zondag 28 oktober 2007


Alarm clock woke me up at 6:00...fell out of bed, “dragged a comb across my head,” walked 7 meters to the mailbox and took out my newspaper, got upstairs and fixed myself a cup of Chai tea, toast with honey, bread with Côte d’Or milk & hazelnut chocolate, yoghurt with a kōgyoku apple, filled my drink bottle with water and some energy powder, went down into the bedroom where my wife was still asleep, got into my cycling wear...

Shoot...where is that heartbeat strap again?....where are my sunglasses?....where are my gloves?....where are my socks?...where is the sunscreen?....where are my coins?...ended up waking up my wife...this has become a weekly ritual at my place and it is this last part that is getting on my wife’s nerves! Still, she’s the one who’s been hiding all my cycling stuff in the most impossible places. If I don’t clean up after a ride right away and leave something hanging around in the entrance, she will inevitably put it out of sight...heartbeat strap I left out to dry the sweat ends up in the gardening tool box...and so on!

Left the house at 7:00...taifū ikka blue sky, the road still wet here and there...reached Tamagawa at Koremasa-bashi in ten minutes flat…wow, Fuji-san...you sure look beautiful today! Proceeded along the Asakawa CR, did my first climb of the day over Odarumi-tōge, almost no traffic on the Kōshū Kaidō (Sundays are definitely better)...reached Sarubashi at an average speed of 27km/h...not bad!

Took a few pictures of the obakeyashiki show window which has been intriguing me for quite some time - every time I pass it on my left side - just before the real climbing begins. Turned out the shop is still in operation...inside they were selling the very latest fashion and flower seeds!

When I almost reached the top of Matsuhime, just before the spot where Goro had his ill-fated crash last week, I stopped to take a few more pictures. This is when a car stopped and an elderly gentleman got out and walked towards me...”Shall I take your picture?”...what heartwarming kindness...only in Japan I guess! The guy had not even noticed I was a foreigner.
I descended extra carefully...lots of wet leaves in the curves! Once through the village of Kosuge, I pressed on to scale the Imagawa and Kazahari ridges. After I hit the Tamagawa CR, I was facing the usual strong wind blowing from the East...decided to skip the CR (too crowded & too many Sunday drivers!) and follow the normal road. Got home very satisfied around 15:30.
Average heart beat: 146
Average speed: 25.2
Max speed: 58.4
Distance: 194.9
Time: 7:44h
Kcal: 5,774

zaterdag 27 oktober 2007


Typhoon No.20

As I'm writing this, the twentieth typhoon of this season is rapidly approaching the Kanto area at a speed of 100km/h. With every gust of wind, the sudare reed screen is hitting the window.

No cycling today. Too lazy to fix the hometrainer, I'm hopeful tomorrow will be another marvelous taifu ikka day when the typhoon moves further eastwards below the Japanese Archipelago.Got to tune up my FKC for a long ride tomorrow! Time now for a few chocolate chip cookies and a cup of Taiwanese tea...

zondag 21 oktober 2007

秋日和 gorgeous autumn weather

Second "akibiyori" day in a row. Was getting my bike and wear ready for a ride over Yabitsu with Michael & Co. but then a call came...David had an accident and they were waiting for the police to come and take a report. Fortunately, as I later learned, the collision was a relatively low speed one with David just rolling over the car's hood and onto the ground. No bodily harm, just a broken rim....thanks god!

I didn't want to just sit around the house in my cycling wear and told Michael I would go on my own. So I went solo again on the Orbea over the Wada and Hinohara...my standard five-hour ride and got back home by 14:00...with plenty of time left for a date with my wife!

Fujisan seen from the fields of Hinohara

zaterdag 20 oktober 2007


If you don’t have that“Nanakorobi Hachioki Spirit,” (falling seven times and getting up eight times) cycling is not for you!

Goro, one of today’s companions demonstrated exactly what this spirit is all about. As we were about to finish our medium-paced climb of Matsuhime-touge with the Otsuki/Kosuge signboard high above the road some 150 meters ahead, Goro and I briefly looked at each other and we decided to press out a little sprint. Goro with his superb cadence had of course no difficulty in jumping over me and quickly took a 10 meter lead...but then the unexpected happened…as Goro was continuing to accelerate standing, his right foot shot out of his pedal causing him to lose balance at full speed and slam badly against the rough road surface, twice...once left and once right over his handlebar! Deep cuts on both hands, cycling outfit completely ruined…blood all over...here was Ghislain Lambert grimacing in pain for the umpteenth time! I was watching the whole scene right in front of me and felt very helpless. Goro, however, stood up almost right away, walked over to the lavatory at the top of this mountain road and proceeded to clean his wounds and repair his bike…in no time was he ready to begin the descent after Alain and Thierry had arrived.

Goro would later head for the nearest station as he was obviously in great pain. I’m praying for his speedy and complete recovery…hopefully Goro will be ready for next month’s races which includes “Giro de Hotaka”. The purpose of today’s "sortie" was to get closer to peak form ahead of this Hotaka race…we all still have a lot of work to do I’m afraid!

Alain in his best "mountain" form

...and there comes Thierry!

Akibare...splendid autumn day!

Even Fuji-san joined our sortie

My favorite dish after a hard day's ride (burned a total of 5,738 kcal today)....生姜焼き...ginger-fried pork washed down with beer and wine.

zaterdag 13 oktober 2007

Imagawa-touge 今川峠

Made another 駄目押し”insurance run” on the FKC today…there’s no doubt left now…this is by far the fastest bike I have ever ridden. 28k/h at the turning point near Otsuki! Weather was partly cloudy with little wind and temperatures below 20 (13 near the top of Matsuhime). Used my legwarmers for the first time this season…the right choice! Took some photographs of the little-known Imagawa-touge which connects Matsuhime-touge to Yanagisawa-touge.

This mountain pass is one hell of a nasty climb…not so long but it has a couple very steep parts – steeper than the Wada for sure! Height of this local ridge situated between the villages of Kosuge-mura and Tabayama-mura is 940m. The road itself always has very little traffic on it and is rather darkish set as it is right in the middle of a cedar forest blocking out most sunlight…no matter how many times I’ve cursed this climb in agony, it remains one of my favorite mountain passes in Yamanashi.

Average speed: 25.7
Max speed:
Time on bike:
Distance: 195.53

dinsdag 9 oktober 2007

Osmanthus Fragrans

One of the real pleasures of cycling in the countryside of Japan are the delicate, refreshing fragrances of autumn or spring breezes. Last weekend, the aroma of the sweet-smelling kinmokusei 金木犀 was all over again. This evergreen, fragrant olive tree (or Osmanthus Fragrans var. Aurantiacus in Latin) gives off a perfume of a delicacy I have only encountered in this country. Another favorite of mine is jinchouge 沈丁花 or Daphne Odora (winter daphne belonging to the Mezereum family)...its sweet perfume heralds the beginning of a new cycling season in early Spring.

zondag 7 oktober 2007


Did exactly the same ride as yesterday but on a different bike...the idea being to decide which bike to take to the "Giro de Hotaka" next month... Weather & traffic conditions were virtually the same...maybe a little more windy today but no rain shower. At first it seemed it would be an easy victory for my workhorse, the Trek Madone...average speed until the foot of Matsuhime (Saruhashi) was 27.2k! It was on the first stretch with a more or less serious climb that the difference became obvious...as soon as I sat down in the saddle after 250m or so "en danseuse," it felt like something was pulling my back wheel! How I suffered...was it fatigue because this was the second day in a row? or was it because this is a normal crank compared to the compact crank on the FKC?...I doubt it was any of those excuses! Proof: even maximum speed was slower than on the FKC!!

Average speed: 24.4 (vs. 25.1 on FKC)
Max speed: 58.3 (vs. 58.5 on FKC)
Time on bike: 8:02 (vs. 7:48 on FKC)
Distance: 196.25 (vs. 196.39 on FKC)

Although the contest ended in a total defeat for Trek Madone, I really enjoyed the ride...autumn weather was gorgeous. This weekend, I used my armwarmers & windbreaker for the first time since Spring. Kazahari was crowded with motorbikes...I've done Kazahari maybe 30 times but never saw so many of them...some kind of sacred congregation?! Once the colder days arrive and the "kouyou zensen" 紅葉前線 autumn leaves front moves further southwards, their number will dwindle away and it will be paradise again for cyclists!

zaterdag 6 oktober 2007

splendid autumn weather...training for Hotaka

...three day NFCC group camp with stay in Sasamotoya Ryokan, Enzan and attack of the Odarumi-touge had to be canceled much to my disappointment...with such great autumn weather what a waste! Come on guys what's up!!...where's that spirit?? Decided to go solo again and train for the "Giro de Hotaka" next month. What better preparation for a Tokyo-based rider than Matsuhime + Kazahari? Left home around 6:30 and got back around 15:15...here are some pictures I took...

Tabayamamura Bridge

Tail of Okutama-ko seen from Kazahari

Average speed: 25.1
Max speed: 58.5
Time: 7:48
Distance: 196:40

vrijdag 5 oktober 2007


Marek: if you closely looked at the results, 9th and 10th were only seconds apart being about 2 minutes in front of us, while 1st - 8th place must have been real pros as they were making an average of around 39k/h - truly insane! Tom was the last to go - he rode like an animal and caught team 75 (those ahead of us) already after his first lap making up 10 seconds - there were only 20 minutes left - not enough for 2 laps - we didnt know whether a last lap would count if crossing the finish/start line before the time was up - the team at 10th place were less than 2 minutes ahead and Tom could catch them if he had two laps to go...he almost caught them - there were 3 seconds apart in the end - however, the last lap did not count anyways - so we stayed at 11th!

Tom:…aah...those three seconds!!! Even though the last round may not have counted, I feel I've been beaten by that rider...I really got to improve and build up more explosive sprinting power in my legs.

Ryoko:…anway, i'm so sure they DID count the last lap. Otherwise we would have -4 laps from top and we would have dropped our score from 11th to 14th!!! i'm glad Tom didn't finish after his second lap.

Stephen: Now I DEFINITELY know what happened last Sunday without a doubt….As regards the last lap. This is a touchy subject. We (Marek, Stephen, Ryoko) instructed Tom to do 3 fast ones. I have the lap count which I think is right and this matches the total on the Motegi Results page. I would not dare to ask Tom to finish after only 2 laps in Rd4 as the rule was just too vague.

Tom: Thanks for finding out Stephen....I would have done the very last lap anyways even if it would have been one I knew would not count. That's how much I enjoyed it! Now my only "chagrin" are those 3 seconds I failed to make up! I suppose I have no other choice but to go again next year to get revenge....

Michael: yes, definitely the last (3rd lap) of Tom was counted. I remember I was counting the time to 15.30 hr (which was after 7 hours of racing) and that Tom completed our 35th lap well before 15.30hr. Our total race time is 7.06.47 hours, which would mean that we were timed after 15.30hr. What I do not understand is, that I remember checking the time on the keitai after lap #35 and Tom made up substantially to the team ranked in 10th place. They only were 1 minute something in front of Tom. I remember that I told Marek as well, as we were so surprised that Tom has taken over 11th place after one lap only and that he was making good so much time on the 10th placed team. But in the end after 36 laps the 10th place was 2.29 minutes ahead of us, which was much more than I remember after lap # 35. Why is that? Were the other guys so fast or did Tom wind down on his last lap? And where did Tom crossed the finish line after lap 36? Ok, perhaps we will never know, but in the end it also doesn't matter very much. We were very close to the the 10th place. Ok, that might then become the goal for the next year.

Tom:...yes, a mystery indeed!! Two things are for sure....I did not slow down on my last lap (or maybe I did unconsciously....) and I crossed the finish line on the main track (not the pit lane)...the only explanation would be that the 10th-placed team pulled out some secret weapon in the shape of a fresh-legged "keirin" specialist for their last lap....Now I really need to go back and get my revenge next year!!

Marek : i am equally puzzled ! but here another fact that might shed some light into it … team 10 overtook team 9 during the last lap (!) - i remember "Top Speed" was the team that we were chasing (at 10th place) , who finished 9th (!) - so this supports the idea that they must have sent out their secret weapon in the last lap (which must have counted ) as I remember Michael showing me that they [Top Speed] were only about 1 min ahead of us ... rather peculiar.

Tom: No doubt...it has got to be one of the Top Speed ace sprinters...check out the "Best Lap Top 30"...one of their riders clocked the 4th best time (although not for the very last lap). Since our team is not included in this "Best Lap Top 30," it is safe to say that our real strength is not speed but consistency and an unbeatable team spirit!

dinsdag 2 oktober 2007


Saturday, September 29, 18:00…got a call from Michael confirming departure time from his place and started my ride direction Marukobashi in the dark and a light drizzle which would fortunately stop halfway. Halfway is where I suddenly ran into a huge crowd on the Tamagawa Cycling Road. Near Tamagawa Station some huge fireworks display (the 26th Chōfu-shi Hanabi Taikai) was going on…quite unseasonable and forcing me to follow a heavy traffic road all the way to Futakotamagawa Station. Got lost somewhere close to my destination but Michael helped me navigate the last 700 meters left to his place over the phone. A couple hours later we arrived at “Wakaba” our place to stay and RdV point with Stephen and Ryoko-san in Motegi. Motegi-machi 茂木町 is a small town located in Haga District, Tochigi Prefecture with an estimated population of 16,400.

To our pleasant surprise and great relief “suketto rider” Marek from Germany had arrived as well. After one beer, I decided to hit the sack first. It was drizzling when we woke up and by the time we arrived at the “Twin Ring MOTEGI” venue, rain had started to come down in honburi fashion. There are two race circuits at Twin Ring MOTEGI; one is the 2.493k oval course "Super Speedway" which has satisfied international standards, and the other is the "Road Course" with a distance of over 4.8km. These circuits were built 10 years ago by Honda, as part of Honda’s effort to bring IndyCar racing to Japan. The road course is also a popular motorbike racing spot, with the MotoGP usually visiting once a year. The oval course is low-banked and egg-shaped with curves three and four being much tighter than curves one and two and is the only one of its kind in Japan. Although they are separate tracks, it is possible for races – such as this MOTEGI 7h ENDURO - to use both courses at the same time. To access the oval track, however, teams must cross the road-course pit and front straight. The road course also runs in the opposite direction from the oval; clockwise, rather than counter-clockwise. The course itself is built in a stop-start straight/hairpin style in a less than flowing arrangement. By Japanese standards the circuit is exceptionally flat, with only a slight elevation rise towards the hairpin turn.

As Stephen - a regular contestant at Motegi - noted correctly, this slight elevation would feel more like 20% towards the end of the race. Michael made an impressive start taking the first three laps of 7.2k each on his account. He even managed to almost pull our team, which had been for the occasion named “POSITIVO ROVERS,” in the top 20 whereas we had set ourselves a rather modest goal of a spot within the top 30. Michael really got each of us energized and, I must say, under pressure to give the race our very best. After each lapse and “pit in” stop, we steadily moved up ranks thanks also to Ryoko-san’s great assistance moving the velcro chips from one leg to another! All the time it was pouring and at some points the track had a small river running through it. The trick was to stay away far enough from the rear wheel of riders in front so as to avoid getting hosed right in the face. I saw a couple crashes at full speed with riders and bicycles sliding off the slippery circuit. The temperature at Motegi was only 16 degrees and 10 minutes or so after each pit stop, body heat would rapidly evaporate and give way to shivering & shaking. Stephen and Marek put in a tremendous effort taking turns during the break around noon when the 4h Endurance ended and pit stops were not allowed for half an hour. Their joint effort propelled the team into 16th place…wow! That meant even more pressure on my shoulders and I guess on those of Michael as well!

After enduring 7 hours of heavy rain, our team ended in 11th position...if we would have had another 30 minutes or so to ride, I’m positive we would have joined the Wada teams on the podium! We completed 36 laps at an average speed of 36.43k compared to 39 laps at 39.03k for the winning team made up of retired and semi-pros (to be taken with a little grain of salt). With such a team effort, we really deserved to be very proud of ourselves!

In spite of all the excitement, however, I don’t think I will cycle again at Motegi. Organizers of bicycle and other sports events here in Japan have a penchant for entertaining participants with so-called side-attractions. As long as they take place off the track this is perfectly all right with me (admittedly, they sometimes can be a real feast to the eye like when Ms. P Cup is parading her heavy artillery on the podium) but when drag queens, gorillas, mamacharins and other nuigurumis suddenly cut in front of you RIGHT ON THE TRACK, I say “I’m no clown…no more for me, thanks!”. I hope the organizers will realize that these side-attractions are simply irresponsible and too dangerous and therefore ought to be literally held on the side of the track!

Following the race, the plan was to celebrate with dinner at “Yokozuna” before hitting the expressway but somehow the obstinate (and at times very naughty!) navigator system in Michael’s car had led us onto a different country road. Thank you Michael for driving me all the way back home…really appreciated everything you did…stepping forward like you did to take care of the application, payment & other cumbersome procedures. Once home I ate about everything left in the refrigerator and took a long hot bath.