09 May 2010

Itoigawa training and Devils & Angels

Up at 5:15am on Saturday, out with Humphrey to check weather conditions - lightweight jersey was decided upon, followed by breakfast (cereal, brown toast, banana & caffeine laden High 5 drink for me and a bowl of dry dog food with goat milk powder supplement for Humphrey). As this was a training ride for the approaching Tokyo-Itoigawa 300km race we wanted to get the distance in, hence the early start. For me this was to be the longest ride I have done yet. I realise that for Tom a 250km ride is an average weekend ride so perhaps when I am his age I can do the same. Off at 6am to meet James K out by David L's house. On the way I enjoyed the site of youth around Ebisu station, namely drunks either propping each other up or strutting around in a last gasp attempt to pull a bird.

Lucky James and I are both male as we were merely amused that we both decided to wear pale blue Rapha jerseys that day. Had we been of the opposite sex we would either have had to have a fight involving scratching and hair-pulling (I would have been at a disadvantage here owing to James' 'modern' hairstyle) or claim to be extremely embarrassed, storm home and swear never to talk to the other again. However, a Rapha aficionado will have recognised that these were jerseys from different years as one has a white stripe on one arm while the other has a white hoop on the chest.

On a gorgeous and windless morning we made fast progress along the river towards Ome. At one stage we came up behind a petite non-male rider who was clearly in great shape and moving fast. I felt no urgency to overtake as the path dipped down and made a U-turn and climbed back up to the main cycling path, but once back up on the main path the show was over as the aforementioned non-male rider was back in the saddle and I decided it was time to pass. Shockingly, the Aurore Bakery in Ome was not open when we arrived so we stocked up at 7-11. Before I had a chance to take a mournful photo of the Aurore shutters and send it to MOB to show how Japan is collapsing without him, men appeared from within to open the store.

We chose to ride long Yoshino-kaido for a change and it did seem to be more shaded than the main Ome-kaido. While riding along to Okutamako we saw several side roads that look worth exploring, but unusually, we stuck to the plan. I recognised one as Jerome's road which leads up to the gates at the top of Kazahari but all others may have led to Shangri La or to even more remote places such as Bremen for all I know. The climb up Yanagizawa Pass (1,550m) was harder than I had anticipated but it was very scenic and we made our way up.

We kept getting passed by 2 younger and surely anorexic Japanese riders. One had a bell on his saddle bag similar to the ones elderly hikers use to warn bears in the vicinity so you could hear him coming. Not quite the same as what pro-cyclist Bernard Eisel had to endure: "I thought, I’d better let this motorbike come by but when I turned around and looked it was Cancellara." They must have kept stopping ahead of us, hiding in the shadows for us to pass only to accelerate past us again just to taunt us. The pale blue Rapha clad duo with a combined age of almost 90 were not to be broken.

The 1,050m descent down to Enzan is stunningly beautiful. 16km of fast roads which are in good condition thanks no doubt to a powerful local politician. We turned onto Rte 20, known in the area as The Fruit Line, and into a headwind and some unexpected rollers. A quick refueling at a 7-11 was followed by a scary ride through a busy 3km tunnel. The tunnel was at the top off a steepish approach so I was in my small chainring. Earlier in the day my chain had come off while shifting back into the large chainring so although the tunnel flattened out and was fast I was too scared to risk shifting for fear of losing the chain again. The tunnel had no stopping lane on the left. The result was that as fast as I pedaled I was unable to fully engage the perfectly sculpted calf muscles to which Mr. Knott often refers. A fast and uneventful ride along Rte 20 and after some mind games to see who would blink first we agreed to skirt around Takao rather than go over the top.

  • Van Houten Cocoa: final stop at a conbini not called 7-11. This drink was a revelation for as it did the job when I was getting tired (I don't drink coffee).
  • No recovery beer: after a long ride it seemed a stop at the club house (Central Tokyo Chapter) was in order for a celebratory/recovery beer. However, my riding partner, Uncle Serious, declined.
  • Like Pinto in the cult movie Animal House I had a devil on one shoulder urging me to have a beer while on the other should an angel was telling me not to do it and that I would regret it in the morning. Unusually, the angel won and I can thank him for it today because I feel good. I hope nobody holds this against me. I am happy for my no alcohol theory to be proved wrong and am offering myself up for ongoing research (taking the devil's side).
256km, 2500m climbing, 10hrs 31mins in the saddle without a sore backside (thanks again Rapha).

Signing off......


TOM said...

Liked your story very much Dominic! Congratulations on the 250km+ ride!! Yanagisawa is very similar in terms of drag to Fujimi-toge we will both encounter on the 22nd! I am just hoping the weather then will be the same as today's!

Manfred von Holstein said...

Impressive ride. Everybody is really getting ready for Itoigawa.