17 February 2013

Kita (Nishi) Kaze ni Makeru Na! Don't give in to the North (West) wind!

If last week's Gunma 200 km Brevet was a bit of a disappointment because of the 530AM Sunday traffic on the Kanetsu expressway and the lack of true Gunma February winds ... yesterday's 300 km Aoba Randonneurs-sponsored event met and exceeded all expectations.

Notably, it was another one day ride that included the stretch in Gunma east of Takasaki, and at two points (that I noticed) took the same roads as last week.

But this time, Jerome and I would get to and from Gunma by bicycle.  And we also could get to and from the start/goal by bicycle.  So no traffic jams, no tolls, no gasoline stations.  And we could ride 300 (actually 330) instead of 200 kms, leaving home at the same time and getting back only a few hours later, after a family restaurant stop at the finish with Tominaga-san and the organizers near Yanokuchi.

The temperatures were cold, below freezing the first few hours and again at night, never really warming much in the day, despite sunlight.

And the wind was fierce, much of the time above 10 meters per second (40 kph/25 mph), and gusting higher.  This was the true "don't give in to the wind" ride.

Jerome and I were the first riders through the bike check and started out with another faster rider who, fortunately, knew the route well.  We were caught at a traffic light by a large group after about 2kms, but the fast rider gunned it over an overpass (on which bicycles were permitted, I might add), and Jerome and I did our best to follow.  Pretty much everyone else took the surface road, and it was another 30 or 40 kms before we saw a few others.  The fast rider would pull ahead, then we would catch him at the next red traffic light -- a pattern that went on for at least 20 kms.  These roads are not pleasant at mid-day, but between 6 and 8AM on a winter Saturday morning, they were fine.

We got really fierce headwinds on the stretch running NW toward Takasaki.  Jerome was working with two other riders, but I was well back, alone. Crossing the bridge pictured below, SW of Honjo, I managed only 14 kph, even though I had refueled with an energy bar where I snapped this photo.

The run to the east from Takasaki to Tochigi was fast and easy -- flat and with a tailwind.  The only issue was congestion amid the suburban sprawl around Isesaki, as it was now mid-day.

There was a memorably nice stretch (with tail/cross wind) along the top of a levy Northwest of Koga (Ibaraki).   And other nice stretches as the course hugged the hills of western Saitama north of Hanno.

We struggled going straight into the wind around Hanyu and Gyoda in northern Saitama, fatigued from having ridden more than 200km.  Jerome pretty much pulled me through that stretch at a speed of maybe 20-21 kph.
I wore my PBP vest and yellow Assos wind block jacket, the latter in honor of Juliane P.'s yellow Assos and also with a hint of Uma Thurman's yellow jump suit in "Kill Bill".   Kita Kanto Expressway above.
Jerome, at what he declared one of our "best rest areas" -- tucked beneath the pillars of the Kita Kanto  Expressway, cars roaring by behind and overhead, modest bits of trash strewn around.
At the 250km last control point, with 57 kms still to go, it started to get really cold.  Tominaga-san, who had pulled in to the prior controls just as we were leaving, had closed the gap and arrived only 5 minutes or so after us.  We have seen him at many other events, and he was one of the few finishers on the last Brevet I rode with Jerome -- the October 2012 600km Kanagawa monster.  Jerome and I rode with him to the finish.  Jerome and Tominaga-san opened up a gap on me on the longish, very gradual hill south of Hanno, but they waited for me on the other side, and I could keep up (and pull my share) the rest of the way to the goal.

We were finishers 6, 7 and 8, out of close to 60 who started, with a time of just over 15 hrs 30 mins.  The next cohort did not arrive until 50 minutes later -- the wind taking its toll.

No comments: