23 August 2009

Seven Eleven and a Twenty Two Eleven

Big racing day at Shuzenji today. James in X class (3 laps), Ludwig in D (5 laps) and me in Z class (2 hour endurance) plus James daughter Tsukino in the kids race and some other riders we know (Greg, Sky Blue and Goro) racing as well. Good and bad news.
James, his daughter and me started Saturday afternoon, we had a big rented van and we sat all in the front row while behind us our bikes were suspended from the ceiling. Some congestion in Mishima led to a late arrival at the CSC Shuzenji but we could somehow convince the shopkeepers to let as do a trial ride on the race track.

After that we retired at the ryokan, the wonderful NANSANSO, with the staircase
just right out of a Miyasaki animation movie and rooms as large as gymnasiums.
And the best thing is that you can stay there for about 6.000 Yen per person outside of the holiday season. We had a Sashimi dinner at a local restaurant which was accompanied by some Origami show from the old ladies serving us there.Next morning the big day. We left for the race track early but arrived just in time to do some warm up laps. I was first to start in the Z class two hour endurance race, followed by Ludwig in the D class 4 minutes later.
Of course the pace was fast at the start and I hardly managed to stay in the field on the first climb (clockwise racing direction) and hang on on the downhill. Then the long climb starts and I was left behind with some other weak riders. The first lap is of course the hardest and I was wondering how I would survive this day. But I had a very good lap time of 10:15 min, probably the best I ever did at Shuzenji.

In the second lap I was in a group of three riders and we rode together for most of the time. Somehow I had found my rhythm now and I from there on I had quite steady lap times between 11 and 12 minutes. I was starting to battle it out with a guy from the Fast Lane club.
On the third long climb I was overtaken by Ludwigs D class field. And after 33:40 min I completed the third lap. Much better than last year, where it took me more than 38 min in the D class race, but this was also at the start of the season and the race was hold in the opposite direction which I do not prefer.

So I continue my battle with the Fast Lane guy and after completion of 5 laps I clocked 57:05 min, also faster than my last year result in the D class of 58:38 min. But, to put all this good results in perspective, with the 3 laps time I would have made second last place in this years D class race and with the 5 laps time I would have ended up second last as well in the D class race yesterday, in both cases not making the 10% time cut. There is still a long way to go.
If I want to go this way at all.

After the first five laps the Fast Lane guy gave up the battle with me and I moved ahead of him and being almost alone on the track I started to slow down a little bit. While the first 5 lap average was 11:25 min, the next 5 laps took 12:33 min in average. This is the price one has to pay there.

Also I started to lap some of the other Z class competitors. There is one guy I see quite often at races, long colored hairs, looks like the killer in Silence of the Lambs (not Anthony Hopkins), lapped him as well.

Lapped some of the women rider for the second time.

On the 9th lap I overtook the last rider from the O class field, which meant that I could do another lap as the race was supposed to be stopped when the last O class rider crosses the finish line. Also the Z class field was hot on my heels, and I was afraid to be lapped a second time by them. But they didn't, so I entered the tenth lap, now completely on my own and then I did the last climb up to the finish line. There was one rider 50 meters in front and I gave everything to catch him before the line - which I did, I was just 0.061 seconds in front of him. Later I found out that I have lapped him already one time.

Overall 22nd place out of 35, not bad for a field full of S and A class riders.
Ludwig had finished by now his D class race and I also made a very good 11th place. As well as James who run in the X class field and made an eleventh place as well in his first race in Japan.
After our races we sat down in the grass and watched some of the other races. Goro san was putting up a good show in the A class, leading the field and then he was suddenly gone. One rider approached me and asked if I am a teammate of him, he has crashed on the downhill and was in the emergency room. I went there and there he was with some flesh wounds here and there but looking quite OK. If compared to the other guy who crashed with him and had bandages all over his body. Nevertheless, Goro San broke his collarbone as I could read later on his blog. Hope he will recover soon.

As usual there were quite some crashes also this year and I saw some riders with graze wounds and torn jerseys and shorts hanging around at the track.
At noon Tsukino made her debut in the kids race and James and me were getting very excited. She started from the bottom of the field but then made her way up. On the last lap she almost crashed with another boy she wanted to overtake and then was a little bit afraid to ride fast, but she could hold her place and finished in seventh position. James was all the very proud father.We packed up our things in drove home in the rented super big racing van, all of us sitting in the front row enjoying snacks (bought at the 7-Eleven if you want to know). A good day at the races.


Manfred von Holstein said...

Well done, Michael! 10 laps on this gruelling course is a great achievement. Only the A and S classes have to do as many laps (10 and 12 respectively), and most riders don't stay in the race until the end.

And congratulations to Tsukino too!

As Michael and James have both written, this is a tough and dangerous course, especially in yesterday's direction where the long downhill has lots of fast curves. Somebody has even died crashing into a tree some years ago. Thankfully I did not witness any crashes or near-crashes, though there was a victim from the C-class with torn jersey who was trying to ride with us in the D-class and made it clear that he must have been the cause of his own crash... I stayed clear of him and sprinted away from him at the next opportunity.

The long climbs are tough because they allow the best riders to escape, and never to be caught again. As a result, the field splits up and soon many find themselves fighting for themselves. By contrast, Gunma separates out the weak riders at the climbs, but the rest of the field manages to stay together until the finish, allowing for a decent sprint.

I managed to keep up relatively well, but at the price of going at a very high heart rate throughout. The average was 169 for the 48:50 minutes it took me to complete the five laps. I have never sustained such a high heart rate for that long!

I was glad to make 11th - good enough to earn a decent amount of points, not good enough to be promoted into the C-class which would ruin all hopes for the championship.

James said...

Again great day and performance by all!

Ludwig & Michael, I would be very interested in learning more about how the system works as I am more interested in riding in one class for the whole season and trying to win the Championship, then after the season move up to the next class.

Any info on the rules and system would be very welcomed! Also do you know when I will get my classification after the X-Class race?

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mob said...

James, after this X class race you can ask JCRC to be included in the next E class race based on your performance which they will probably not deny. From then onwards you have to earn your promotion to the next class level by finishing within the first six at any race.

As seven out of 11 races for this season are already finished, you can try to become champion in a class (E or D) next year, races starting in March.

There are many things to know and it is impossible to describe them in a comment or e-mail so we might discuss this at a ride with Ludwig.

It is always good to have a coach, say somebody who won the championship once and "coached" another champion.

In any case you need to be committed over a period of about seven months and that will require very good coordination with work and family.

James said...

Commitment isn't a problem, work and family are fully behind me on this.

Let me know when your free for a ride... need another mountain slog!

Manfred von Holstein said...

Happy to help with further advice too!

Most importantly, you need to accept the not insignificant risk of crashing. Most JCRC race events have an awful number of crashes, though not necessarily every single race. If you ride to win you need to ride with the peleton and hence you are always exposes to the risk of someone crashing in front of you or someone getting into your way, even you yourself ride very cautiously.

You have been warned!

James said...

Full understand the crashing danger.... not a problem either on my side been riding since I was 6 years old, started in BMX then MTB and road TT so I have had my fare share of crashes. :D and the scars to prove it.