03 January 2010

Ekiden - The big bad ride that proved to be more stressful than strenuous

[Copy of what I posted earlier on the TCC site]

Sorry I bungled the organization of the ride for the group starting from Otemachi.

I should have foreseen that we had some slower riders which meant that especially in the red-light jungle of Tokyo we would not be making up time against the runners.

Less foreseeable was that the police was much more aggressive this year than last (while still being arbitrary and random) in enforcing traffic restrictions ahead of time. Last year, we were at times about as close to the runners as this year, but never got pulled over. This was particularly strange on the climb to Moto-Hakone where I was much further ahead of the runners this year than last (last year I heard the support vehicles all the time, this year not at all; and I arrived just minutes ahead of the runners while this year I had to wait for half an hour to finally see them arriving at the finish): police asked us to stop several times, but as this was really not practical stopping right in front of roaring crowds with no space between them and the road, I always went on irrespectively.

So I'm sorry that the conbini stop ended up taking Trad, Yair, Miyuki and Aki out of the race, while I was zooming by the police woman shouting "stop" (so did David I guess).

Well aware that I was in danger of being pulled too, I went relatively fast through long empty roads with lots of cheering people (who had only me to look at) and caught MOB's group soon after Fujisawa. I was hoping we would somehow see at least some of my group later, though gave up the hope as we were going at a more leisurely pace and nobody coming in sight from behind. What a pleasant surprise when David caught up with us in Ninomiya.

We then bumped into Guzz on his impressive wooden fixie and he gave us company into Odawara.

We left from another conbini stop in Odawara exactly half an hour before the runners were to arrive. Despite all that was still to come, I managed to keep up this gap exactly on the 900m climb and beyond.

But before getting to the climb, James almost crashed into me as I was breaking for a stupid policeman who had been waiving a car out from a side street and right into our way. Thanks to his soft Dura Ace 7900 gear shifter, I didn't feel his bump into my bottom for long. Probably aggravated by this experience, the stupid policeman then stopped David, Dominic and Kori, which cost them some time to get back onto the road (all unknown to us). This was also the last time any of us saw Kori.

The time-trial climb was a nightmare of navigating through an endless traffic jam. After more than half way to the top, it cleared and the remaining climb was nicer, albeit still marred by crazy bus drivers who liked to show they didn't care about bicycles and would see them rather dead than alive. The crowds lining the climb (many more than last year!) clearly thought otherwise, which was nice.

I had lost James somewhere half way up after telling him it was still half way up (he wanted to know) which seemed to have demotivated him a great deal. I was expecting him to emerge soon again, but in fact, after I took a break after the time-trial end at the peak of 874m to get into warmer clothing for the descent into Moto-Hakone it was David who appeared once again out of nowhere. Stopping occasionally for photo shots, we made it to the finish, where we waited for James and MOB, and to our delight later saw Dominic coming in too.

The final surprise of the day was Graham who I passed on the long climb. We had thought he hadn't turned up at all, but as he later explained, he had just missed the exit from the Dai-ichi Keihin for the meeting point and ended up going on his own all the way to Hakone. He joined us later in the restaurant, having watched all the runners pass, and clearly more knowledgeable about the results than any of us.

The descent into Atami was pleasantly free of much traffic, and the first-time use of route 20 for the final descent into Atami a nice discovery over the much steeper and shorter we approach we usually take.

My own statistics:

141km incl. 10km from home to Otemachi
1,300m of climbing (according to mapmyride; my less reliable Ciclo shows 1,550m)

People who started:

From Otemachi: Yair, David, Trad, Bryon, Ishihara-san, Miyuki, Aki, Ludwig
From elsewhere: Graham, Guzz (separately)
From Kawasaki: James, Dominic, MOB
From Fujisawa: Kori

People who finished:

Moto-Hakone, then Atami: James, Dominic, David, Graham, MOB, Ludwig (funny - four Brits, two Germans, one whom even UK-educated - does this say something about the future of road-race cycling?)
Hakone Yumoto: Yair, Miyuki, Aki, Trad
Not yet accounted for: Kori, Bryon, Ishihara-san

For me this was not a very strenuous ride, but certainly a very stressful one - it does not feel nice losing half of your riding mates and not being able to stop for them.

Cheers, Ludwig

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks a lot for the arrangments for the Otemachi meeting and for leading the group.

It was a pleasure riding with you, even though it eneded earlier than expected...

It was definetly NOT your fault that some of us got stoopped by Police or were overtaken by the runners (like me...) - if we were faster it would not have happened...

After being taken by the runners around Hakone Yumoto, I turned and rode back to Tokyo - Unfortunately, I got a flat tire (tublar...) around Shin-Yokohama station and was forced to atke the short Shinkansen ride back to Tokyo.

For me, this was a great experience, which motivated me to try and do better next year.

Again, thanks!


Yair Bauer