17 April 2012

Heavy Weight Class

On Sunday, around 1800 cyclists participated in the 26th Annual Tour de Yatsugatake, a hill climb from the town of Yachiho on the western side of the Yatsugatake mountains up Route 299 toward Mugikusa Pass, Elev 2126 meters.

I had signed up for the E Class (Men, Ages 41-50), but from reading the Tokyo Cycling Club (TCC) postings became aware that there was also a "heavy weight" class for riders weighing over 75.0 kgs. (165.346697 pounds).  Since I currently weigh around 95.5 kgs. (210.54146 pounds), I emailed the organizers a few weeks back, and they were kind enough to switch me into the heavy weight category, euphemistically referred to as the "Bicycle 21 Cup".   Since I was in the "heavy weight" class, which would be starting at the same time as the mountain bikes, I decided to ride my hand-made, steel-framed Yamabushi, a 4.3 pound frame with a heavy cyclocross fork, cantilever brakes etc., just to add another kilogram or two over.

Doug E. and his wife Michiko were kind enough to give me a lift up on Saturday evening.  I stayed in a slightly dilapidated business hotel, featuring a room with thick stale tobacco smell and scenic view of a wall of an adjacent structure about 6 inches from the window.  This was in the town of Nakagomi on the southern outskirts of Saku City, about 15 kms from the start.  It was raining hard on Saturday into the evening as we drove up from Tokyo, but the forecast for Sunday looked spectacular.

I awoke on Sunday to an email from the organizers announcing that the start would be pushed back by 30 minutes from 9AM to 930AM, a result of attempts to deal with the snow that remained on the upper elevations of the hill, and which had been added to by snow the night before.  An earlier notice on Saturday that I had not seen had apparently announced a change of the finish line from Mugikusa Pass (2126m elev) to the Yachiho Highland Ski Area entrance, almost 500m lower.  

Instead of a 25km race with 1300 meters elevation gain, we would race 15 km and climb 800 meters.  This change sent my race plan back to square one.  I had hoped to outlast the others and use superior endurance to prevail, ... but that would no longer be possible.  I now had the perfect excuse for a middle of the pack finish.

Doug (who had selected better accommodations) showed up at the start line in his TCC 2011 kit.  I must admit I was a bit suspicious if this pencil thin guy  I was looking at really weighed 75 kgs and belonged in a "heavy weight" category.  He reassured me that he did weigh 83 kgs or more when he had signed up in January, and this morning had weighed in at 75.00001 kgs after drinking a liter or two of water and putting on his gear.  There were a bunch of guys in the group who looked as if their bikes and wheels were designed for "weight weenies" and subject to low rider weight limits.  And they all looked pretty young.  I thought that perhaps I was in the wrong place.

Doug managed an excellent time of just over 48 minutes, for 6th place.  With my extra 22 kgs and a few more years of wear and tear, I finished in 1:00:41, for 45th place out of 95 starters -- just about what I had expected.

Looking at Doug's podium photo for the heavy weight class (copied below from the TCC site), I think all six of them must have been between 75.00001 and 75.00009 kgs with their clothes on.  One rider seems to have done the climb with a baby strapped to his chest just to get anywhere near the weight limit.  Next time I'll suggest to the organizers that they add a weigh-in to the proceedings! 

Clay Locke, formerly representing TCC and now riding for Team Peugeot Cycles Nippon, was the overall winner of the Champion Class, with a time of 37:42.  Wow. 

Eugen and Patrick also had times in the 47~49 minute range.  Excellent, but not quite good enough for the podium in one of the "normal" age-based categories.
Podium for the Heavyweight Category?
Anyway, the organizers finally let us descend the mountain at 11:30AM, and I continued for a nice, leisurely ride up the valley on Route 141, then over beautiful little Route 68 through Hirose and Kawakami, then up over Shinshu Pass and down to Nirasaki where I hopped an express train home.

The bike is comfortable and handles nicely.  Very stable and confident steering, though the slightly longer cyclocross fork and resulting higher bottom bracket than my road bike give a bit different feel descending through curves.

The combination of flowering cherries and snow capped mountains -- Yatsugatake, the Japan Southern Alps, Mt. Fuji, and other local peaks, was very nice.  If only the clouds would have burned off completely ....
Looking back at Yatsugatake, from between Hirose and Kawakami.   I am very happy with the new Ortlieb handlebar bag I got for use on longer Brevets.

Fertile soil of Kawakami, where all the farm laborers seem to be Chinese migrants; looking back toward Yatsugatake.  Mugikusa Pass is toward the right (northern) shoulder of these mountains.
The gradual climb through farmland toward Shinshu Pass, until the road turns up ahead.  No other cyclists today and only one or two cars between Kawakami and Shiokawa Dam down the other side of the hill.
Much better than Route 141.
Sakura blossoming and Southern Alps ... and almost no traffic ... on the Masutomi Radium Line through Sudama toward Nirasaki
Looking back up the Masutomi-Radium Line toward Shiokawa Dam and Shinshu Pass.  Snow visible on Mt. Mizugaki.

1 comment:

TOM said...

Not bad a finish considering your weight handicap, the much shorter course favoring pure climbers and all the weight cheaters!

Your Yamabushi cyclocross looks very handsome also with those wheels sporting not too many spokes. For the planned cabbage-fields-up Ura-Odarumi, don't forget to switch to heavy-duty wheels & tyres!