17 March 2010

JCRC Series: Stage1 - Kawagoe

Sunday morning was an early start for everyone as we wanted to get to Kawagoe early to ride the course and check for potential danger zones, places to attack and see if my wheel selection was going to work in the extremely strong and gusting wind.

We left the house at 5am and took the express way all the way rather than run the risk of getting caught in traffic along Route 16. Kaori as usual was driving and told me that it would be ok for me to sleep and conserve energy for the race. With an elevated heart rate, adrenalin as thick as custard coursing through my veins and the serious lack of leg space for my 188cm frame made it impossible.

We arrived with good time to spare and I was able to ride 4 laps of the course before they closed it down for the race preparations. I’m seriously glad I did as Ludwig who raced here last year warned me about the white bands going across the road, I’m not sure what they were covering but they were slightly elevated and when I hit one on the straight at 45kph I got air off it and almost lost control as it took me by surprise. The practice laps also showed me where the race would be won which was obviously the long straight that finished in a tight, narrow turn with a 200-300 meter straight to the finish.

The plan therefore was to position myself just before the second to last corner so that I would be in the 1st, 10 riders of the Peloton giving me the advantage of being slipped streamed by the front riders and seeing where the attack on the final corner would come from and thus launch my own attack.

With all this new found knowledge floating around in my head I went to work as a domestique for Kaori and Tsukino who were also racing today.

Kaori sporting her new gear looked awesome out on the track but the lack of training and the ferocious headwind quickly drained her and several other riders that got dropped by the peloton. She continued at her pace and started to catch other riders that had dropped off the back of the main group, whom were setting an impressive pace and with as is such with criterium races the leaders quickly lapped the stragglers.

Kaori knowing what would happen if lapped put in a valiant effort and managed to keep them at bay till the final corner where they swallowed her and 3 other riders whom for all their efforts received what many felt an unfair a DNF result, but hey rules are rules!

Tsukino was next up in her 3km race for Primary School 1st - 3rd Grade category and was chomping at the bit to get going. This was the biggest group she has ridden in with 21 riders and the fact that she has recently taken the plunge to SPD pedals and shoes made her a little cautious and nervous.

On the off,Tsukino not 100% used to her SPD’s panicked and had a little trouble inserting her left foot. But fortunately didn’t crash and found the sweet spot to engage and she was off dead last with 400 meters between her and the next rider and as she disappeared around the first corner we were very anxious to how she would do out there alone.

We had to wait in bated breath for her to complete the first lap an come out of the final straight before we knew if she had made any ground. We counted the riders as they came through and started to worry after rider 12 had gone through. Then head down teeth gritted Tsukino shot out of the final corner bearing down on the next rider, with a bellow from me to change gear (Some thought Mt. Fuji had erupted and proceeded to the local emergency relocation zone) she shot out of view and we had to wait for her to complete the final lap before we knew where she was.

The older boys impressively flew down the finishing straight and we counted them in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th in quick succession, 6th, 7th the first girl, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th. Where was she?

As soon as 11th had fully cleared the corner Tsukino came gunning though head down again chasing hard, she quickly caught 11th and 10th drawing on her last reserves caught 9th place and taking a top 10 position overall and 2nd in the girls.

Amazing effort by her and we were all very proud of her performance!

Next up was our latest recruit Yair Bauer, whom only started riding last year. Again Yair had to battle against a very strong headwind and managed to find his groove with 3 other riders who grouped together taking pulls at the front to keep the peloton from gaining any ground on them. Having watched Yair race last year at Saiko, I must say I’m very impressed with how far he has come in such a short time and the winter rides seem to have paid off.

The sprint finish was pretty exciting with Yair pulling out wide to prevent anyone from drafting his wheel and was just piped to the post by another rider coming in a very respectable 27th.

Next up was Idan, Yair's son who was racing in the Milky race... the pace was pretty impressive by these young riders and if they stick with it they'll go on to be serious contenders on the Pro Circuit!

The young lad raced his heart out sporting a shark helmet and placed 4th overall!
With my official domestique and cameraman duties officially over it was time to get myself prepared for the race at 12:30pm, although the time had been pushed back 15-20 minutes due to some very serious accidents. This was highlighted by the fact that the race officials asked us not to remove our hands from the bars upon finishing the race and doing so would result in disqualification. The reason why is because earlier in the day a rider who had finished and saluted his victory was hit by a side wind and created a rather nasty pileup on the finishing line.

At last year’s Saiko Stage in Yamanashi MOB and myself got a very good warm up ride by doing the 10km Time Trial. This really warmed up the muscles and helped me when actually racing so one of the strategies this year is to take my parabolic rollers with me to every event to get a good warm up ride before each race. Using the 2hours spare before my start time I had a light lunch and also did a 40km warm up ride just spinning a long with a few sprints to see how my legs were.

At 12:15 I headed to the assembly point to make sure I was able to get a good position at the front of the peloton, as the further back you go the more inexperienced the rider. The warm up lap was very good natured with the riders complaining about the cold and the blustery winds.Positioned at the start line the officials went over the rules again, reinforcing that they would disqualify any riders taking their hands off the bars to call home, shot cameramen, point to god or pretend to be an American Indian shooting arrows. They also explained the sprint point system and what laps would be for points… I couldn’t work out if it was when the buzzer sounded or if it didn’t so I decided to attack every lap just to be safe!

The first 300m was a very gentle pace to negotiate a narrow chicane that then opened up on to a wide section of the course that looped around the back with some minor curves, this is where the pace quickened and we were soon at race pace humming along at 43kph with the riders of Bex Isox and Whirlwind setting the pace.

The first sprint lap arrived and the pace quickened and I entered the final curve at 50kph and taking 2nd in the first sprint followed by 3rd, 1st, 4th and the win on the final lap placing me at 37 points for the race with the closest rival taking 25 points.

All in all it was a great day for everyone who attended from Positivo Espresso and I’m excited to see how everyone does at Shuzenji this weekend, especially Tsukino.]

Also a BIG thank you to Hiroshi-san for shouting encouragement and advice to me throughout the race and for taking some excellent photos!

I will add more photos later

3 comments:

David L. said...

Congratulations on a job very well done, James!
Thank you for continuing the winning tradition.

James said...

David, Many thanks!

Also would like to thank everyone that called me after the race and sent e-mails and text messages. Your support was much appreciated!

Looks like rain for Shuzenji but I guess it should give me the advantage coming from the UK!

Jimmy Shinagawa said...

Well done. Keep it up.