06 January 2010

2 1/2 hours Freezing in Motegi

After the Ekiden ride on January 2nd, I enjoyed another another 100 km bicycle race at Motegi with some of the TCC guys two days later.

In preparation for this race I did two things: First, I rode up to Hakone on the Ekiden ride which made my legs feel like pudding and would gave me ample excuses for any bad performances on the track. Second, I spend the afternoon before the race at the house of my in-laws in Saitama which is extremely cold (it feels comparatively warm outside of the house) and which should prepare me for the winter hardships of the Japanese countryside.

As I have stayed there also in winter some years ago, I can assure that standing naked in the bathroom and waiting for hot water to come out of the tap can be the coldest experience you might ever have in your life time. The only thing that saved me then was the distraction provided by the set of false teeth of my mother in law in a glass of water (the teeth, not the mother) strategically placed on a cupboard at eye height.

I went straight to Omiya, then by Shinkansen to Oyama and the by Mito line to Shimodate within no time. From there I had to take the Mokaline to Motegi. Oh, you haven't heard of the Moka Line (真岡鉄道) ? Well it a one-car train, powered by a diesel engine as the tracks are not electrified yet (and they will probably never will) which leave about once an hour from Shimodate station.
So I had to wait almost an hour at the station there (amusement provided by a big pachinko parlour in front of it), nothing much else. Oh right, I went shopping for 45 minutes at a 7-Eleven.

Before I could take the train which took another hour to Motegi. The last 15 minutes I was alone in the train, even all country pumpkins have left some stations before.

Phil and Clay picked me up at the station, train stop would be more appropriate and after a quick stop at another 7-Eleven we drove to Hotel Pomodoro where also the other TCC guys had already checked in.

I shared a room with Keith and while watching "Die Hard 4.0" we all planned our race strategy., I didn't listened too carefully as I was constantly amazed by all the wonderful things Bruce Willis can do and how is able to survive in a movie. Although I could help to notice that the shape of his head resembles very much the head of the water turtle we have some bought some months ago.

But I heard constantly the words "try to survive" and "wheelsucking" repeated all over again.

When I woke up the next morning at 6.00 AM it was cold. Outside it was even colder, definitely less than zero degrees. We rode up to Motegi and assembled our gear. And in no time we were lined up at the start line. Phil, Keith, Jessie and Yeap were all there and we took some photos of us shivering. Clay was already leading the race by this time.
Then the race started and I never felt cold again for the reminder of the day. We were not in the front line, but at last within the first 200 riders I guess. And the first two laps were behind a pacmaker and that was crazy as everybody was trying to get to the front and there were a lot of dangerous situations. For the first time I didn't noticed exactly when the pace making car pulled away as the field was still packed and it took time to accelerate and get faster.

Opposed to the seven hour enduro race, one lap is only about 5 km long as the speed oval is not integrated (so no 180 degree hairpins luckily) and in addition the direction is the other way round. So one doesn't have to ride up this steep hill (although the track is basically flat). In the opposite direction the climb is much longer and more gradual. It consists of a (relatively) steep first part, a flatter part in a S curve and a very gradual part until a wide 180 degree hairpin curve.
Now with the speed picking up I stayed within the first group of about 100+ riders for the next 4 laps. I also saw Phil again, first I overtook him, that he overtook me again on a downhill portion of the track. Then we were running up that hill and of course the thing happens that happens every time on hills, which is that a group of about 100 riders went ahead, a gap was created and I found myself in the second fastest group. And of course I felt miserable and I thought to myself, why I am doing this, getting up early in the morning, visiting my in-laws, freezing in the cold, exhausting myself for the rest of the week and and and. So in short, the typical thoughts that run to my head before more endomorhine kicks in, erase the pain, make logical thinking impossible.

So I was in a group with about 20 other riders and after some more laps I recognized the jerseys and we stayed together for the next 5-6 laps when we were overtaken on our lap 11 or 12 by the fast group. That group was still very big.
The speed of my group was not that fast, I could easily keep up and here I made the mistake not to jump on the fast group again. So perhaps I wouldn't have been able to keep their speed but I should have tried at least.

So I continued with my 20 rider group, sometimes taking turns in the front. Amazingly I was faster up the hill then the other guys. I had more momentum on the bottom part, then I was slow at the S surve but had more power on the gradual climb up to the hair needle. So I always lost some places downhill but I made them up on the hill - quite extraordinary given the fact that I have to carry more than 100 kgs up the hill (heavy bike, lead frame with steel wheels) while the average Japanese competitor weights about half of that with his bike.

Then we were overtaken by another fast group which I thought in the beginning was the second fastest group (so we were only the third fastest) but this group couldn't get away from us. So then I realized that they were actually the third fastest group and we were only too slow so that they have caught up with us.

And in this group we stayed until the end. I was feeling much better know and the last six laps I was taking it rather easy on the flat and downhills parts, going no risk while making places good on the hills. Also I saw Keith and Jessie again.

At the final hill I made up some places again, the went fast on the straight and down and sprinted up to the finishing straight. But I have somehow missed the info that the last part was divided into two lanes, the left one for the riders which were still continuing while the right one was for the finishers. So I ended up on the left lane and had to cross over to the right one. Later, when reading the results I realized that I have lost some time there and I came in about 30th in a group of 50 riders. At least I was able to catch the 2nd placed MTB rider shortly before the finish.

Well it could be expected that the competition would be hard as riding out in Motegi in the cold on January 4th is not exactly what people do if they are not really desperate for bike racing.

Interesting enough, Jessie, Yeap, Keith and me came in all more or less at 2:45 hr despite not staying together as group during the race. The complete race results are here.

It is interesting to note that there was a fast group with about 80 riders, all finishing in the 2:29 to 2:31 hr bracket (including Clay), followed by smaller groups of about 40 riders, all together and then another big group of 50 riders finishing at 2:45 very close to each other again.

As usual, you have to stay in a good group matching your speed, otherwise there will not be a good result.

I rode back to the pit where I saw Phil fully dressed, assuming that he had finished in the 2:30 hr group and now wanted to impress us with his fast change- clothing abilities. But in fast he had punctured and was forced to abandon the race which I guess is the maximum penalty life has to offer on a cold day in Motegi.

It was a nice race and I enjoyed the nice company on Keith and the others. Also I would ike to thank Phil for organizing everything and taking me back to a huge train station wher Clay and me rode the train home to Nippori and further.

I was pretty tired and very hungry as the contrast between the usual holiday meal and the scare food on the racing day was too much. So I visited a McD on the ay home - that shows how desperate I was.
Anyway, only four days in the year and already 250 km of riding done.
And good rides they were.


Fumiki said...


This is Fumiki,live in Kawasaki city.
We met in near Itsukaichi station,do you remember?
I heard about "Positivo Espresso" at that time so,finally I found it.

That conversation was very interesting.
Because I never seen foreign cyclist.

Hope you coming back your home safety.

mob said...

Hi Fumiki,

nice to meet you and thanks for the help yesterday. Somehow I made it to Hachioji although I lost almost all pressure again on the rear wheel. I guess my exchange tube was punctured as well for maximum frustration. Please check our website from time to time and join our rides if you have time,

Michael (mob)

Fumiki said...

Hi Mob!

Im sorry I couldnt help enough.
It was really unfortunate.

So I ride a bike almost every weekend in somewhere Tokyo mountains.
I hope we can meet again.

We,LANCERS,schedule on 2010;
Tokyo Enduro Spring edition
Mt.Fuji Hill climb
Tokyo Hill Climb Okutama stage
Tokyo Hill Climb Nariki stage
Tokyo Enduro Christmas edition
and more...!

See ya