04 July 2008

Hitachi Naka Race Review

Another weekend which needed to be spoiled to attend another JCRC race .... I skipped a perfect rideable Saturday to recover for the D class race in Hitachi Naka. When I woke up at 5 AM in the morning it was already raining hard. I thought to myself that the rain might move in from the South and that Hitachi-Naka in the North would still be unaffected. Human beings have this illogical commotions I guess.
Hitachi Naka is my favourite race track in Japan and probably the only one where I have a chance to achieve a decent finish. Last year I finished 6th in E class and got my prices handed over by P cup idol Fuko. Do not even think about opening this link at your workplace. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life, I have to admit. Proudly I was standing for the first time ever in my life on a podium in my trendy German Democratic Republic training jersey and the sun darkened when two massive things moved towards me.

Hitachi Naka is my favourite track because there are no climbs and virtually no curves. It is very similar to a NASCAR track. Onion network reveals some good insights concerning the winning strategy on these kind of tracks. I follow them word by word. The track fully emphasize my strengths ("going straight") and has none of my weaknesses (taking corners, going up hills, thinking too much, need to concentrate, take care of left and right, orientation and so on).

So even in the rain, this race could not possibly missed. I arrived at 7:30 and registered. The usual American girl from Nikkan Sports was there as this was also the 3. race of the Tour du Japon this year. We recognised each other. I thought about doing some warm-up training but it was pouring so hard that I got in the car and slept for half an hour instead.

Then Alain and Jacques from NFCC arrived. Alain has won the E class race last year and used to be French university champion in the eighties according to common rumours. Jacques is more into triathlon so he came perfectly fitted out in his triathlon race suit. He used to be triathlon champion of the French Foreign Legion and is serving now as a terrorist countermeasure officer at the French embassy in Tokyo. One can still see the many tattoos from his assignments in Africa, Arabia, Montmartre and other locations I am not allowed to disclose and he may look a little bit scary to the average Japanese amateur rider. I think he should add a pirate-like eye patch and mount a diving knife to his lower leg to complete his looks.

But he is a nice guy. Some time ago we went up together with a group of NFCC mountain cracks the
Shomaru Toge. We were the last two riders and we overtook two Japanese riders, a man a slightly overweight girl (about half of my weight perhaps). He was riding alongside the girl, looked at her and shouted very loudly: "DAIIIIJOOOOBUUUU ?????". The girl almost collapsed from her bike in fear and terror. Later I crashed on the descent and he helped me to scratch my body from the guide rail and asked: "DAIIIIJOOOOBUUUU ?????".

We did some warm-up laps and then it was already time to start.

It was cold and raining, similar to the Tokyo Tour of Japan race on May 25th. The difference is, that Hitachi Naka is a very simple course with no metal manhole covers, goodroad surface and no other surprises. However, there are 56 nervous guys just about to start.

Met Peter and Truck at the start, also another guy from the Miyake race and Ishii from the Space team. It is always a good bet to stay on Alains wheel the last kilometer.

Start. Completely soaked within seconds as could be expected. I tried to stay in the front group on the outside in order to avoid crashes. The pace is fast but varying, the track is pretty crowded. But I can keep easily the pace of 40+ in the peloton, preferring to stay on the outside even if there is no wheel in front of me.
After the 2. lap I come in in first place over the finishline. Then I let it go a little bit slower (checking my lap times later almost all are very similar, with the exception of the first and the last one). I fell back in the peloton but don't care so much as long as I stay clear of crashes and I am still in the main field. Despite the high speed all riders still stay together.

Jacques is making strange moves in the front. Sometimes he moves from the very left to the very right and everybody is following him, expecting to find some obstacles on the road, but there is nothing. This continues for the first 5 laps, then a bell rings for the last one, still 5 km to go. I feel no exhaustion at all. Just like with the Positivo Espresso team on the Tamagawa except for the old ladies with dogs.

Now the field is becoming nervous. Shouting and yelling. More and more riders overtake from behind because they are afraid to be dropped. The whole width of the wide road is now taken by the peloton. Still three km to the goal, but it seems like the sprint will start any minute. Then I hear the sound of a crash in front of mean. It starts on the very left but more and more riders are dropping also on the right and they come closer and closer. I can make a move to the right and ride on the grass, loosing speed, but at least I stay on the bike. The main field is gone but I start to accelerate and can close the gap. For some reason the speed is now a little bit slower and even have time to recover a little bit. I see Alain in front and think it is a good idea to move to his rear wheel which works out fine. I see another crazy guy from Hot Cross team who crashed at the NATS race early this month.

The speed is picking up now. I can easily follow and overtake some guys but Alain is moving in the middle of the road and it is getting very crowded there. In the end I even have to brake.

Later, when I printed out the results at the JCRC booth, I find out that Alain finished in 29th, me in 32nd, Peter in 38th and Jacques in 49th position. 47 of the 56 riders started finished within 10 seconds of the winner. It seems that about 7 riders crashed, but some of them were able to finish the race. Ishii from SPACE did not finish, hope he will make it to the next one.

I was happy to arrive without crashing under the circumstances. Again, just like in Tokyo somebody crashed right in front of me and I lost contact to the peloton for a while. A little bit disappointing after 6th place in E class last year, but anyway.

I decide not to test my luck and skipped the two hours endurance event at 12. Went home, reflected on what I am doing: Skipping a perfect Saturday for riding out in the mountains of Okutama because I wanted to stay fit for a 30 km rain race on a NASCAR track. I really should stop to this kind of stupid stuff.

1 comment:

the ups and downs of a belgian amateur cyclist in tokyo said...

Lovely story Michael! I can see how this Hitachi-Naka is your favorite track! Not really my type of race though...I'm too afraid to get involved in crashes. Good luck for the Fuji Speedway race.