03 January 2013

Hakone Ekiden 2013

January 2nd's weather forecast promised sun with a high of 13 degrees celsius.  A classic warm, dry Tokyo winter day, perfect for riding bicycles along the closed roads of the Hakone Ekiden, as in past years:  2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and P.B. ("pre-blog") 2007.

Nittaidai (Nippon Sports Science Univ.), our neighbors  on Komazawa Dori in Setagaya, win the relay!
James K. and Shane P. rode out via my house, then we met Laurent D. along the Tamagawa and headed toward Yokohama.  We joined the Ekiden route a little north of Yokohama Station and were immediately welcomed by a large group of cheering fans, as in past years.

As with last year, we were directed onto the "old road" near Totsuka Station, rather than the no-bikes-permitted bypass that we used to take with the runners.

This year we faced very stiff headwinds much of the way, and where we were not protected on the sides -- crossing some bridges near Oiso and closer to Odawara -- swirling gusts threatened to push us sideways, off our bikes and into the guardrail or, worse, into the passing traffic.  At one point,  I unclipped my left pedal and put a foot down.  Laurent, with his deep rim Lightweight wheels, held on for dear life.

We saw a TCC group as we passed them at a rest/gathering spot near Route 16 ... and they passed us back at the Odawara 7-11 that serves as an informal staging area pre-ascent, where James and Shane said farewelll and headed for Odawara Station, as Laurent and I started the last section up the hill to the finish at Hakone Ashinoko.

As we got to Hakone Yumoto, still near the bottom of the climb and far ahead of the lead runners (who were at least 10~12 kms back, not yet in Odawara), a policeman directed us off of the main road and onto the "old Tokaido".  The old road does go up the hill to Ashinoko ... but would take us away from the cheering Ekiden crowds.  After a rest stop, some attempts to find a way around the barriers and rejoin the route further up (we did, but not far enough up, and were quickly pointed down the hill), Laurent and I descended 1-2 kms and stopped at a convenience store for pasta. 15 minutes or so later, the runners came by, in remarkably close succession after 85+ kms.

Laurent and I headed back toward Tokyo, together along the coast as far as Chigasaki.  He continued to Kamakura and took the train home, while I headed inland to take a look at the Keio Univ. Shonan Fujisawa Campus and then continued the rest of the way home through the Kanagawa sprawl via bicycle.  A bit more than 160 kms in all -- an even 100 miles.

It was great to see James, Shane and Laurent after quite awhile, and to get in such a good ride on January 2 to start the year.  Then again, I think with the added police measures to keep us off of the climb, even with a good "cushion" ahead of the runners, the Ekiden tradition may have run its course.

Ekiden ride as far as Hakone Yumoto, then back to Chigasaki and inland to Shonandai/Fujisawa:

From Shonandai/Fujisawa back home:

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