk -- riding weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday, with time to recover on a rainy Monday, and the financial markets continuing their downward spiral. An ideal time to get out for one or two good rides. I can go either Saturday or Sunday ... but please no earlier than an 8AM start on Saturday).

As you can see from the "Autumn" post below, I had a very nice ride on Rte 76 from Sagamiko to Doshimichi, then back into Tokyo via my new, favorite route to avoid 75% of the congested stretch along the south side of Tsukui-ko. A very pleasant 140 km ride. ... And then I joined Michael and Juliane as far as Oume on their Tuesday ride to Chichibu (I hopped a train in to work and arrived late morning, where is the trip report Michael?).

Michael? Jerome? Juliane? Tom? James? Is anyone out there?

17 November 2008

Chichibu TWO Ride on Nov. 13th

Ludwig and me set off on the proposed Chichibu ride on Thursday. I had caught a cold and was not in the best shape, but nevertheless the weather was splendid and I desperately wanted to ride out into unknown Chichibu. From the Tamagawa we could see the snow caped Fuji in the distance, the first reminder that winter will arrive soon. Nevertheless I was overdressed and started to sweat.After the traditional break at the Aurora bakery at Ome Station, we took the #53 escape road until Yamabushi Toge. As I was riding poorly, we decided then to proceed to Shomaru Toge. In the old Positivo Espresso tradition of not riding where we have planned to do, we added a new chapter.

On Shonaru we had lunch at the small restaurant and were served by friendly Obasans. Who were a little bit scroogy with handing out water and green tea.

We then went down on the other side of Shomaru until we crossed over the tunnel of road #299 and started the approach on Karibazaka Toge. A very nice climb and the view from Karibazaka is spectacular.Like Tom, we continued to climb some Mini-Toge [Ono Toge] along the ridge of the mountains towards Shiraishi Toge and then further down to Sadamine Toge.

After a break we followed road #11 towards Higashi Chichibu and we could have then rode directly to Ogawacho station and take the train home. But it was still early, so we decided to make one more climb up to Nihongi Toge - where no Positivo Espresso rider has gone before.
This is not an easy climb, the inclination is almost similar to Wada, and as we had already more than 1.500 elevation meters in our legs. But the road is free of traffic and there seems to be many alternatives to add more climbs or downhills in this area. We choose one which took us back to road #11 and then to Odagawacho.

Where we took the 15:57hr express train back to Ikebukuro, just like we did on our first ride. I hereby declare than following this great tradition, which has been established by Ludwig and me this month, every ride into Chichibu needs to be finished at Odagawacho train station and no other train should be taken home than the 15:57 hr express train.

Overall it was a nice trip in the best of autumn weather, only spoiled by my cold. The difference in temperature was quite substantial between the city and the mountains, the sunny sides and the shades, the uphills and the downhills.
I wanted to go riding on the weekend as well but couldn't do so on Saturday and when I woke up Sunday morning it was raining and all hopes of riding were gone. I hope I can do another mid week ride into Chichibu tomorrow, the weather forecast looks fine.

I only the link to t
he MapMyRide map here, as the embedded map slows down the upload of the blog.

[For the record: 137km in total - MvH]