14 April 2014

Flèche #2 -- 2014!

Last year's Fleche was a challenging ride, the gale force headwinds in Shizuoka sapping our strength early and making it a struggle just to get 3 riders across to the minimum distance.  Then our team leader, Tanaka-san, had a prolonged dialogue with the organizers about whether or not we met the rules.  They were real sticklers on one or two points that had nothing to do with whether or not we had ridden the minimum 360 kms, on the designated course, within the designated time.  In any event, we were finally certified, and resolved to try the Fleche again in 2014.

Suffice it to say that 2014 went much better!  As Maya Ide remarked at the Kanagawa Audax sponsored wrap up party at the Kamakura Prince Hotel on Sunday, everyone reported tail winds as riders converged on Kamakura from all directions.  A true "kamikaze".  No rain.
Moon over Lake Suwa and Yatsugatake, as immortalized in the famous Hiroshige woodblock print
Our route, while requiring over 3500 meters of climbing in just under 400 kms, was hard but not brutal.

The route offered many rewards in terms of quiet roads and nice views and flowering hillsides full of sakura and other plants.
Sakura trees near Takato, Nagano, from Circle K parking lot
Kiso-cho, from Michi no Eki view area at around 780m elevation, just before we climb up to 1200m tunnel entrance
Mt. Ontake, 3026m elev., from Kisocho, one of the "most beautiful villages in Japan"
Snow capped mountains visible.  We avoid Route 19 by traveling up the west side of the valley.
Bridge over the River Kiso and toward the road less traveled
We took many side roads along trains and reservoirs - low traffic, picturesque alternatives to Route 19.  We form a nice even line of riders as I stop for the photo -- though a bit stretched out!
Jerome and Tanaka-san in Toki City early in our ride.
One of many, many river valley stretches.
Many thanks to Tanaka-san for again leading the team, and to him and his wife/family for hosting Jerome and me at his house the night before the ride, which added to the pleasure.  And it was very good to make the acquaintance of Kosakai-san (who missed last year's event after a crash a week or so before left him without a bicycle) and Higuchi-san (who is slated to ride the Hokkaido 1200 in July as well).
The Tanaka house has a "drive through" entrance designed specifically for bicycle arrival and storage!

I suffered in the middle portion of the ride -- bad choice of convenience store snacks and maybe the fatigue and strain on my digestive system of riding hard leaving me very weak over the Fujimi and Sasago climbs.  But my teammates were supportive, allowed me to rest, and waited at the top of Sasago when I fell behind.  The stomach trouble was a distant memory by the time first light appeared around Sagamiko.  They got me to the finish line!

My equipment worked well generally, with a few minor exceptions.  The biggest casualty was my Velocity A23 rear rim, which suffered a spoke nipple pull-through somewhere late in the ride -- perhaps on the descent from Miyagase-ko?  At least it would ride without difficulty to the finish, relatively true after loosening the 2 adjacent spokes a single turn. Time for a new rim after 2 1/2 years of tough service.

More, better photos by Tanaka-san and Higuchi-san. Below Higuchi-san's photo of our Fleche team and one touring cyclist -- a young guy on day 40 of a trip, headed back to Ibaraki after having ridden to Kagoshima.  We passed him on the Nakasendo, and he caught us temporarily at the Kiso-cho michi no eki.


Pete Heal said...

Any room for am Aussie in a 2015 Fleche team?

David Litt said...

Hi Pete:

Unfortunately, I have not made any plans to ride a Fleche in 2015. I think there are 3 smaller Fleches planned in Japan this year, each of which has already finished sign-ups. Next year?

Best, David

Pete Heal said...

OK, Thanks.
Will be around Nagano at that time. 5th visit to Japan, possibly the last for a while after daughter comes home to OZ in June.