06 September 2021

Escape from Tokyo, 2021

 In a dystopian near future, the 23 wards of central Tokyo have been turned into a maximum security prison!

A few areas, near some public facilities built to serve the masses during a kinder, gentler era, are "outside the fence" as it were, now set aside for entertainment of the global elite in gladiatorial games, with the cost to be paid for by the prisoners (the current and next several generations). The "hunger games"?

This was my thought as I tried to ride my bicycle on a route down the west side of the new national stadium toward "Killer Dori" ... but found the way blocked off. I needed to go around along a very narrow path outside a very tall, guarded fence. In the rain. It was deserted at midday on a weekday.

You can tell the fence is designed to keep US out rather than THEM in ... since the concrete is placed on the outer side of the curb, leaving the roadway undisturbed.

The only car I saw on the deserted inner roadway. I hope the road is wide enough for it.

Guards waiting to check anyone vehicle attempting to leave the prison.

28 August 2021

Kobu Pass (Kobu Tunnel) on one of the Hottest Days of this Summer

Peter J. and I decided to ride today, Friday August 27. We knew it would be hot, so planned a relatively early start, and a ride that at least had some options. I wanted to get to Kobu Tunnel and Uenohara area as I have done too many rides on the flats of Kanto or sticking to the Tokyo side of nearby hills recently. I left home at 6:07AM and met Peter at "the toilets" in Nishigawara Shizen Koen near Komae at 6:50. Today I rode the 2011 Canyon Ultimate CF. I plan to lend it to a friend this autumn, and wanted to do a shakedown trip now that I have got the Imezi wheels on it, a longer stem, new cassette, etc.

The Canyon reborn!

Within a few minutes of leaving home, my hands were dripping wet. The handlebars and brifters  on my bike were dripping wet, my skin was glistening in sweat, my iphone glass fogged -- 93% humidity before sunrise. Riding in a sauna essentially. Things eventually dried out, as they got hotter.

We made decent time until the base of the Akigawa, where we filled water bottles. It was a lot easier for both of us to ride together with me on a road bike, rather than the Pelso recumbent (which is too fast on the flats, too slow on the climbs, and no good for drafting). Just after we emerged onto the main road toward Musashi Itsukaichi, Peter realized he had forgotten his sunglasses where we filled the bottles. I pulled into a 7/11 and got a snack while waiting for him to retrieve the glasses and (after quite awhile, apparently not searching for sunglasses but searching for the right road) to find the way back.

Peter, at the spot where he left his sunglasses.

Meanwhile, a guy wearing an "ATF" t-shirt pulled into the 7/11 parking lot on a large motorcycle (Harley or wanna-be). In Japan, alcohol and tobacco are very common and he looked like a user of both, but I had to question the "firearms" part of it, assuming he knows what ATF stands for.

It felt hot waiting in front of the 7/11, even in the shade, and even though it was only 830AM!  Today was not like waiting in the shade for last month's Olympic road races. 

We pressed on toward Itsukaichi and then up the Akigawa Keikoku (gorge). As we approached the "T" intersection, Peter was in front of me and I hollered "Alright! We go to Uenohara!" since the sign at the crossing showed the left turn would take us there. (I had previously told him that to get to Kobu Tunnel, we turn "left at Musashi Itsukaichi, left at the T-intersection in front of Hinohara Town Office, and left at the traffic signal at just over 400m elevation another 10kms further up the road". Left, left, left.  

Peter turned right. ... for Kita Akigawa. I hollered "no, Left, Left". 

After looping around and passing me, he explained that he had heard my "alright" as "right". Fair enough. I was reminded that even though he has been in Tokyo over 30 years, raced bikes as a student, and in recent years since he started to ride again gets out several times a week, he has his own set routes and not explored these hills quite the way that Manfred, Jerome, or I have done, typically staying closer to town. This would be his first trip to Kobu Tunnel -- though he noted that he has been up to Tomin no Mori/Kazahari before. 

The lower Akigawa climb was very nice. It was hot, but not as hot as the Kanto plain. Still, I needed a breather to cool down before doing the short (4 km; 200m elev) climb to and through the tunnel). 

Turn left for Uenohara (and Kobu Tunnel -- or Kobu Pass)

Peter tells me that the tunnel is at "Kobu Pass", and we really should call the climb Kobu Pass, as some Japanese cycling resources do.  But as the winter photo below shows, if there is a pass, it is way, way up on the mountain. In my view, calling this "Kobu Pass" would be is as if one were to take the Sasago Tunnel on Route 20 (Koshu Kaido) and say that you climbed Sasago Pass. We know that indeed, there is Sasago Pass, but that is another 350m elev higher and 5-6 kms away from the Sasago Tunnel on Route 20 (or the parallel tunnel on the Chuo Expressway). 

Anyway, I was starting to fade on the climb in the heat, and Peter waited for me at the top. On Thursday I had been to the weight room for strength training, and I could feel weakness in my entire upper body -- shoulders especially -- on the climb. I guess it may be due to not only the weight room, but also spending so much time on the recumbent and so little on the road biek in recent months. This upper body weakness continued for the rest of the ride. 

It was a quick descent down the South side toward Uenohara. I had no interest in trying the Golf Course Hills in this heat, but we did enjoy taking the small road across the river from Rte 33 (on the East side) for the ride into Uenohara. We stopped again at a convenience store, where Peter took a work-related 11AM call. This store is now a Daily Yamazaki ... I could swear in the past it was something else, and I remember when it had a bench in front. No longer.

By the time the call finished it was 11:20, midday heat. I don't know how hot it actually was, but it got to 37 in Kofu to the west, and 36 in Hachioji to the East. And today (the following day) the forecast is for 36 degrees in Uenohara. For American reference that is a (humid) 96.8 degrees fahrenheit.

I was not going to enjoy riding in this heat. In fact, my speed had slowed pretty dramatically. Peter went ahead to Takao Coffee, while I crept up the climb toward Otarumi. I was only going 10-12kph on a relatively shallow, very easy climb, but my heartrate was near max at 160bpm. I stopped to rest twice on the way up, and arrived at Takao Coffee 15-20 minutes after Peter.  

After a delicious ice coffee and piece of chocolate cake, we headed west. ... except for me, Takao Station was as far as I was going. I hopped the train home and cooled down in a soaking tub. 

110kms and 1000m elev gain was plenty for this weather. At least I got to see the "green" of the Akigawa and upper Uenohara, to breath fresh(er) air, and some exercise.

12 August 2021

The Pelso Brevet -- a Carbon High Racer Recumbent

In late April, I got my first new bicycle in six years. 

And it is (drumroll … ) a “Pelso Brevet” carbon frame high racer recumbent!

Pelso Brevet - along the Tamagawa near Tachikawa

Pelso brevet - near Kawasaki

Recumbent bike leaning ... at Haneda.
That rear seat bag is great - holds a lot of gear and smooths air a bit around the back of the bicycle. By Radical Designs of the Netherlands.

More bike leaning ... further afield.
Note the handlebar stem angle--reversed so that I would have more shin clearance.

Me riding the Pelso, passing Komae along the Tamagawa.

Pelso advertisement -- thin, strong young helmetless riders on the bike in an Alpine setting!

No, it is actually not my first recumbent. Nearly 20 years ago, I also bought a recumbent, on sale as a deep, deep close-out at a local Trek dealer in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC. It was the only recumbent Trek ever made (and the only Trek I have ever bought), the R-200, and was discounted because Trek had discontinued the model. Trek dealers did not know anything about recumbents, and could not sell them.  Worse, apparently Trek dumped their factory inventory to a liquidator for next to nothing, and he was selling the bikes online, so the dealers were forced to dump their inventory as well. The technology of a recumbent fascinated me, however, and I thought it would be a good experiment. I had read that recumbents were so fast they had been banned by the UCI in the early 1930s, as soon as a relatively average rider on a recumbent broke the “hour record” set by a storied professional rider on an upright, diamond frame (“DF”) bike. 

But the R-200 was not going to break any hour records! It was a short wheelbase model, but very heavy, and not so easy to get accustomed to riding. It had small (20”?) wheels with heavy rims and tires, and I could never get it to go any faster on the flats than my road bike. It was slow as molasses climbing hills. I never liked the mesh seat, which started to fray at some point after getting a small tear.

Here is some explanation at an online shop (in the "brands we don't stock" category)

When I moved to Japan, I gave the R-200 to a friend (who is a Trek fan, at least). He had a big basement with room for storing bikes, after his garage wall racks had filled up. 

I don’t think I even realized at the time that recumbents are, well, looked down up, literally and figuratively, by some roadies, especially roadies who follow “The Rules”. The U.S. recumbent industry is dominated by somewhat older, heavier, bearded, sloppy looking types, not like those Pelso model riders. Here are some shots from a Youtube video covering the (virtual version of the) industry trade show last year.

And yes, it seems that trikes take up an ever larger share of the U.S. recumbent market ... So despite Cruzbikes and Bacchettas winning RAAM, "recumbents" in the US are targeted at an older, weaker, segment of the market.

Fortunately, cycling culture has become more diverse and welcoming in the past couple decades, with fatter tires, gravel bikes, e-bikes, bike packing setups, audax, and other streams that compete for attention among trend-followers with traditional road cycling and now get a bit of respect.

Recumbents are to DF’s as violas are to violins! 

Any “full size” violin is the same size, and the same shape, as any other. Stradivarius got the formula right, and every violin maker since follows it. There are no “UCI rules” for violins, but there might as well be. How to you make a good violin? Get as close as possible to a Strad.

Violas, on the other hand, come in all shapes and sizes, from <37cm long to >44 cms or even longer. There are “cut out” versions like the ones made by Otto Erdesz (a violist collague and friend of my mom, had an Erdesz viola … but not one of his cutouts).  And there is the “Tertis” shape, named after famous violist Lionel Tertis, for whom many great works were written early in the 20th century. He designed and played an instrument with a much wider body, a kind of “big butt” version of the viola, that allows a deeper, more cello-like tone without making the body of the instrument so long that it becomes unwieldy or impossible to play for a smaller person with shorter arms. You can still make a better viola by innovating. Oh, where was I? Recumbents, right? You can innovate with recumbents even more so!

Recumbent innovation -- good. 
Legendary bike designer Mike Burrows on a very fast machine.

Recumbent bike innovation -- ugly.

In British Columbia in 2012, I rode with Matthew O’Neill, who was on a Bacchetta “stick” recumbent for the Rocky Mountain 1200, having recently switched from a road bike. We rode together on part of the Icefields Parkway, and then later nearly all of the last 24 hours, including one section in a transcendent state accompanying complete exhaustion, cruising alongside Mera Lake between Sicamous and Armstrong on a warm, starry evening. The Bacchetta could climb reasonably well – at least Matthew made it up the big climb -- and it had 700c wheels. 

I test-rode some recumbents (including a partly successful 30-minute attempt to learn how to steer and keep upright a Cruzbike) at Rose City Recumbents when back in Portland a couple times over the years.

At 2015 Paris-Brest-Paris, I started in the group just following the “special bikes”, and, off like a rabbit, quickly found myself among them. The recumbents made good time, and came in all shapes and sizes. There were short and long wheelbases, low and high racers, even recumbent tandems with the stoker in front leaning back with a great view, while the captain sits upright in the rear, steering.  Racing trikes?! And, of course, there were fully faired velomobiles with an aerodynamic profile that allows them to reach speeds twice as fast as a normal bicycle on a flat course … but that struggled on hills late in the event. 

In 2016, at the Okayama 1200 and Hokkaido 1200, one rider, Peter Heal, brought his recumbent from Australia. He finished many hours ahead of me in both events, especially the Hokkaido one. I learned that Peter holds the records for both the fastest unsupported, solo west-to-east crossing and coastal circumnavigation of the Australian continent by bicycle (on a Velokraft carbon recumbent with tailbox – rear fairing -- and rear disk wheel that is in the collection of the National Museum of Australia). The bike he rode in Hokkaido … was a self-designed and homemade carbon frame, divisible into two and with a front wheel drive, designed for ease of international shipping. Peter has built at least five recumbents of various different styles for his own use. Now that’s something!

So after a few failed attempts to complete 1200km events in recent years – I just did not want to finish badly enough to punich my body so brutally – I started to think about getting a recumbent. Does a recumbent offer a way to do an ultra-endurance ride with less stress on the body? Some believe that it does. The body’s position is more relaxed, with support all along your back, and even a headrest if you use a steeply reclined seat. Your arms are resting at your sides, no weight upon them. The leg muscles … get just as much of a workout as on a DF, or more. But the rest of the body, especially the hands, neck, and groin, should be much less stressed. On the other hand, could I actually climb hills well enough on a recumbent to do longer rides, especially in Japan?

I started exploring bikes. What is available? I thought about getting a Cruzbike. They offer a one-year money-back warranty, since it takes time and effort for many to learn how to ride them comfortably. … I asked a friend, who introduced someone else who has tried just about every type of recumbent. He said that a Cruzbike takes a lot of extra effort and attention, you cannot relax and let your mind wander. That sounded aa bit different than what I was looking for. One experienced rider said that the Lightning P-38 recumbent still offers the best combination of maneuverability in traffic, stopping, starting, and speed. From their website, it looked as if it would take some time to order a new one, the base components were not great for an already expensive bike, and upgrades would make it quite expensive. And a used P-38 … without the latest (carbon) fork or room for slightly wider tires … did not seem like a good idea, and would not be available for shipping to Japan. I did not like the idea of a small (20”) front wheel. That may be the secret to its maneuverability, but it means a very limited choice of tires and, I thought, perhaps a less stable, comfortable ride on the open road. And the stock seat looked like the mesh Rans one I remembered from the Trek R-200.  I thought perhaps I might enjoy it, but I would need upgrades to do so.  Maybe someday.

I saw that plenty of recumbent makers offer a “high” and a “low” racer version. The “low” version may be more aerodynamic and thus faster at the high-speed end, but I wanted the visibility to other cyclists and to drivers of being at a more normal height, so I was looking for something a far off the ground. These “high racers” have evolved a fair bit since the Bacchetta that Matthew rode in Canada. Optima Baron (high and low racers – now defunct), Velokraft (now defunct – out of California) are other fast longer wheel base designs. Also, M5 (Netherlands) and Performer (Taiwan), each with a range of models, and with the M5 range including plenty of seriously fast bikes.

I saw that Bacchetta acts as the U.S. distributor for a carbon framed “high racer” with 700c wheels called the Pelso Brevet, made in Hungary. John Schlitter, formerly of Rans, and the designer behind the (somewhat similar shape to Pelso) Schlitter Encore and Schlitter Freestyle, had a hand in its design.

The reviews I could find suggested that this would be a great “all around” recumbent. Reasonably fast, reasonably light, reasonably comfortable, a reasonably aerodynamic riding position, a decent spec of standard components, incorporating much of the learning of recent years in recumbent design. The frame has a “wavy” shape with two bends in the middle behind and in front of the seat, so that the seat is lower than on a “stick” recumbent, making it easy to put one’s feet down to stop and start. 

Most important, as the global bike industry is still in a pandemic-induced shortage of just 

about everything, Pelso’s website and online posts suggested that had received its full stock of 2021 carbon frames, they had components in stock, and the bike was available for immediate shipping from Hungary (with ca. 2019 SRAM GX 1x drive components.)  I had no idea how long it would take me to get some of the other options, and I wanted to have the bike to ride this summer.

So I ordered the Pelso Brevet. I figured that, if I really enjoy it, then there will be plenty of chance to experiment. There can be a “next time” to get another recumbent after lots of test riding, discussion, and weighing of the pros and cons, the purpose, etc. Maybe one specifically for travel? Or for maximum speed? Or maybe I will find the longer wheel base to be enough of a pain in the butt to deal with that I will just consider it an experiment and never ride one again?

The Pelso arrived soon after the Okayama 1200, in a very big box. Once I unwrapped an awful lot of plastic wrap, I could do the final assembly, and after one or two “sessions” rolling along with my feet on the ground mostly—to figure out how to start and stop safely—I was soon going on short rides. My close-to-home routes headed south through Takanawa and Gotenyama and beyond … perhaps to Katsushima, or Heiwajima, or just across from Narita, then back north closer to the Bay, near Tennozu and Shibaura or beyond, then back to Takanawa. This became a kind of “loop commute” during work-from-home. I repeatedly adjusted the seat and the “J” handlebars over the first month, got a nice wide, flat pair of pedals (I tried SPD pedals/cleats but they did not make much difference in the recumbent position). I took some longer trips, including along the Tamagawa and the Arakawa, and even a few hills (the last thing to conquer). Within 6 weeks of setting it up, I had ridden nearly 1000 kms. Despite taking a number of recent rides (e.g. my Olympics recon rides) on the Parlee, I still have managed to get to nearly 2000kms on the Pelso, including a few 150km+ days.

I can confirm that, on the flats, the Pelso is indeed faster than a road bike. And it is a lot of fun to ride. If I can cruise at 2, 3, or perhaps 4 kph faster than on a road bike, without more effort, that could make a huge difference on a long ride. Going into the wind on a flat course, I can enjoy passing average recreational road cyclists as if they are standing still. 

And, even on the longest rides I have done so far … near 200kms … my leg muscles, especially just above and below the knee, feel tired, but there is no back stiffness, no hand numbness, no saddle sores. I HAVE experienced some feet pain on a longer ride, as on the road bike, but with the Pelso I am not clipped in and can adjust my foot position, and lighten the foot pressure, to quickly relieve it.

On the other hand, its long wheelbase and steeply reclined seat mean that the Pelso is less maneuverable than a road bike going through narrow gaps or making sharp turns. 

And because I am lower to the ground than on a road bike—though nowhere near as low as on a low racer recumbent or recumbent trike that hugs the ground—I am less visible when I come around a car or obstruction. I may attach a small flag rising at a diagonal from the seat, both for visibility and to warn cars and trucks not to pass too close, but I will need to drill a few (more) holes in the carbon seatback in order to do so. 

The bike came with a 1x 42-tooth front cassette and an 11-42 11 spd rear cassette. On a road bike, that would be plenty, with “lighter” gearing than the lightest gears I have used (50/34 front and 11-32 back). Tim Smith of GS Astuto set me up with an 11-46 rear cassette, and I definitely need the 46 tooth cog for spinning up steeper hills with the body steeply reclined. Even going up a relatively easy climb such as the “Renkoji” climb north of Onekan, or the climb from Takao to Otarumi, I need relatively low gears, eventually the 42 teeth, and I climb probably 10%-15% slower than on the road bike. I think for really long climbs, I should adjust the seat angle so I am more upright. That should help … but I have yet to try it. So far I have climbed hills such as Renkoji (a few times), Otarumi Pass, Jerome Hill (Umegaya Pass), the Bonbori Rindo (walking part of the way, as I dismounted on some steep sections where the road was partially blocked and very narrow) … and would have to say, I am overweight and underpowered, but confident that eventually it will become easier (as it did with a road bike), and that I will be able to use the bike on a “normal” Japanese course, even if I will never select it for a “mountain” course or crazy steep climbs.

On my first rides over 100km, my neck muscles tired from the new experience of needing to hold my head upright while my body is so far reclined back. I added a small fiberglass headrest—drilling holes in the seatback—and now I can relax my neck muscles when I want. At this point, I doubt it is necessary for a one-day ride (the small headrest pad fell off recently on a very long ride, and I did not even notice until the next time I dismounted). But the headrest would be essential for a multi-day endurance event, and it gives me confidence to ride with a steeper recline, which ultimately, on a flat course should be faster.

My default move when I get to very slow speed, or a tricky turn, or when starting up from a traffic light, is to sit up while keeping my feet up on the pedals. Then at least I can quickly put both feet down if needed.  So far, I have yet to lose balance (without putting a foot down) or fall over, and if I am lucky and careful, I hope to ride tens of thousands of kilometers without doing so.

With the body at a steep recline, I feel a bit as if I am lying on a beach in the sun as I ride. Sunscreen is essential, as the legs, arms, and face, are far more directly exposed to sun than riding a road bike position. I think the Pelso will be ideal for riding in cooler months of the year – along the Arakawa, Tamagawa, to/from Miura Peninsula, winter 200km brevets, and the like, and I will achieve faster speeds with more comfort than a road bike. 

I have managed to “rinko” with the bike, wheels off and covered up, a couple times, … and have yet to be kicked off of a train. But it weighs 50% more than a road bike (12 kgs, before attachments) and is far bulkier (to the point where I am afraid it just bumps up against the limitations of JR permitted luggage.

So if recumbents are faster, and more comfortable, why do we not see more of them, other than the UCI rules? Well, the bulky size, relative lesser maneuverability and visibility, are disadvantages. But mostly, I think that road bikes have gotten … better and more comfortable in recent decades. I remember the first time I tested an aluminum frame cyclocross bike around 20 years ago – the frame was stiff to the point of painful after only a few minutes riding. Over time, focus as shifted to bikes that are all-day comfortable. Even aero frames are now designed to be comfortable. And tire sizes … we used to ride 700x23 with 110psi or more, or even 700x20. Now, the typical roadbike has 700x25 or 700x28 tires, and plenty use 700x30, 32, or even 650Bx42 or fatter. Rims are much wider, so even the same size tire holds more air than it once would have. Tire pressures are 60-80psi, instead of 100-120 – with plenty of support for the idea that, on many road surfaces and for many riders, theses fat, lower pressure tires go as fast as the thin, high pressure ones. Saddles are more ergonomic. The fatter tires at lower pressures, and modern frames and ergonomic saddles, reduce the punishment to the body from road cycling, a lot. So many of the cyclists who might have switched to a recumbent at some point, to solve a problem with back pain, numb hands, enlarged prostate, or whatever, … do not feel a need to do so.

I plan to continue to ride the Pelso when I can do so, to mix and match road bike and recumbent, for awhile. I love all my bikes, and I want to get competent using each in the circumstances most suited for it. Maybe I will even try for PBP 2023 ... or another similar event ... on the Pelso?

11 August 2021

Cycling Cafes in western Tokyo - the Zebra as Apex Predator

Social rides should ideally include a coffee stop, if morning, or a beer stop, if afternoon. Maybe both, if all day.

The Tokyo Cranks for years ended their Sunday morning rides at the Starbucks at Seijo Gakuen Mae Station. That tradition was suspended with the pandemic, but a Starbucks in Inagi mid-ride with ample outdoor seating effectively has replaced Seijo Gakuen, for those of us who are riding as a smaller group still.  Cross Coffee, an actual "cycling cafe" at Yanokuchi, is another option, though it lacks outdoor seating.

A year or two back, I started to hear Peter W. and others talk about Zebra Coffee & Croissant on the south side of Lake Tsukui, not far from the base of Doshi Michi. It took awhile before I actually stopped there, but the good quality of generously sized baked goods and lunch dishes, plus excellent latte, made me realize why some cyclists seemed to be planning their rides so as to fit in a stop at Zebra. It is in a spacious, high-ceilinged old building, with additional porch and outdoor seating. And bike racks galore. The inside is so big that cyclists can bring their bikes in and lean them along the wall as they eat -- unheard of in Japan!

The coffee is excellent ... but that exists at plenty of other Tokyo area coffee shops. The difference here is the space, the cyclist-friendly atmosphere, AND the delicious, calorie-filled cyclist-restoring food.
Zebra stop at Lake Tsukui Spring 2021

Zebra Stop at Lake Tsukui Spring 2020

Zebra Stop late December 2020 - Festive 500 all day ride

And now, as of the past month, there is a Zebra located on the first climb up Onekansen Doro in Inagi -- only a few hundred meters from where we watched the Olympic road races pass two weeks ago. It is a large, open shop smack in the middle of Inagi Central Park, just off of Onekansen Doro. How did they get a lease there -- fantastic idea for Zebra and for the park users. And what a great location as cyclists head out of town or back, along Onekan.

Jerome and I stopped there yesterday as we wilted in the heat. We were happy to sit at the shaded outdoor tables in front until opening time, 8:30AM. 

I was inspired to look at the Zebra online site ... and discovered that in addition to Lake Tsukui and Inagi Central Park, there are also Zebra coffees in Sagamihara/Hashimoto, Shibuya Koen Dori, and Marine & Walk Yokohama (on the bay just NE of the Red Brick Warehouse area). I look forward to their further expansion. Maybe they could open in Itsukaichi, another in Oume, one along the Arakawa on the north edge of Tokyo, and why not in Gunma, say Annaka on the Nakasendo, just before the climb to Karuizawa?

My only quibble with the Inagi shop is that they really should open earlier, especially in summer months, if they want to serve the crowd of riders heading OUT of town. As it is, they will serve riders doing shorter morning rides--us yesterday--or  heading back INTO town.

(And they should team up with a craft brewery for the afternoon business ... though in Japan one must not drink and ride, so I am not holding my breath.)

Generally, we think of the zebra as prey for lions, cheeetahs, and other meat-eaters of the African savannah. But this Zebra seems more like predator than prey. Stranger things have happened in the world of cycling.

01 August 2021

Men's TT at Fuji Speedway - Tokyo 2021

Primoz Roglic riding like a man on fire

The Men's TT was held with 3 start waves of 13 riders each, with the highest seeded riders going in the last wave, and going last within each wave. Also, with a 2PM start, the last wave began at 350PM, with the sun already low in the sky, some cloud cover, and cooler temperatures. This offered I think a not insignificant advantage.

Around halfway through the event, they announced that the lower area along the course was being opened, so that we could walk down and spectate from alongside the track. This made the trip all the way to Fuji Speedway worthwhile. They came by fast and close, and we could watch them as the 1-2-3 leaders waited in the "hot seat" area to find out whether their leads would hold up (or not, as was the case this day). H. Houle of Quebec took and held the lead early, then Remco Evenepoel of Belgium, then Rigoberto Uran of Columbia, and in the last wave Dumoulin, before Roglic.

Remco Evenepoel of Belgium (who is praised for his great TT form on the bicycle with, as one commentator put it, the tuck allowed by his "tiny T-Rex arms") really looked like plumber or construction worker, while Tom Dumoulin and Alberto Bettiol seem almost regal, or certainly as if they could smoothly transition from cyclist to fashion model.




Filippo Ganna



Primoz Roglic won, and he rode like a man on fire. Indeed, I think I said as much to Peter S next to me as we were watching ... then heard the commentators say exactly the same thing when I watched the recorded stream late that night soaking in a bath to cool down after cycling home. How fast was he? He won by more a minute, while the next four fastest riders were all bunched within five seconds of each other. Just incredible. Roglic was so focused that when he went across the finish line ... he kept going and going, not slowing down noticeably nor braking until he got nearly to the end of the viewing stands and finish straightaway. 

As with Van Vleuten in the women's event, this was a kind of "redemption ride", with Roglic suffering from a poor 2021 season (crashing out of the Tour de France after a few stages). It was great to see someone who has been the #1 rider in the world most of the past three years, but has struggled of late, to come in like a man on a mission and show that he is still a force to be reckoned with.  And Roglic, famously stone-faced and a man of few words, looked elated with the victory, and gave a (for him) lengthy interview to his home country TV broadcasters in the finish area.

Dumoulin, who got silver, likewise has kept a low profile this year, and must have had people questioning whether he was "done", or still had what it takes to keep going as a top level pro cyclist. 

It was a long trip home -- lines to wait for the gate to open to walk to the shuttle bus, then a 40 minute wait at Gotemba station (during which I grabbed dinner across the street -- this is convenient Japan after all), then 2 trains back to Hiratsuka, then a 60km ride home arriving after 11PM. I heard and saw an unusually number of ambulances out as I crossed Kanagawa Prefecture, so it was not surprising to read that both Kanagawa and Tokyo hit record numbers of Covid-19 new cases that day (and again each of the next few days). But I felt safe outdoors in the breeze at Fuji Speedway.  it was a memorable day!

Peter and I

After a while I realized the only way I could get good photos would be to take a video and then extract a screenshot from it -- they were just TOO FAST to photograph otherwise. The video clips themselves are nice ... but do not integrate well into Blogger. So here are some of the screenshots (in addition to Roglic at the top of the post).

Wout van Aert

Rohan Dennis

Kasper Asgreen

Filippo Ganna

Remi Cavangna

As for the Americans, Brandon McNulty had a decent run and ended in the lower middle of the pack, after his heroics on Saturday. Lawson Craddock came in at the very back. As I told Peter S., I am not a big Lawson Craddock fan -- he rides in the Pro Tour, sure, as a domestique, but does not seem to have what it takes to actually win races based upon from everything I have seen.

Sepp Kuss (USA) can win a stage on the Tour de France (the mountain stage to Andorra this year).

Nielson Powless (USA -- native American, actually) just showed that he can win, taking the Clasica de San Sebastian, the most important one day race in Spain (ranked just below the Spring "monuments"). He outsprinted the very experienced Matej Mohoric, double stage winner at this year's Tour.

Next Olympics, I would hope to see both Sepp Kuss and Nielson Powless, and other young American riders who can win against the best, in the road competition and TT.