23 December 2009

Three guys under blue skies

Jerome, Ludwig and me decided on short notice to do another ride before Christmas, O-Shogatsu, family dinners and business trips will take their toll on our bodies and ultimately on our performances.

I left the house almost in the dark on my newly outfitted Cervelo bike. Nagai-San upgraded everything except for the crank set and bottom bracket at the beginning of the week after my forced conversion to single speed on the weekend before. I could convince him that I do not need a new crank set as I do not want this ugly piece called "Hollow-tec" on my bike which looks like the DuraAce crank set. I could not convince him that I can also live with my old Ultegra brakes so there were replaced as well with the more bulky looking 6700er brakes. When everything is new everything shifts fine, so I guess the good performance is more to the newness of the groupset rather that to the improved design. The front derailleur works perfectly now. The rear works fine when shifting into lower gears, but shifting into higher gears is a little bit tricky and one needs to get accustom to the levers.

Whatever, design-wise the bike is hugely improved and this is much more important then vulgar activities such as "shifting gears" or "braking", the later normally resulting in less speed.

Jerome an me met shortly after seven in Shin-yokohama, mounted Shinkansen Kodama 633 to Odawara which was way to short a trip. We met Ludwig at Odawara station and before eight we were on the way to Hakone. I showed Ludwig and Jerome the old Tokaido road which was pleasantly quiet and we made it up through the hair needle curves at a steady pace. It was quite cold and there were some icy patches on the road in the shadows. After waiting for Jerome some minutes on the top, we continued along Ashinoko road 75 when suddenly Jerome got pestered by official telephone calls: A Japanese customer has found a bolt in a package of cheese he bought from Jerome's company (I cannot tell the real nameof his company, but let's call it "El Shacho" here). He opened another package just to check and found another bolt in this package as well. Of course he was furious and demaned an explanation from El Shacho why the nuts were missing.
Meanwhile we continued to route 138, but instead of going this boring road down to Gotemba, we continued to climb up to Nagao tunnel where the pinchers of hell were waiting for us as usual. This is a very gradual climb with almost no traffic and a dilapidated restaurant close to the tunnel where I would love to eat some day.We then went down on the other side, slowly as parts of the road seemed to be icy. Then we made our way through this urban mess and sprawl of Gotemba and Oyama until we came to Fuji Speedway and to the starting point of the Mikuni pass climb.

Urban sprawl and chaotic city planning brings up another topic: As we have already December 23rd and I do not plan any bike trips until the rest of the year in the route 20 area, I can now finally write that 2009 is the first year in serious cycling where I didn't crashed in the (ugly) city of Uenohara. This fine tradition (since 2007) is finally disrupted and perhaps I should stay away from the city for the complete year of 2010.

After taking a short break at the foot of Mikuni we started finally the climb. The break is not required for anything useful in preparation, I guess we just do it because we are afraid to start anyway. Mikuni is pretty hard. It is about two times the distance and more than two times the elevation difference that the Wada challenge (Takao side) has to offer. It doesn't offer much resting places along its first 4 km and even stretches with 8 or 9% slope are considered nice recovery places. I was also pretty tired after the Hakone climb and felt the beginning of a bonk (as opposed to bonking) so I barely made it up to the top. To be honest, I was zigzaging on some of the steeper parts.

Just looking at the "Hall of Fame" website of TCC, it amazes me that Clay can ride up there in less than 33 minutes.
After that we made a short break at the approved Yamanakako 7-Eleven where we met another older Japanese rider who was much engaged in brevet activities. He told us that one need to attend at least 3.500km of Japan Audax sponsored brevet events before you are even considered to be registered for Paris - Brest - Paris and that Japan has the largest population of brevet riders worldwide. We spoke about the Itoigawa fast run and David's heroic attempt of the 400 km brevet this year. He said "Oh yes, I was up on Yanagizawa and I saw a colored (黒人) rider coming up during the brevet." We said, that was probably not David. But thinking it over now, perhaps one may look colored after 400 km of riding and it was David indeed.
And off we were on Doshimichi in direction home. Ludwig and me were in front and crossed over Yamabushi pass, then went almost to the Michisaka pass road where we waited for Jerome at a Daily Yamazaki combini.

We waited quite a while but then Jerome rode past and we went in pursuit of him. There was a nice tailwind, Ludwig and me worked together and in addition the weather was still sunny and the road was in good and fast shape. But nevertheless we were not able to catch Jerome. Ludwig finally caught up with him after 18 km, close to Aone, but it took me another 7 km or so before finally the three of us were together again.

The rest was more or less boring riding on the South side or Tsukui lake and through Hashimoto. But we were incredibly fast: We did the 52 km between Yamanakako and Hashimoto station in 2 hours and this included some climbing plus riding through urban congestion.

There we split. Jerome and Ludwig took the Onekan to the Tamagawa, while I took the train home form Hashimoto. For me 130 km or riding, about 2.300 meters up under blue skies in fabulous Japanese winter weather. It is hard to get out of the bed in the morning, but once on the bike there are no regrets.
Tomorrow is Christmas (I promised my family not to do any bicycle riding) and after that I Will be in Okinawa between 25th and 28th (with son and bike). Perhaps I will do another trip before the end of the year, but that's it before the new season starts traditionally with the Ekiden ride on January 2nd.


David L. said...

Michael, a few observations:

1. I am sure that Jerome would never contradict a customer (the customer is always right!), but it is not possible for a nut or a bolt to fall into El Shacho cheese. El Shacho replaced all of the old nuts with "one way" locking nuts on the machinery in the Italian factory after the last time this happened (apparently the vibration of the machines was shaking the nuts loose). The only explanation is that the workers must now be doing this intentionally to protest their working conditions -- not possible since they are in a worker paradise. So it must be sabotage by the Japanese customer or a competitor?

2. Thank you for the warning about qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris on a Japanese entry slot. I've read (on the main site) that they are limiting entries by country based upon recent historical participation rates, so it may prove difficult in 2011 from Japan given the increase in cyclists over the past 4/8 years. But in 2011 I would need a minimum of 1200 km (200, 400 and 600 km brevets) just to qualify), so that would mean just tack on a few extra Brevets in 2010 and I should be pretty close. And there are other similar good events if for some reason I don't get a slot for P-B-P.

Merry Xmas.

Manfred von Holstein said...

It was indeed a nice ride, and I enjoyed my first ride on the old Tokaido. It didn't feel steep at all, but this was probably because I was chatting with MOB most of the time and didn't pay too much attention to steepness and speed.

Mikkuni was the first real climb of the day, and I made it up in 39:36 which seems pretty decent in winter clothes (I was sweating like mad).

The descent right after Yamabushi Tunnel was fast, but also treacherous. I slipped a bit on a stretch of ice while breaking down from over 60km/h, but managed to stay upright.

The rest of Doshi was amazingly fast, despite headwind in places. Jerome's rocket engines had finally alighted and nothing was to stop him. What a difference from the first part of the day!

After Hashimoto, Jerome led me to a different approach to the Tamagawa, which starts at the exit of the Tank Road. Yaen Kaido has no rolling hills and is nice and fast - if it wasn't for the frequent traffic lights and the watchful eyes of a police motorbike riding with us for almost all of the road.

The Tamasai was truly horrible - masses of careless people (I even saw a guy riding his mamachari with a beer can in his hand!). Taking turns against the headwind, Jerome and I somehow made it until where I got off to cycle towards Setagaya Dori. I made it home just before darkness at 16:50, and I hope so did Jerome.

Froggy said...

Hey guys

Thanks for yesterday journey. Thanks to the 1st 2 climbs (it took me 55 minutes to the top of Mikuni) I have the feeling that I am back in shape but definitely need to keep on riding...
Last sunday ride with Eric (One Kansen / Miyagase / Yabitsu / Ashinoko / Atami) took a toll on me & my muscles... & lack of proper alimentation / sleep contributed to my late engine firing...
see you on the road again soon

Lee (TCC) said...

Nice report - I would love to join you chaps for a ride sometime.

What was the ice situation on Mikuni like?

mob said...

Your welcome to join us, Lee. I will let you know when we ride again. Mikuni was basically free of ice and snow, but there were some stretches in the shadows that looked suspicious.

Manfred von Holstein said...


Mikuni was actually fine - just a few snowy patches towards the top. There was more ice on the road on the ascent to Moto-Hakone, on the descent from Nagao Toge and on the descent from Yamabushi Toge where I even slipped a bit.

Looking forward to riding with you some time,