12 May 2015

Okitsu Classic Done; Going to PBP! 600km personal best ... riding the hardwood frame Renovo.

Katsuo!  At the Omaezaki Fish Market across from PC1, about to devour a vending machine.
The past weekend I joined the Kanagawa Audax-sponsored 600km Okitsu Classic. With this event, I am now done with the qualifiers for Paris-Brest-Paris and can register for that quadrennial lollapalooza of randonneuring, a 1230km romp by bicycle through the French countryside! Yippee!
View from my room - Suruga Kenko Land
We rode the Brevet in almost perfect weather, not too hot nor cold, only the lightest of rainfall on Saturday afternoon -- just enough to keep cool and never enough to make a damp road.  And of course, I rode on my new Renovo Firewood.

I read recently that the Fukuoka GW brevet week, in which riders can do a full 200, 300, 400 and 600 series, was called "Heaven Week".  So I would call this a "Heaven's 600 ride", in contrast to some other cyclist groups which try to turn every little hill into a Mt. Everest. True, there were 5300+ meters of climbing.  But that works out to less than 1000 meters per 100 kms.  Not bad for Japan. And there is only one really painful stretch -- the 120 kms between PC2 and PC3.
Riders start to bunch up just after the start.

Waiting at the red lights.  And waiting.

Alone on the "Strawberry Line"(Route 150).  Berries not in season ...
Flood plain of the Abe-gawa in Shizuoka-shi
On the old Tokaido between Shizuoka-shi and Fujieda.

No traffic on the old road between Shizuoka and Fujieda

Typical village in the coastal hills
Tea on the hillsides
The first 160kms, Start to PC2, were very fast.  I departed near the middle of a long line of riders -- 75 or 80 starters, I think.  Quickly the groups separated into 5-15 people each, waiting at red traffic lights.  Just the start-up at a traffic light takes a long time as each rider clips into his/her pedals and launches slowly forward.  And it is impossible to time the lights -- accelerate when you see a walk signal turn from constant green to blinking and know you can just make it if you hurry. In these early sections the Japanese randonneurs tend to accelerate very quickly from lights -- using excess energy, in my view -- but top out at too slow a speed for me.  Worse, they do not rotate at all at the front, so on a long stretch the group's speed gradually slips.  I want none of it, this burning energy yet going slowly, so this time as in other rides spend the first 15-20 minutes trying to race through all these lines and get to the front.
First view of the Rapha boys -- stylish vests!

Okumura-san's flowing hair -- his most noticeable feature from the back
This time, I managed to clear the long lines of riders, and found myself all alone along the "Strawberry Line" coast southeast of Shizuoka City.  After a climb over the small hill between Shizuoka and Fujieda, I find myself riding with Himei-san and Shukuzawa-san, both clad in Rapha brand vests and clothes.  These "Rapha boys" and I eventually join with Yo Okumura, who is on his beautiful Cherubim bike and recognizes me from a similar encounter at the front of the pack on this year's January Nishi Tokyo 200 brevet.  Yo has flowing long black hair, ... so it is always a bit of a surprise to pull up next to him and see his thick grey stubble beard.

Anyway, eventually Yo and I pull away (actually, he pulls me), and we continue at high speed to PC1.  I pull part of the way, but mostly just enjoy the ride drafting off of him.  My average moving speed for the first 80 kms -- over 29 kph.

The Renovo proves itself a great bike for this kind of riding -- I am on 700x28 tires -- fatter than I have used in the past, with slightly lower pressure (80 psi vs 95-100).  And I have a wood-framed bicycle -- a naturally shock-absorbing material.  The set up is a kilogram or so heavier than my lightest carbon framed bike, and with a longer wheelbase.  The result?  I am cruising in great comfort at higher than normal speed!

It is at least 5 minutes before any other riders arrive at PC1 (the Rapha boys are next), and just as I am settling into my snack, Yo is up and gone.  Already?  And I had thought he might be tired from that long, fast pull!

Anyway, I leave PC1 about the same time as the Rapha boys, catch them after a quick photo stop, then lose them again when I slow to take a picture of the Hamaoka nuclear plant in the distance.  For what seems like the next 50 kms, I am losing them, catching them, again and again.  Anyway, I feel much better than when I did a nearly identical ride in 2013.  This time I am at PC2 at 160 kms before 12:30PM.
Hamaoka nuclear facility (and wind farm) in the distance.  Once styled the "most dangerous place in the world" for a nuclear reactor.  Now with a sea wall 1.6 km long and 22 meters high.

Typical central Shizuoka - tea and sprawl.

Planting season for the rice farmers.  At first I was a bit frustrated, stuck behind him as trucks whizzed close by.
Then I realized it would make a good picture, relaxed and got out the camera.

I got a wave back and even what I take for a smile!

Community flower garden along Route 151 after PC2.  I passed literally hundreds such flower beds.

After PC2 we enter the hills and the pace slows markedly.  Many riders pass me.  I struggle toward a high point.  Then another slow, gradual climb to Niino Pass, the high point of the entire ride (it seems to be a few meters higher than Shiojiri Pass).  After Niino Pass, there is a big fast, curvy descent.  The Renovo is very stable and quiet on the descent -- no chattering over bumps and rough spots.  So I keep my hands off the brakes much of the time, and go FAST, definitely faster than in 2013.  When I do brake, the disk brakes are silky smooth, easy to adjust with slight squeeze or release.
Somewhere in the mountains of Eastern Aichi Prefecture on Route 151.

The Renovo next to one of MANY, MANY streams and rivers.

Small village across a big bridge from Route 151.

Get your kicks on Route 151?

More new green growth.

Near the confluence of two rivers

More eastern Aichi.  Always an expressway somewhere high up in the distance.

As I stop for photos and snack, riders start to pass me.

Same bridge, other direction.

Still in Toei, eastern Aichi

The climbs continue, the flowers continue.
I switch on my new Supernova E3 Pro dynamo light -- I have no problems at all riding at night with this, powered by my SP Dynamo SD-8 -- borrowed from my commuter bike for this ride since it is my only current dynamo hub for disk brake.  Thanks again to Vic Chen for a night of trouble free, good visibility riding.  Another rider follows me for long stretches between Shiojiri and Azumino.  I let him pass at times, since his lights are driving me crazy -- pointed too high, and not adjusted to keep out of the eyes of the occasional car or truck that approaches.  Of course, the vehicles reciprocate with high beams, and I feel like I am flooded from front and rear.  Eventually, at the Michi no Eki Azumino Horigane no Sato, I pull off for a rest and get away from his lights.  I am thankful for the E3 Pro and dynamo - just the right light in just the right place this trip.

Approaching Anan Town now in Southern Shinano.
Many more cat naps, 30 minutes' rest at a Family Mart cafe before Shiojiri, and an hour of sleep at a Gusto in Matsumoto, get me rested enough so I can summit Shiojiri Pass and Fujimi Pass in the morning, then roll down the hill to Nirasaki/Minami Alps.
The Alps west of Azumino, at dawn (4:33AM).  This is where I broke a spoke and nearly lost it on the my first 600 km event back in 2010 -- the Chubu Audax event over Nomugi Pass and to Kawanakajima from, then back to Nagoya.

Lake Suwa on a beautiful Sunday morning

The park on the west side of Lake Suwa

Farmers planting on the gradual climb from Chino to Fujimi

The famed Suntory Hakushu distillery and whiskey museum -- for another trip.

Minami Alps from Hakushu

Minami Alps from Mukawa ... beautiful if only they would put the power lines on the bridge or away from the view!

Reunited with the Rapha boys, on Yamanashi Route 12 approaching Route 52
As I continue on Route 12 through Minami Alps, who should approach from the rear -- the Rapha Boys!  I am surprised to be ahead of them.  Apparently they got a real rest at the Shiojiri Kenko Land.  Later on as we approach the last checkpoint, Yo Okumura again rides up to us.  "I thought you would be at the finish by now!"  No, apparently he also rested at the Kenko Land and his knees were acting up.  Anyway, we get to the checkpoint within a minute of each other, and it is great to be riding with people who I thought had left me far in the dust.   They do so again, however, and the three of them all finish 30-60 minutes ahead of me, my lack of sleep catching up.
At last, down the Fujikawa

More Fujikawa

The last of many nasty little hills on the Fujikawa.
This shows the middle 1/3 of the climb.  The lower part is steeper.

The finish in sight!
In any event, it was a really nice 600km.  Not too painful at any time, and plenty of leeway against the clock so no worries about whether I would make the time deadlines.  A few more long rides like this, and I will start booking hotels again so I can get better sleep.

17 riders were faster (but none under 31 hours), and 50 riders were slower, among the 68 finishers. Not bad.  My time was 34:27, as opposed to 37:05 in 2013 when stiffness and sore ribs punished and slowed me.  An improvement of 2 hours 38 minutes -- not bad.  And almost 90 minutes faster than I have ever done a 600km ride.  Not bad at all!  

Maybe it was the Renovo and its comfortable setup?  Or maybe I am getting into strong physical condition?

Am I confident that I can finish PBP?  Yes.  
The upcoming SR600?  That will be a real challenge, at the very limit of my ability.
The first 475 kms - recorded with Garmin Edge 800 -- until it died
(as often happens on multi-day rides)

Last 115 kms, after I realized the Garmin was dead ...
and switched to iPhone and ridewithGPS for recording the remainder.


mob said...

Well done, David!
Great ride and equally excellent post. You will be in great shape for PBP and the Italian Alps, no doubt.

The photos made me longing to ride again in Japan - ah, nostalgia...

Tom S. said...

Fantastic! Congratulations David. Let me know when you plan to tour the Hakushu distillery...I'm in for that one!!

joewein said...

Great report, nice pictures! Good luck in France!