24 August 2009

Surviving Shuzenji!

Michael was very kind enough to help me get sorted for the race on Sunday, getting me signed up, kitted up and picking me and Tsukino up on the Saturday for the race…. It all felt very nice to have a manager and driver and it must be how pro riders feel.

The van was an old beat up Toyota, but with a Lockheed Supersonic jet engine powering the thing we flew down the express way and too our horror through the mountain roads to CSC Shuzenji. As you can see from the speed blur and the look of horror on my face and Tsukino in shock we were traveling at about Mach 3 in an attempt to get to CSC Shuzenji before they closed.

To Michael’s credit we arrived before closing time and all in one piece and Michael was able to intimidate the staff in to letting us do a practice lap.

On the way to the hotel we discussed how drop bar style steering wheels and disc wheels could have shaved seconds off our time to the race venue the following morning. The hotel was a great place and I kicked myself for not bringing the rollers so we could do our own TT events in the room, we could easily fitted 10 riders in there!

The next morning with the Van kitted out with aero bars, disc wheels and an orange go faster strips we rocketed to the event with plenty of time to get the bikes ready and do some warm laps.
With the duty of official cameraman, phone watcher and baby sitter waited for the races to begin, along with the rising tension and apprehension of my race to come, slowly becoming worse as crash victims and DNF riders coming into the staging area.

I was starting to get worried!

Ludwig had kindly agreed to look after Tsukino while I was racing and kindly gave her his professional wisdom which she used to great extent and proceeded to fall of her bike…. But this saved her later on as a lesson well learned in her race, when a young lad decided that he wasn't going to lose a placing to a girl and rammed her, shaken up by the attack she stayed on the bike .

The call for the X-class riders was called and they kindly allowed us to ride through the most technical part of the course that had claimed several riders already and many more through the course of the racing.

Finally we reassembled at the start line with the 3 minute call going out.

There were 58 people in my race and everyone was looking very professional and serious about doing their best in the X-Series and straight as the starting gun fired everyone one set off at a very fast pace up the first mountain climb of the race.

I managed to break away with the lead group of 10 riders as we crested the first climb and into a very fast and dangerous descent with a lot of tight turns. The lead rider was a little way ahead with 2 others, when all of a sudden his front tire exploded sending him crashing off his bike at what must have been 70kmph!

Because he crashed across my line I had to break hard and swerve to avoid crashing and lost valuable places and worst of all speed for the climb up the next mountain. By this time I must have dropped to about 20th place and the next descent down the mountain I was able to catch a couple more riders. It seemed that a lot of them were taking care on the downhill’s to avoid crashing and I knew If I risked everything I could make up some serious time and catch many of the riders that over took me.

Lap 2 was more of the same and there were several more crashes that I didn't see and although my pace slowed down to just over 28kmph hour I was still catching riders on my Kamikaze runs down the hills.

Lap 3 I picked the pace up again to 30kmph for the lap and really went at the downhill’s hard.... the final climb is the hardest and by this time I had overtaken many riders and was trying to place in the top 10. I managed to catch another rider but he was proving hard to shake off and on the climb I was on his tail once more.

He was not happy and darted from left to right trying to shake me and make his break thus preventing me from taking his position. With 50 meters to go and me still on his tail, he made a critical mistake and darted infront of another rider.

Disaster!

He just touched the front wheel of the rider and although no crash occurred he did have to apologize and for the split second that he turned his head to look at the poor rider who he hit i took my chance. Exploding out of the saddle and rapidly changing gear, accelerating up the remaining part of the hill climb. The hapless rider tried to pursue but realized that I had out smarted him and the few seconds advantage cost him my tail.

Summiting the climb there was one last downhill and I took every chance I could. Tucked down low over the saddle I went wide on the final bend almost in the grass and then twitched the bike tight over into the apex of the bend rocketing into the final climb at over 75kmph.

The finish line is on a hill and after my speed from the downhill subsided I was back to pumping up the final climb to glory. I suddenly realized that I shouldn't be too happy that I was almost at the line and took a look under my saddle to see if anyone had used the last hill as i did and as I predicted 2 other riders were sprinting hard to close me for the finish line.

So once more i gritted my teeth, got out of the saddle and thought of Cavendish pumping hard I felt like I was stomping down on jelly and my legs were screaming at me that there was no way in hell i was getting anymore out of them. But ignoring the pain I raised my speed back up to 30kmph.

Again peaking under the saddle and behind, I saw the gritted teeth and look of defeat on the two riders that had tried to deny me of my glory and slowly drawing back as know that their attack was futile.

Crossing the line in 11th position I punched the air for my own for the small battles I had won on the course and my own personal victory! Rolling in to the post race area and mechanic zone I realized that I had a manic grin on my face and was looking forward to doing it all over again and soon!

Many thanks to Michael for setting everything up for me and coaching me from entry to driving us home, without him this weekend probably wouldn’t have happened!

Also a big thank you to Ludwig who kindly looked after Tsukino during my race as I know he was eager to get out and adventure around Izu!







3 comments:

Manfred von Holstein said...

Great report and congratulations on doing so well in your first JCRC race! For comparison, I was lapped in my first race, which was in Gunma in October last year. I have come a long way since, not least thanks to Michael's continuous coaching.

It was a pleasure taking care of Tsukino - he is such a sweet child! - and certainly worth delaying my ride over the Izu Skyline.

More in my comment on Michael's post.

David L. said...

Wow. An impressive performance by each of you, James, Ludwig and Michael ... not to mention Tsukino. If we are not careful, Positivo Espresso will start to be considered a serious team.

As the "anchor" member (i.e. the heavy weight attached to the rear) of our 2006 podium finishing Enduro team from a (much less competitive) event at Shuzenji, I would argue that the course was designed by a higher order demon. Shuzenji in the summer heat and humidity is as painful as it gets, on this world.

At least you did not have any deaths this year, right?

James said...

Apart from rider 120's spirit as I crushed him on the final climb (see the 5th pic down)there were no deaths.

I have to say that having Ludwig and Michael telling me horror stories and telling me how bad the course was actually helped me through the race, im glad they told me about the death afterwards although some of the crash victims looked pretty bad, not seen anything like that in all my years TT racing and MTB X-country.