zaterdag 29 maart 2008

KUSATSU REHEARSAL ON OOTOGE


Rode a total of 210k today including a rehearsal of next month's Kusatsu Hillclimb race with members of TCC. ~ Home-Otarumi-R20 to Otsuki (71k from home) - Magi -R510 to top of OO-Toge 大峠 (1,560m) - double back - Otsuki - Tsuru-shi - Dozaka-Toge - Doshimichi - Otarumi - Home ~
RdV was at 10:00 at Otsuki Station, the four of us assembled in time with Aussies in the majority. Come to think of it , today was the first time for me to ride with TCC members after a couple failed attempts last year. Nice people, proper cycling conduct and a good sense of humor...really enjoyed their company today and look forward to more rides together in the future. Today's outing was supposed to be a "secret quickie," as TCC is holding its biggest event of the year - a Tokyo Cherry Blossom Pink Bycicle Trip followed by dinner afterwards. Their plan was to play truant from the Pink Tour and just join dinner in the evening. YG and his mates surely seemed more keen on climbing hills than viewing cherry blossoms and I don't blame them! YellowGiant took the lead from the very start to the very end...I stayed in his wheel with relative ease until the first gate almost right in the middle of our climb. Obviously, YG had fresher legs than me as he had arrived in Otsuki by train. But no excuse here...YG is a thoroughbred grimpeur, you can even see his ribs while riding behind him! His climbing style seems effortless and no panting can be heard. YG probably heard me breathing heavily first and usually that is a sign to increase speed and launch an attack. Little by bit I had to let go and in the end the gap must have widened to more than 700 meters. Because the road 510 is closed to traffic from the first gate, the climbing is totally devoid of stress allowing one to really focus on the climb. I couldn't think of a better parcourse to practice hillclimb time trials. After a while, all four of us met at the top and if it would not have been that freezing cold (look at the snow), I'm sure the chit-chat would have gone on forever. With no need to fear oncoming cars overrunning hairpin bends, the downhill was fantastic with superb views of Fujisan (along the way, there is a famous spot where the photograph of Mount Fuji used on the former 500 yen bill was made). I parted from today's companions turning right direction Fuji-Yoshida after the bridge leading into the Otsuki shopping area. The rest of my ride was a lot tougher than usual obviously because I had almost exhausted all my energies trying to stay in YG's wheel. Once I reached Hachiochi, I was forced to slow down as there was a sea of cherry-blossom viewers getting drunk. Having witnessed the cherry-blossom season in this country already 23 times, I no longer appreciate the artificial and kitschy gaiety going on under those trees. To celebrate the arrival of Spring, give me the sweet perfume of jinchoge daphne and I'm in Seventh Heaven with my bike!

















zaterdag 22 maart 2008

236km ride to Enzan, Katsunuma

Left home at 6:40 to get to the 7:00 Sekidobashi RdV but as I had expected, nobody showed up...too early I guess. My plan was for a long ride, the type I usually only do in early summer when the days are long: Sekidobashi - Otarumi - Tawa - Tsuru - Imagawa - Yanagisawa - Enzan - Katsunuma - Sasago - Otarumi - Sekidobashi... As usual when I'm cycling on my own, I took more time to photograph the scenery a bit here and there. The picture above was taken close to the top of Yanagisawa-toge looking behind me...on the right you can see the road I took with snow still remaining on both sides.

Imagawa-toge


Going down to Tabayamamura














Near Yanagisawa-toge











Near Yanagisawa-toge














1,475m elevation at Yanagisawa-toge











Fujisan seen from Yanagisawa-toge

















Always thought my Colnago is sexy








Sasago-toge closed for the winter (until mid-April)
























Near the top of Sasago-toge





Always a way around it!

Well-deserved dinner!

maandag 17 maart 2008

HEARTWARMING NEWS

Teammate GORO of NFCC sent me a most uplifting message with picture...just like a ray of sunshine. He spotted the VLAAMS Sirius Ti-1 parked outside some eatery (I'm borrowing your picture, GORO!). A closer look shows it is exactly the same model featured in the "Yaesu Media Mook 194 Cycle Sport - 2008 All Road Bike Buyers' Guide" with red-painted seat clamp, Fulcrum crankset, Racing 3 wheels and everything! Yes...the wait for my own Sirius Ti-1 has been quite long already but I have the patience of a saint! After all, a great bike requires a great deal of patience!

忍耐は美徳なり ?

zaterdag 15 maart 2008

YAMANAKAKO REVISITED

"Sortie Montagne NFCC" on today's program...left Sekidobashi at 8:00 with Ko, Ken and Goro of Team NFCC. Like our previous outings together, I knew I was in for another gruelling ride (the age difference just isn't fair!). Just before our Sekidobashi RdV point, two English-speaking riders passed us cruising at a very fast and steady pace...sure enough there were YellowGiant and his buddy Thomas of TCC! Not far from Takaosan-guchi, Ko and Ken ran into an old BR-1 friend of theirs - whose silhouette bore a striking resemblance to Tom Boonen! - and who would join for the rest of the ride. I got quickly dropped on the Otarumi but managed to stay with the pack until the last stretch to the top of Hinazuru-touge where the gap began to widen again. Ken was forced to turn back home after a spoke in his back wheel snapped as he was climbing with all his might on his outer chainwheel exerting too much pressure on the spokes I suppose. We rode through Hinazuru Tunnel and enjoyed a very speedy descent down to Tsuru City while rotating. It was when we got to the Tsuru 7/11 that Goro realized his special Zero-One sunglasses had disappeared. Goro decided to cycle back and look for them. That meant we were down to 3 riders for the next hill Dozaka-toge. I had a much easier time than last week alternating sitting with long stretches en danseuse. Once we hit Doshimichi Ko decided to turn left back to Tokyo and JTB※ (Japanese Tom Boonen) followed me to Lake Yamanaka. I should say it was me who followed JTB! JTB gradually expanded his lead until Yamabushi-toge 山伏峠 where he gentlemanly waited for me to catch up in spite of the freezing cold up there! Today there was no Fujisan to be seen and the ice cover on the lake had completely disappeared....what a difference 7 days can make! JTB rode back with me all the way to Fuchu. The temperature signboard near Otarumi showed 26 degrees...no wonder we were sweating in our long sleeves and leg warmers. The difference in temperature between Yamabushi-toge and Otarumi-toge must have been almost 15 degrees though. Another fantastic ride it was today. For tomorrow, I'm planning to do only a half-day of riding with Positivo Espresso - just to unwind a bit!
...turned out JTB rides for the famous Team Comrade Giant. To know now that he is exactly 20 years my junior is giving me some comfort and encouragement!

zaterdag 8 maart 2008

YAMANAKAKO





Went solo today...Fuchu - Otarumi - Akiyama - Hinazuru - Dozaka - Doshimichi - Yamanakako - Doshimichi - Sagamiko - Otarumi - Fuchu...superb weather & superb views of "FUJIYAMA"!

































Hinazuru-jinja





















































Home ⇔ Yamanakako: exactly 200km and 450m

SUNDAY, March 9

Organized a little TT of the Kazahari with Davd, david & Michael. david did a great job pulling me the first 5km or so giving me the perfect launch to better my previous record...which I did! 56.15 from the Honjuku T-intersection to Tomin-no-Mori. Rode 122km today at an average speed of 27.9km/h (not bad considering the hill we did today) for another weekend of +300km. I was particularly happy because I didn't feel any fatigue or muscle aching from yesterday's long ride....I hope to be in top form for next month's KUSATSU hillclimb race!

zaterdag 1 maart 2008

SUZUGANE COVERED IN ICE!




Had an extra long ride in mind for today as balmy Spring weather had been predicted. Left home at 6:30 thinking to go as far as Enzan covering as many touges as possible. After I reached Tsuru-touge with Nishibe-san facing a cold northern wind, we decided to make a left turn to Matsuhime instead of heading for the Imagawa and Yanagisawa touges. Nishibe-san told me he wanted to ride home from Saruhashi whereas I really wanted to try Suzugane-touge. Had I known that I would have to walk more than 1km on slippery ice, I would have surely followed Nishibe-san along the busy Koshu Kaido. Matushime-touge felt very wintry...not a sign of Spring in the air. It even started to snow very lightly! After I parted from Nishibe-san, I attacked Suzugane-touge, a narrow mountain road on which I have never seen even a single car. The first part of Suzugane was very nice and the sun began to feel warmer. It was already past noontime and I started to feel hungry. Just when I thought to eat the dora-yaki azuki bun at the top, I hit the first patch of ice about 30 meters long. Got off the bike and walked thinking it would be the only one. Alas! as it turned out the rest of the road was completely covered in ice forcing me to walk more than 1km to the top in the hope the descent on the other side would be normal road again...well, it turned out to be a bit better but the same eisbahn would appear around every shadowy corner. My cleats were clogged up with ice and I could no longer clip into the pedals.
What a relief when I finally hit the road leading to Hinazuru-touge. Passed a tall foreigner on a Lemond bike wearing the Discovery Team official jersey and short cycling pants...in this freezing weather! He was climbing very strongly and I had a hard time keeping the same pace. I caught up and passed him again just
before Akiyama-mura where he must have taken a different road. All in all, it was not such a bad cycling day but I guess I should wait until mid-April to try Suzugane again. Rode a little more than 200km and burnt almost 6,000Kcal.



SUNDAY...rode with David & David of Positivo Espresso. A leisurely climb of the Otarumi followed by a not so leisurely ascent over the two Yuzurigahara golf courses to Bukko tunnel. The descent to Itsukaichi was lightning fast and we (I?) got even more fired up passing another larger group of riders with some stylish and shapely female riders in it - one on a Zipp-wheeled Orca, wow! At the Itsukaichi 7/11 we had a friendly chat. This weekend, I covered exactly 320km...excellent aerobic exercise!