02 April 2012


Another great ride this weekend.

We had lots of interest, but James and Shane decided to head out a bit later than our 7AM Kaminoge start, and Gunnar somehow just missed us at the start.  So Jerome (France), Alexander (Germany) and I (USA) headed out and met Steve T. (UK) in Takao.  And with just 3 of us heading out from Tokyo to Takao, it was a bit easier to navigate intersections as lights changed from red to green and vice versa ...   And we had just as good geographic coverage as we would have had we had managed to coordinate the ride with James (UK), Shane (USA) and Gunnar (Germany).

It was Alexander's first ride with us.  As a young (33 year old) guy whose physique reminded me of many of the Germans who would pass me on the first climb every day during Transalp, I realized we would need to take maximum advantage of the fact that he had not been on the bike much since he moved to Japan last year.  He noted that he only wanted to ride 50-60 kms, and would take the train home.  We assured him that by heading out west from Takao, we would almost always be within 5 km of a train station, so he could hop the Chuo Line home at any time.

Our ultimate goal was to climb the south approach to Matsuhime Pass, but we knew Alexander would head back from Sagamiko, Uenohara, Yanagawa, Torizawa, Sarubashi or one of the other Chuo Line stations.

Steve T. then suggested that instead of boring, heavily traveled Route 20, we take Yamanashi Route 30 from Uenohara to Sarubashi.  Steve discovered Route 30 in the early years of this century, long before Tom S. or Ludwig had ever made it beyond Otarumi Pass.  Steve promised us we would enjoy these "rolling hills" and that he would show us a way to go around the back of Otsuki golf club and on some other local roads to stay off Route 20 until just before Sarubashi.

After our third or fourth climb on Route 30, as we approached 600 meters elevation again, Alexander finally started to trail us on the climbs and asked about the train station.  I pointed down the side of the hill to the left into the distant haze.  "It is somewhere over there, along the river at the bottom of the hill."

As you can see from the photo below, it was a long way down.  And there was not any road headed in that direction.  The only road continued ahead, along and up the hillside.
Yamanashi Route 30 from Uenohara to Sarubashi -- a beautiful road on a beautiful, cold Spring day
We then told Alexander the story of Paul Jason.  He was a good sport about it, and managed to make it over the rest of the "rolling hills", even when the grade was 11, 12 or even 15%.  Alexander thought that Steve must be joking when Steve mentioned that there was a nice restaurant at Katsuragawa Wellness Park ... just like Steve was joking when he said that there was only 40 meters elevation more to the top of the last hill, behind the golf club.  Or joking when he called it the "last hill", which it was not, really.

Alexander, our new rider
In any event, we did not ask Alexander to climb back up the steep hill to the restaurant at Wellness Park, and instead had lunch (and beer) at the traditional soba place in Sarubashi.  Then we bid farewell to Alexander, stopped for ice cream at the 7-11 down the street, and started the climb up Matsuhime.

I was still digesting my ice cream, beer and tempura (tendon) lunch and climbed slowly, quickly losing sight of Steve and Jerome ahead.  At the Otoge turn-off on the Fukashiro reservoir, I pulled into the rest area to take advantage of the clean rest room (with western style toilet and a nice posting on the wall advertising dam tours--just ring the intercom at the dam building entrance and, if someone is available, you can take a guided tour by elevator down into the core of the dam for a 20-30 minute excursion).  And I stretched out my aching right foot.

From there on, at least I could manage the climb from 650 to 1250 meters elevation without a foot down or much suffering, despite strong swirling winds.  At the top, Steve and Jerome were resting, flat on their backs in the sunlight and nearly asleep.

We timed this ride perfectly, since a few weeks earlier we might have found melting snow on the road down the northern slope (there was still plenty of snow and ice along the sides), and in warmer weather the exposed climb up the southern side can be very hot.
Steve and I bundle up for a cold descent down the shaded North slope of Matsuhime.  Jerome ... wears his usual Beeren team shorts and short sleeves, plus his trademark fishnet underlayer.  
It was a quick trip down the hill, along Okutama-ko (waving at Mrs. Watanabe and getting a wave back as we passed Yakyu-tei), and then down another hill to Moegi-no-yu, near Okutama town/station, where we enjoyed  the foot-soaking hot spring.  As usual, the parking lot attendant tried to get officious with us as we dismounted our bikes in a vacant space right near the foot bath.  He quieted down when I responded: "This bike is worth 1 million yen.  If you will guarantee its safety, I will be happy to park it far away.  Otherwise, I want to keep it in my sight."  A slight exaggeration, but he got the point and withdrew.

Steve hopped the train at Okutama Station, I hopped the train at Oume (just missing the express train that Steve had caught up the hill), and Jerome rode all the way home for 200km+.


Steve T said...

David, hilarious write-up ! We all learn very early on in our Japan cycling experience that we must always believe that the next hill is indeed the last hill... my legs have finally stopped aching today and I realize I need to really get some miles in before TOITO.
Btw, did I ever tell you that I discovered "ura wada" as well ... ? ;-)

Anonymous said...

lol... another last hill story. PE Europe just back from spring training in Mallorca and looking forward to the Pyrenees and Eroica. We bought a few more bikes.... see you soon J and D