07 October 2008

Professionell Hill Climbers Part II Day I

If you want to improve your hill climbing performance you will need to resort to drastic training method.

It is not enough to ride your bike up and down the slopes every day, you also need to be prepared mentally. Virtually you have to spend you life on the slopes. Your whole life becomes inclined - you start to live on the edge of the slopes.

Tom and me know this and we trained hard before we went to attend the Shiobara Hill Climb . When we arrived at the race base camp, we were still suffering from the serious side effects of the training.
Here we can see something that happens quite often to professionell hill climbers. Indurain, Pantani, Cippolini, Wim Vansevenant, .... nearly every great rider of his generation felt victim to this degeneration. And all of them got used to it as well. Something that is also true for Tom and me.
[TCC Readers start here]

In no time we were at our hotel and checked in before going on a training ride. Where accidentally I got stung by a bee. This must have been the first time since I was eight year old and I considered this bad karma.

The Shiobara race is a two day hill climb event organized by the JCRC and a Japanese sports newspaper. The race on the first day is a pure hill climb time trial, about 7 km long and 450 meter elevation difference. The track is quite nice actually. First of all, the landscape is beautiful in this part of Tochigi. However during hill climbs I tend not to see any landscape when my heart beats at 170 RPM + and my brain thinks in very little circles. But most important, there are some flatter parts on the road up where one can relax a little bit and save some energy to power up the steeper parts. My guess would be that some of the hair needle curves are up to 14%. I really don't know why I do this, my only consolation being that I sure would win in my weight class. If there would be one.

The second day consists of a road race which starts about 12 km away from the hill climb on a up/down road before it goes up a hill which leads to the start of the first day race. While we didn't know on the first day what was awaiting us, we did know very well on the second.

It was still early morning, the weather was fine and we had about five hours time before the time trial would start. I have to admit that I was rather pessimistic about traveling time from Tokyo to Shiobara and I forced Tom to wait for me at 6 AM at Futago Tamagawa. This left us with plenty of time before the start and a so far not experienced feeling of relaxation.

From our hotel, which was somewhat close to the day one start point, we rode back the road to the day two start point in order to familiarize ourselves with the course. The road is beautiful, winding along a river with some nice sightseeing spots.This photo shows Tom and me at a famous spot where a young Japanese maiden called Roleleiko was sitting on the cliffs, combing her Schwarzkopf-colored blond hair and was singing in Flemish
"Ik wess net wat soll et beduteen, dat ik soooo tlaureege been.." Wheras container ships navigating the river below where smashing head forward down the rapids and into the cliffs trying to escape the terrible combination of J-Pop and Flemish lyrics.

We met Goro-San from the NFCC team on the road who just came in by car. We tried to convince him that we came on the bikes from Tokyo, which he believes for not even a nano-second. Then we went to the start area to watch the other riders suffer. Our highest interest was concerning the women riders start. There was one about 12 year old girl on a Giant bike who was looking not exactly right in place but later smashed the competition and made first place. Overall, judging on the basis of looks, visual expression, legs and bike types, we made a pretty accurate forecast about the finishing results. I also found my personal benchmark (number 920).

Goro-san was supposed to start in B class, not in the lowly ranked D class (which, according to a Friend of Tom is for "beginners") in which we squirms were gathering. By chance I talked with a friend of Goro who then turned out to be an A class rider and I apologized immediately for accosting him.

And then it was already our turn to race. Already from the start there was a monsterslope.
The D class starting sequence this time was by age, followed by late comers. Tom and me were pretty much the last starters and as the D class was anyway the last group to start, I was afraid that I would be the last rider up the hill.

I started and Tom was then taking off 15 seconds behind me. When I looked after 17 seconds behind me to see if Tom has made the start already, he was just overtaking me. But much to my surprise I was also overtaking the rider who started 15 seconds before me. Then I was overtaken by 3 more riders from the D class and I settled into survival mode, tackling one slope after the other. There were some flat parts where I was clearly faster than the other guys, but mostly I was on my own and no other riders where in sight. The view from the road was beautiful and I never had the feeling that I had to give up. Just pumping, giving everything and looking at the ciclo to check distance and elevation.

At hill climbs I can do about 15 meters up per minute, regardless of slope and distance. So I figured out that I would need about 30 minutes. I checked this with last years finishing times and the winners in the higher classes are at about 20 minutes, 50% faster than me. Unfortunately that seems about right, based on my experience.

Within no time I was at the last kilometer mark. I continued to stay steady and then I rode over some chestnuts by chance. I heard the sound of air coming out of the rear wheel tube. It was about 400 meters away from the finish so I accelerated to ride as long as possible on the bike. Then I noticed that the air was completely out of the tube and when I navigated a curve the bike started to slide outwards. I rode some more meters with the flat rear wheel and then I demounted the bike and walked up the hill.

A lot of people were waiting at the finish, they asked me what happened when I walked up and I said "puncture". But then the guy who started 15 seconds behind me turned around the last corner and everybody was shouting that I should start to run. And I did run with my bike to the goal and incredibly enough I didn't made the last place! In fact I was only slghtly slower than the 30 minutes target. Tom finished 15th, in the middle of the field.

Later on, on day two, Tom and me where awarded the special Gambaru-Sho (Persisting in the face of obstacles) price, but this is a different story which will be told on day two.

We went down to the local supermarket where I bought myself a well deserved ice cream and Tom a good bottle of local red wine. We retired at the hotel and went to bed early.
[to be continued]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What happened on Day Two? More equilibrium-upsetting antics?