15 November 2010

Saiko - The Obligatory Photos, of Fuji, Fall Foliage and My Cervelo

Ludwig and I attended the JCRC final stage at Saiko, both staying Saturday night at a very nice bungalow I arranged through a colleague, adjacent to his second home, on a hillside above the village of Oishi ("Big Rock") on the less crowded, less developed North shore of Kawaguchi-ko.  Luxury accommodations, with a very tasty from the grill and filling dinner prepared on the charcoal grill, complete with ample wine (including from the local, Kawaguchi-ko, Oishi vineyards.  Motto:  "Oishi da kara Oishii").
James Machin (racing for Fuji Cyclingtime.com) was there with his family and pro/semi-pro teammates to claim the overall JCRC series championship/S class championship.  James finished in the bunch sprint, sustaining 44.51 kph over the 60 kilometers, but voiced some frustration at the tactics of Team Bridgestone Anchor, which joined by "special appearance" as an 8-person team, giving them the ability to control the race by working together as the other, mainly individual, entrants could not.  He ends the season as the JCRC overall and S-Class points champion.
Recovering from a cold, without any racing this year or preparation, forced into C class (30 km) due to early overbooking in D and E (20 km) groups, and joining with some much faster, stronger, better teammates, I was nervous about my prospects, to say the least.
We joined together for the early morning team time trial, with Kawaguchi-san, the TT champion of Fuji Cyclingtime.com subtituting for Yair, who could not attend due to injury (see the Tokyo Cycling Club bbs for details -- fortunately he is on the way to recovery, though it will take awhile).
In any event, I volunteered to "lead out" the TT team, and gave it my all for the first 1 or 1.5 kilometers, then pulled off and let James, Kawaguchi-san and Ludwig go ahead.  The cool morning air and brief tough effort had left me gasping for air, but I was happy to accomplish my 2 main goals for the event.  (1) a strong lead out -- at times going 45-50 kph (or more) on the straight away and gentle downslope, and (2) not crashing in front of James M. and bringing him down, ruining his hopes for a finish "in the points" that would assure/improve his position for the various championships.  James, Ludwig and Kawaguchi-san cruised to finish in 6th place -- just a warm-up -- as I trailed far behind and pulled off, mission already accomplished (sort of) after finishing only one of two laps.
In our main event of the day, the C-Class 30 km heat 2, Ludwig did quite well ... 6th in the heat ... a podium finish and an average speed of 41.96 kph.  Not bad for someone who swore off all racing a year ago after winning the D Class championship here a year ago.
I did less well, 43rd out of 60, but was happy nonetheless with how things played out.  The pace was blistering on the first lap -- often above 45 kph, it seemed.  I rode near the back of the pack, keeping a little distance for safety sake ... but lost the peleton at the "usual" place -- the 90 degree turn on a short uphill stretch 2 km from the finish/end of each 10 km lap, where the faster riders spring ahead and the rest of us struggle to accelerate and get over the crest.
Some others had dropped already earlier in the first lap, but I had no idea how many, and I found myself with two riders in my sights, and the main group fast disappearing up the road.  Panic set in and I tried to push back toward the group.  As I passed the two, I hollered "let's ride together" in Japanese.  One took the challenge and hopped on my wheel ... but he could not pull, or keep up, and I left him behind as I accelerated on the downslope early in the second lap.  The field was already a few hundred meters ahead.  
Next, I saw a rider in the green "Saitama Audax" 2007 Paris-Brest-Paris jersey riding about 75 meters ahead of me.  At last, a chance to get some benefit from my Brevet experience!  Any one who has ridden a few Brevets in Japan learns that this particular green jersey is something special.  Brevet riders tend to be "slow and steady".  Not Saitama.  They are FAST and steady.  They haul ass over long distances.  If I could only catch him. ...   Somehow I managed to do so, and again issued a challenge to ride together.  At first, he pulled me, but by the time we got to the back stretch of the lake, I had recovered some and we shared the work, somehow maintaining a decent pace, trading off again and again, each taking turns resting in back and then cutting inside on one of the sharp corners to take the front duty. 
We managed to keep this up for the rest of the race, and finished with an average pace of 38.66 kph.  I tried to come around him one last time at the finish ... but misjudged the line (it was about 20 meters short of the  overhead banner) and ended half a wheel behind him.  Not too bad for a 30 km effort, 22 km of which was ridden without the Peleton and with its share of headwinds.  No one passed us, we stayed ahead of the D class group that started 2 minutes later than our heat, and we caught a number of the C class riders from the prior heat.  Yamaguchi-san and I thanked each other at the finish.  ... So I may be back again next year?  Next time, I'll train for it -- intervals, sprints, etc.  Really, I will.

Now, some photos.  A few new additions from Ludwig.  
The three time trialists, plus me.

At the start.
Glasses on, engines ready.
S Class start!

James and Sebastien, smile for the fans.

Now the photos from my initial post:

At Tachikawa -- into the bike bag you go.
Registration Saturday afternoon.
Bike leaning along guardrail at Saiko.
Bike leaning along guard rail at Saiko #2.
Ludwig and the fall foliage at Kawaguchiko:

Bike leaning along hedge, at our accommodations with view of Fuji.

Bikes leaning along rust-colored hedge, at our accommodations.
More bike leaning, with Fuji:

Looking from Oishi village toward the Wakahiko tunnel entrance -- a little after-race climb up to the entrance and then a continuing modest upslope inside the tunnel for a little more than 2 km.
One last glimpse of Fuji.

On the Upper Ashigawa (see also the photo at the very top of this blog entry -- spectacular vistas here between the ridges):
At the entrance to Shin-Torizaka Tunnel, at the top of the second short climb on the way through to Fuefuki/Kofu:
And down among the fruit trees in Fuefuki, in the "fruit bowl" of Yamanashi/Kofu area:


TOM said...

Breathtaking views with bike!

James said...

We came 5th in the TTT by the way as the Bridgestone Teams time didn't count.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Yes, James, I was about to correct David and rescue our honour! But then we owe it basically all to your team mate who pulled us most of the way. I felt bad I never went to the front (except for crossing the final line, but I'm puzzled by that as it was not intentional), but then I felt somewhat better because you didn't seem to have much power left to be much at the front either. My heart rate was never below 162, often in the 170s. I haven't done as intense riding for half an hour as this for a year! I'm glad that when you fell behind our hero in the second lap that was exactly the moment I had some gas left to pull you up and close the gap. It was a rare moment.

Manfred von Holstein said...

By contrast, the race was a piece of cake in terms of power. In the first lap, my heart meter would not work because I did not sweat... Though I certainly felt like sweating because of stress. There was one newbie rider in the middle of the top field who would swerve in every tighter curve and threatened to fall of the bike or crash into others uncountable number of times. Every time people would scream. At some point, I shouted obscenities at him, amusing the rest of the field. Unfortunately, he would not relent and kept scaring the hell out of me. I tried to keep distance without losing too much distance to the top. Down the lake it was relatively easy to coast without being fully in the draft of the field; then against the wind, I tried to be ahead of the guy in the narrower top of the peleton.

It somehow worked, though on the return journey in lap three another stupid rider couldn't keep the pace line in a tighter curve and caused an innocent rider to crash while he continued, just next to me (fortunately I was on the inside). I felt like pushing him off his bike!

Highly stressed but well rested I approached the final tight turn and climb in lap 3, strategically positioned pretty much in the front of the peleton. Another rider moved up besides me, tapped my shoulder and signalled I should go for Number 1. He knew me from winning last year. I indicated not today, but knew that he would go for it, so all I needed to do is jump on his wheel as he moved ahead, disappointed my response.

This worked well and got me up the initial hill right among the first few riders, drafting him nicely. I knew he would not be able to keep up, and others would close on. So they did, and rather aggressively, pushing some to the edge of the road. I was fine, but it was not confidence building.

Then we passed the site of a horrible crash in the C1 class that had started 2 mins ahead of us. Riders sitting and lying by the road side, holding their bleeding heads. These are the moments where I wonder whether I should stop right there and slip into my paramedic skin. It is really hard to keep going. I did, and had no problem drafting others up the final hill, but my fighting spirit was seriously dented. Last year, people had crashed a couple of times, actually in similar spots, but always behind me - and I have a policy of not looking back. This year, I saw it all in front of me.

Beyond the top of the hill, there was a bit more space to sprint, and so I fought again, hanging on to wheels and jumping a few, but clearly just a little too late a sprint start to make it to the very front. I thought I finished sixth, but wasn't sure - one tends to overestimate one's own result when there are so many so close. The results confirmed I was sixth and thus just on the podium.

In just race I thus made it from C class to B class - but I'm not sure I want to race again. 90 percent of the riders are just safe and good, but the remainder make such a race so incredibly dangerous. I'm glad I survived once more, but should I tempt fate again? Some say the higher you get, the better the riders become - but then JCRC throws in these newbies into just any class in these popular races, so one can never be quite sure.

Racing aside, it was a lovely weekend around the lakes, really thanks to David getting us that great accommodation and getting us invited to a wonderful dinner. This and the nice autumn colours (I think better than ever before) really made up for the stress of fearing and seeing all these crashes.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Results are now up on the JCRC website. We finished sixth after all in the TT - strange, since on the noticeboard after the event we had been fifth. Anyhow, we are among the winners, so I'm wondering whether we got some kind of prize? James, did you get anything? Was there a ceremony? We should have asked...

mob said...

Thanks David for the nice post and also to Ludwig for the additional explanations. Saiko 2003 was one of the first races I ever did and this is the first time I have missed the Saiko race since then. I was thinking about that while riding in the rain yesterday in Bremen and became really, really envious.

On the other hand it is very satisfying to see how well everyone is doing with Ludwig now promoted into B class (although only of theoretical nature) and of course James becoming 2010 S Class Champion well ahead of all other competitors. This is a great achievement of which we could have never thought of say, three years ago. Well done.

David L. said...

I updated the post this morning, adding TEN new photos from Ludwig (none of which shows a "bike leaning").

Well Ludwig, your race was quite different than mine. Very impressive, and it is great that you are able to pick which wheel to hop on at the crucial moment based on your memories of races over a year ago.

As for the C-1 crash, by the time I passed, 3 and a half minutes later, they were up on the side of the road and the blood was not visible. We did pass one crashed cyclist on the far side of the lake -- maybe the person you mentioned who was taken out on a curve -- a van had pulled up to assist, blocking the left lane just as we rounded that curve/corner and requiring some evasive maneuvers to avoid.