vrijdag 31 augustus 2007

Slalom entre les “chicanes mobiles”...

A few hundred meters away from the finish line
with plenty left in reserve...

Official Norikura Results are out…

Time: 1:16:39

Ranking in 31~35 Age Group: 54 out of 463
Ranking extrapolated to own 41~50 Age Group: 52 out of 860

By way of comparison, the No.1 in the "Champion Class" clocked 0:57:15 !! On the other hand, the time of the "laterne rouge" of this Champion Class, which fielded 245 riders, was a mediocre 1:47:04. As David H. of Team NFCC pointed out, many riders like me had to cope with what is called “Chicanes mobiles” in the Le Mans race…

At the Start Line with the pack of Age Group 31~35

maandag 27 augustus 2007

trying to find an opening in a wall of “hillclimbers”

a small comparison...

Galibier Pass (9th Stage of the 2007 Tour de France)
Height: 2645m
Length: 17.5km
Average Inclination: 6.9%
Height difference: 1905m

Norikura Pass (22nd Edition of “Mountain Cycling in Norikura 2007”)
Height: 2720m
Length: 20.5km
Average Inclination: 6.15%
Height difference: 1400m

“Mountain Cycling in Norikura”…by far the most famous “Hors Categorie” Hill Climb (HCHC) race of Japan of a caliber comparable to the Galibier (the other one being the 2,360m high "Odarumi-touge" in Yamanashi Pref. I attacked with Laurent & Alexis last fall). This event has proven so famous in recent years that the organizers decided to accept 3,800 participants through some obscure lottery system for the first time this year. Lady Fortune was smiling on Club NFCC and Alain and I got drawn. We were blessed with fantastic weather conditions...even a bit too hot at 2700 meters!

Simply put, 3,800 is a few thousand riders too many if one is to clock a decent time unless, of course, one is entered in the so-called "Champion Class". This Champion Class group is allowed to start ahead of all the age groups and for them (the real "Champs") I guess a true HCHC race could be enjoyed. Much less so for the other age groups....the later one's group starts the greater the handicap and frustration.

My own age group was the very last road bike group to start with only the men's mountain bikes behind us. For me at least it was very tough and frustrating trying to maneuver, find openings to outstrip endless packs of slower riders which I only managed to do by zigzagging or taking the inner - but much steeper - side of the curves. Many times, however, I was facing "a wall of riders" forcing me to slow down until the next curve.

Midway, I realized I was not going to put down a good time and instead opted to enjoy the scenery...and what a splendid scenery that was! Breathtaking mountain formations stretching as far as the eye can reach. The finish line came much too soon and I felt like doing another climb or two! Alain had already arrived ahead of me and there was no sign of exhaustion on his face either.
We each went to fetch our backpack which had previously been delivered to the top by several designated buses, lost each other in the crowd and went downhill separately until somewhere halfway Alain zoomed past me at full speed....I couldn't resist the challenge and decided to give chase which proved to be almost impossible...Alain (ex-Champ of France) has awesome braking techniques! I could only pass him a couple of times when other riders were blocking the trajectory of his hardware. Then it happened!
About 1.5km from the starting line in a fairly easy curve (albeit banked inward 10 degrees or so) at “a comfortable mental speed,” my front tire “rolled off” the rim and there was this screechy sound of aluminum on concrete immediately followed by a loud bang when my helmet hit the surface. Fortunately I only suffered scratches on the right side of my body where bare flesh was exposed and some internal bleeding around my right temple just under the helmet...Alain showed his fantastic sportsmanship, went down and up again with a spare wheel!! (thank you Alain!) Needless to add, my Zonda front wheel was ruined.

Lessons learned :

(1) Try to enter "Champion Class" next time (meaning (even) more intensive preparations!).

(2) Work on my downhill breaking techniques (although they were not to blame for the accident this time) to regain & develop confidence.

(3) Never use Maxxis HC tires again and go for those time-honored Michelin instead.

(4) Reduce inflation pressure on long, steep descents to avoid potentially disastrous blow-offs due to overheating of the rims.

(5) Always wear the helmet and gloves (my right glove was torn to the last thread but fully protected the palm of my hand)

Getting the hardware ready / young cyclist father with wife and daughter looking on...very sweet!

The last time for me to wear my favorite "Belgian Cycling Team" jersey until the crash followed...

"Photoshop-doctored two shot" of Alain and me not to appear 25 years younger but to conceal what was stacked inside Alain's car...

zondag 5 augustus 2007

To Katsunuma and back...38℃!

Road leading to the top of Sasago Pass

Entrance to Sasago-Touge on the Koshukaido

ceiling of grapes shadowing the "cafeteria" below

Katsunuma peach

Went on “the long haul” taking me on a 234k round trip to the winegrowing Katsunuma area in Yamanashi Pref. for the third time this year: Home – Sekidobashi - Asakawa - Takao – Otarumi-Touge – Sagamiko – Uenohara – R33 – Tawa-Touge – Tsuru-Touge – Imagawa-Touge – Yanagisawa-Touge – Enzan – Katsunuma – Sasago-Touge – Otsuki – Sagamiko - Otarumi-Touge – Takao – Asakawa – Sekidobashi – Home…for a total of 7 mountain passes! It is the best time of the year for peaches and I got myself a very sweet one in Katsunuma with some great-tasting grapes on the side. Returned via the almost deserted Sasago-Touge and finished most of the rest of the ride along the Koshukaido in blistering heat (38℃ near Otarumi Bridge!)

Distance: 234.68 km
Time: 9:40:48
Max speed: 69.1 k
Av speed: 24.2 k
Av. cadence: 60