26 December 2014

Epic ... or at least Spectacular Winter Ride - Hakone/Gora, Ashigara, Yabitsu and Home

The Litt and Bouhet families stayed at an onsen hotel in Gora, Hakone, on Christmas night.  This morning, after breakfast and an asa-buro (morning bath), we each checked out of the hotel.  The Bouhets got into their car for the drive home, the Litts planned to explore Gora a bit more before returning by train ... except for Jerome and David, the fathers/husbands.  We got on our bikes and started to climb.

The plan was to ride back to Tokyo, and to find a more interesting route than just descending to Odawara and going along the coast.  Instead we took a mountainous route.

We climbed up along Route 733 to the Pola Art Museum, warming up from the climb despite sub- or near-zero (C) temperatures.  Then a quick descent to Sengokuhara and eventually onto Route 138.

On Route 138, instead of going through the long tunnel at Otome Pass and descending to Gotemba ... we turned off onto a rindo I had never taken but remembered reading about years back, carried our bikes around a locked gate, and climbed up the road around the shoulders of Kintokizan. The road, of course, was deserted and nicely paved.  Highly recommended.  We passed only a few workmen and one or two cars over the next 15 kms, first climbing several hundred meters elevation to a tunnel/pass, then descending, eventually to meet the course of the Nishi Tokyo brevet I rode in October, near Yuu-hi no Taki.
Spectacular conditions ... on the rindo climb.
Another photo of Jerome on the rindo climb
Just past the tunnel -- start of the descent
Looking toward the lower areas around Odawara
We followed the Nishi Tokyo Brevet course to Matsuda/Shin Matsuda, then joined the trucks on Route 246 for a brief stretch to Hadano, before the climb to Yabitsu.
Minami Ashigara - Home to the Kintaro folk legend?

Riding the Gokisos again today!
Great all-around performance.  A joy to ride.
Looking down at Hadano, from the Yabitsu climb
Jerome seems to have regained his cycling shape over the past week.  He did more than his share of pulls on the flats.  No he was not staying with me on the climbs, but who would, with a broken rear derailleur cable and "fixie" gearing for Yabitsu Pass!  I suggested we call off the mountain stage ... but Jerome would have none of it.

There were only very few cyclists today on Yabitsu, and none on the North side as far as Lake Miyagase (and beyond)!  We passed no cars on the Yabitsu descent until the car camp areas near the bottom.

Perhaps it was the black ice that kept people away?  We descended the North side between 2 and 3PM, but could already see the ice starting to form on damp areas of the upper part of the road.  A bit later and it would have been extremely treacherous.  Down below in forested areas there were a few ice patches, as there had been on Kintokizan in the morning. I was glad that, after around 500 kms with the incredibly light-weight low rolling resistance Conti Supersonics, I had switched to the grippier Vittoria Open Pave 25mm tires for this ride.  I rolled right over a few icy patches without incident, noticing far too late to stop, but careful not to turn or push at all. Jerome later reported that he had slipped and tumbled once, at slow speed, on the Yabitsu climb.
Deserted parking and turn around at Yabitsu Pass, in the shadows already before 230PM!

The Miyagase Michi No Eki -- only one shop open, and done for the day serving anything hot.  We did get some mikan.
I asked Jerome which way he wanted to get home from Miyagase.  "The fast way," he responded.  In any event, we took a straightforward route past Tsukui-ko, and then eventually took Yaen Kaido back to the Tamagawa.  We were home in good time, a bit after 530PM, having traveled 140 kms.

Was the trip really 3311 meters of climbing, as Strava reports?  No.  I would be surprised if we climbed as much as 2000 meters.  300, 300, 700, and lots of little bumps along the way.

Does this qualify as an epic ride?  A close call.  But it felt epic, leaving our families at the start, heading into the cold weather that kept nearly all other cyclists off the roads, the spectacular rindo stretch and deserted North side of Yabitsu, all the normal services shut down, and Jerome doing most of the ride without a functioning rear derailleur!

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