maandag 31 december 2007


Some of the races I would like to do in 2008...

April   Tour de Kusatsu  ツール・ド・草津  (Gunma Pref.)

April  Bike Navi Grand Prix Omotefuji Jitensha Tozan Kyoso Taikai  バイクナビ・グランプリ表富士自転車登山競争大会 (Shizuoka Pref.)

May Hillclimb in Ontake  ヒルクライム・イン・おんたけ (Nagano Pref.)

May   Tokyo-Itoigawa 291km Fast Run  東京~糸魚川ファストラン

June   Mt. Fuji Hillclimb Mt.富士ヒルクライム (Yamanashi Pref.)

June 28/29  Tour de Utsukushigahara  ツール・ド・美ヶ原  (Nagano Pref.)

June   Tsugaike Cycle (栂池) つがいけサイクル  (Nagano Pref.)

July Hillclimb Oodaigahara  ヒルクライム大台ヶ原  (Nara Pref.)

July   Yashima Cup Mt. Chokai Bicycle Classic  矢島カップMt.鳥海バイシクルクラシック  (Akita Pref.)

August  Mountain Cycling in Norikura  全日本マウンテンサイクリングin乗鞍 (Nagano Pref.)
September   Urabandai Sky Valley Hillclimb  裏磐梯スカイバレーヒルクライム大会  (Fukushima Pref.)

October   Fuji International Hillclimb Cycle Road Race  富士国際ヒルクライム サイクルルロードレース (Shizuoka Pref.)

October  Nachikatsuura Kumano Kodo Hillclimb  那智勝浦町 熊野古道ヒルクライム (Wakayama Pref.)

woensdag 26 december 2007

Otarumi Record...more mental strategies (tricks)

Slept late today...the bed was too warm to get out. Had no plans to go riding but the sky was so inviting I got into my cycling wear and left the house at 11:00 for a 4 hour ride over Otarumi and around Sagamiko.

It felt pretty cold but I noticed no icing on the road even higher up in the mountains. Just for the heck of it, I decided to challenge the Otarumi Togebaka record of the Positivo Espresso Riders Blog after I drank my magic garlic potion at the Takao 7/11.

Arteries wide open thanks to the "anti-restenosis effect" of concentrated garlic flowing through them and pumping oxygen to the muscles (this is the image I put into my mind), I was going with ease breathing almost normally with heart beat under control. I like to think of the brain as having a type of muscle memory that can be re-shaped with training and repetition. When I took up cycling again three years ago, I thought to myself and kept telling everybody that I am not a climber and would never be a great climber no matter how hard I trained. In reality I was defeating myself mentally before I even reached the foot of the mountain. Negative self-believes like this get ingrained into the subconscious and the trick is to get rid of them! I try to do this by putting a happy smile on my face while I am climbing and this really tricks my brain into thinking that I'm not in as much pain.

Another trick I've been successfully using this year is to try to distort my view in the direction opposite from the climb's inclination. To do this, I simply look straight down at the road surface 2 meters ahead of me. From this angle, it appears to my brain that I am riding on a flat road!

I was stopped once for about 25 seconds for road works going on but pushed on even harder as soon as I was let through again....result 18:30, a new record. Under 18 min should be no problem a next time perhaps when the road is free from construction works.

Weather permitting, I plan to do the same ride once more before the year is out.

Tried another "winter trick" to keep the feet warm. Goro of Team NFCC told me about these inexpensive socks made of neoprene worn by construction workers inside their boots. Instead of wearing them inside, you simply pull them over your cycling shoes and cut an opening freeing the cleats! Very effective as I found out today and 5,000 yen saved!

maandag 24 december 2007

Riding on the day before Christmas

Today is a Monday makeup holiday to substitute the Emperor's birthday yesterday. Michael had invited me for a short ride last evening and although I had different plans (basically sleeping long) I was happy to have an excuse for waking up a bit early. It did not feel as cold as my previous ride and the sky was very clear commanding a superb view of the Yamanashi and Okutama mountains and beyond. Our plan was to do a short but powerful ride over a hill bordering on Ome city called Ume-ga-Tani Toge (also named Jerome Toge owing to the striking resemblance to one of our buddies' belly) and enter No.5 on the Positivo Espresso Togebaka list which I'm sure will keep growing next year! The ride lasted only a little over 3 hours but felt real good. On purpose, I was riding the first flat part on my inner chainring cranking up the cadence between 100 and 120.

Christmas Eve....Brussels sprouts, carrots, roasted chicken, champagne, pistache ice-cream...for the latter, I eat annindoufu 杏仁豆腐 icecream...tastes almost like pistache but without the nice pistache green color. For some reason, I cannot find real pistache ice cream in this country (some pretend to be but (1) they taste like pistachio nuts (2) the color is brownish)...Sandeman Porto, red wine from Hungary...

zaterdag 22 december 2007



Today is quite a special day, it is the day when Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess came out of the cave - in which she had trapped herself - and brought sunlight back to the universe. As described in the Kojiki, she was lured out of her cave by Ame-no-Uzume, the voluptuous goddess of merry-making who was made to dance in front of the cave by 8 million Kami gods desperate to save the world from darkness and starvation. Ame-no-Uzume proceeded to expose her breasts and lifted her skirts as she danced on top of an upturned washtub much to the enjoyment of the 8 million gods watching the striptease. Curious about the laughter and joy going on outside, Amaterasu peeked out and asked the nearest god what the excitement was all about and he replied a new goddess had appeared. When Amaterasu asked where she was, he pointed towards a mirror. Amaterasu had never seen her self and when she caught her reflection, she stared at the radiance of her own form. She was so captivated she uttered “Omoshirioi!” 面白い meaning both “white face” and “fascinating”. Having thus lured her out of the cave, the gods convinced her to go back into the Celestial Plain and all life began to grow again and become strong in her light.

This suggestive episode is my favorite in Japanese mythology and somehow speaks more to my imagination than Christmas which originally also started as a celebration of rebirth following the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

On the shortest day of the year, what else makes more sense than a time trial of the Kazahari? CLX waxed and chain lubricated, I left the house at 8:30 under an overcast sky. After 2km, my covered ears caught the sound of my cell phone ringing in the back pocket…usually this means either flat tire/accident or last-minuteどたキャン and sure enough it was David to inform me that unfortunately we would not be riding together.

Reached the Honjuku 本宿 T-intersection at the head of a bunch of yellow HOSEI riders who had earlier tried to intimidate me as they overtook me in one fast train formation. 20-something young students riding for their university’s cycling club and trying to make a coward of a poor Belgian more than twice their age…come on! I felt I had to teach these young fellows a lesson about dignity and show them who is the real champ. Chain in outer ring, I gave chase – not easy if you are alone against a train of 9 riders! Sooner than I thought, I caught two of them yellow HOSEI riders who were panting for breath…they were clearly “aan het einde van hun bobijntje” as they say in Flemish! The rest of the HOSEI troupe turned out to be a piece of cake – devoured in no time! That felt so good!! I stopped at the T-junction to set my chronometer for the TT, the big event of the day and saw the yellow canaries - still panting and puffing - escape in the other direction (towards Kanoto).

Today’s TT is No. 4 in the “Togebaka Series,” the brainchild of Michael who started this initiative with the aim of adding some extra excitement to our weekly mountain rides. My heart was still pounding heavily from the effort to shake off the HOSEI youngsters but breathing gradually became easier during the first half of the climb. The undulating motion of the first half is what I do and like best. Had to slow down twice for road construction works in progress but each time the compassionate traffic control guys let me continue even though the light was on red! There was hardly any traffic and I only saw one motorbike.

My objective was to reach the top under 1 hour…almost made it! Next time, I must shave off more than two minutes…shouldn’t be a problem with a little help from my friends and good competition around. Let's say I left some energy in reserve today.
Once home, it took more than 15 minutes to get rid of that stinging sensation in my cold feet and warm them up. It is a happy feeling to know that starting tomorrow the days are growing longer again…longer rides!

zondag 16 december 2007

Healthy Lifestyle

excerpt from today's THE TIMES newspaper:

...studies have shown that regular cyclists typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to someone ten years younger, and those cycling regularly beyond their mid-thirties add two years to their life expectancy...

zaterdag 15 december 2007

Post-bonenkai malaise

8:30 @ Sekidobashi…Goro, Jerome, Michael assembled almost all in time (Thierry had left a cute & thoughtful message on my mobile wishing us a pleasant ride…last-minute Xmas shopping before the homecoming season…) We quickly decided on the route of the day and gone we were. The air felt cold but not bone-chilling yet, perfect for a high-paced ride I thought as I put our train into motion.

Michael was visibly not in his usual element…his car had gotten towed away by the police at 2 a.m. after a long bonenkai party. And then with barely any sleep as Michael mounted his old horse, his rear wheel had exploded! When I told him a week before that the poor animal was running on its last legs, I knew what I was saying! Yes, I’m afraid mercy killing is the only answer Michael! We all arrived safely at the Takao 7/11 and as we were about to do a mini time trial of the Otarumi toge, Michael discovered a loose spoke on his back wheel…more malaise to come! Anyways we all completed the Otarumi TT with Goro as the undisputed champion. We bid Michael farewell after the descent of the Otarumi and the three of us proceeded to circle around Sagamiko towards Fujino.

Jerome clearly still had the Kyoto Mountain Marathon (30km running up Hieizan, Daimonji and other hills…crazy!) in his legs and fell behind. Goro & I were so fired up we simply could not leave the engines in idling mode and so we parted with Jerome. The ascent through the two Hinohara golf courses (this area is also known as Yuzurihara village 棡原) all the way to the Kobu tunnel was very smooth and quite fast and alternating sitting and danseuse on the FKC was such a delight. Yuzurihara is the village where people allegedly live so long and yet look so young thanks to a healing molecule called hyaluronic acid - in what is also known as the "Yuzurihara phenomenon". Hocus-pocus??

The ride was even more comfortable thanks to the new “Selle Italia” (Slr, titanium tube, 135gr). Saddles are a gambling affair…one is never sure if a saddle will fit unless you actually ride on it. This time I consider myself very lucky; this saddle is the best I’ve ever had. On the way home Goro rode with me through Fuchu and we left each other at the crossing 200m away from my home.
Thanks & otsukaresama everyone!

Come to think of it…all four of us will be riding for the same NFCC Team next year. I'm looking forward to continuing this type of “sorties montagnes” next year, of course interspersed with the more relaxed but not less ambitious Positivo Espresso rides!

zondag 9 december 2007

Suzugane (727m) & Hinazuru (664m) Touges Revisited

Left Sekido with Michael at 8:30 as planned after we agreed to give a shot at Hinazuru which would be a 200k trip or perhaps a bit more for Michael. For Michael this would be his first serious ride after his Saiko-Catapult-Accident. We reached Saruhashi at a moderately fast pace interupted only once after Michael suffered a puncture. After a welcome snack at 7/11 we turned right and followed R509. To make sure Michael was not going to give up, I kept telling him the road would be one easy downhill back to Sagamiko and all we had to do was to conquer one more small hill worked. I admit the road looks a lot flatter on the map than in reality but it is such a beautiful mountain road and the weather was perfect.

Just when I believed I had succeeded in luring Michael to the top in one-go, it was unanimously agreed to do a brief photo session first (read: catch some breath). We then climbed up another 50 more meters or so in elevation and arrived at the summit of Suzugane 鈴ヶ音峠 ("The Sound of the Little Bell" Ridge)...the darn hill has got to have a name! Took a better look at the signboard explaining we crossed an area called "Onchourin" 恩腸林 which at some 158,000 hectares constitutes 35% of Yamanashi Pref. The first character in the name stands for gratitude or indebtedness...apparently this wooded area was a gift to the people from the late Emperor Meiji back in 1911. Less than 10 minutes later we reached R35 and from here it was supposed to be one long rewarding slide all the way to the lake...alas, a lot more climbing was to be done before we reached Hinazuru Pass and got through Shin-Hinazuru Tunnel! YES...I lied...forgive me Michael! Learned lesson of the day: "no matter how fast and powerfully you ride, you can do better if only you remove the mind and for this, a little lie can do the trick!"

Our search for a place were they sell hoshigaki as we were riding through the picturesque valleys of Akiyamamura turned out to be literally fruitless. Once we crossed the bridge over the Katsuragawa river, R35 took us to Hinoharamura were we hit the familiar R20. Michael stayed in my wheel all to the top of Otarumi so much that I was forcing myself to apply the heso technique! Parted with Michael at the Takao 7/11 where Michael had some business left to finish. Once home, I cleaned the Colnago and then ate like a horse...stew with brussels sprouts, maitake, carrots over brown rice!

zaterdag 8 december 2007

Enlarging the nawabari further southwards

鈴ヶ音峠 & 雛鶴峠
Tried a new route today to enlarge the cycling territory a bit and explore some attractive-looking roads running almost parallel to R20 on the south.

I cycled up to Saruhashi via R20 and set a new personal record (27.4k/h) at the point to turn right towards Matsuhime. Today I turned left instead a bit further down R20 but not as far as
Saruhashi Station and followed R509 southwards direction Tsuru, went around "British Garden" golf course and then followed the R35 stretch along the Otabigawa and Akiyamagawa rivers thru the "Shin-Hinazuru" tunnel. R509 was the best - very similar to the road leading to Sasago-touge which happens to be on the same side of R20.

I then proceeded along R35 - a nicely paved road going mostly downhill through Akiyamamura with very little traffic. Going northwards again towards Uenohara I crossed the wide Katsuragawa river and had a quick snack at the first convenience store - I was starving and must have been close to a "hunger knock" On my way home, I stopped at Y's and got myself a new pair of inner tubes (Panaracer R'Air) and tyres (Michelin Krylion Carbon 20C in front and normal 23C for the back wheel).

zondag 2 december 2007

NFCC Annual General Meeting

Last evening Team NFCC held its very first Annual General Meeting followed by an off-season but nevertheless very tasty BBQ party at a prestigious venue graciously put to our disposal by one of our ace riders. Our president did a fine job explaining the goals and future direction of Team NFCC. Thanks to Stephan's tireless groundwork, our team is poised to enjoy the back-up support from a formidable sponsor – almost too impressive for a humble grassroots team like NFCC. The team will have to train hard and capture enough podium places in order to live up the expectations of our sponsor! I enjoyed the spirit of comradeship among the existing members and was happy to meet some of the new people who might join from next season. Some of them are experienced riders with an awesome track record established in the BR-1~3 rankings and will undoubtedly form the cornerstones of the team’s growth and future success.

Got home late in the evening and half asleep and with a runny nose, I prepared the bike for this morning’s “sortie montagne” training session with Jerome and David L. from Positivo Espresso…only a short ride along some hilly countryroads. I was feeling sick when I left the house and had been coughing in bed during the night so at the usual Takao 7/11 break I decided to treat myself to some special 200-yen garlic stamina drink and wow it helped! I felt like Ghislain L. with his double portion injected!

On our way back, we met the Vélosophe and Michael on his battered bike which, since the “Jan-Ulrich Saiko Catapult” accident, seemed even more dilapidated than it has ever been before. I really admire Michael's philosophy (which has nothing to do with stinginess) though…sometimes old horses pull the best but this one is clearly running on its last legs!

I burnt nearly 3000 Kcals on my short ride this morning so I'm enjoying lots of ice cream and beer! This evening I will feast on the brie cheese left-over from last evening’s GM and some left-over Rioja wine!