dinsdag 29 april 2008

Morning photo session followed by a 101km afternoon ride

This morning, Team NFCC-Peugeot-Calyon organized its first official team photo session. Because of the Golden Week period, many expatriat members had already left the country so only 16 or so members assembled at Peugeot's Meguro show room. As usual, Stephan, our President, had everything very well coordinated beforehand and the picture taking went smoothly. It was nice to meet some of the team's members (about half of them triathlon athletes) for the first time...the team is more international than I had thought. The orginal idea was to create a team uniquely for Japanese and French cyclists but as we have been expanding rapidly especially since last Autumn, we now have riders from Australia, Germany, Canada and of course Belgium.

I got back home at 12:30, had a light lunch and still wearing my NFCC uniform from the photo session, I got onto my VLAAMS Sirius Ti-1 this time with a different saddle. At Takao, I took a flying start with the intention to break my Otarumi Positivo Espresso record...which I did! I managed to shave off almost 1 minute!

I decided to go around Sagamiko for a climb of Makime-toge. I experimented a bit with Sirius trying new positions moving the saddle back and forth until I found the right position. To my happy surprise, I found myself pulling the pedals up unconsciously making smooth rotations instead of my usual downward pushing...another proof that the geometry of the VLAAMS fits me perfectly. After I got onto Koshu Kaido again for the return trip, I challenged another Positivo Espresso TT record of mine and again managed to break it with a fairly large margin. Average speed today was 27.6, another personal record.....at this pace I should be able to better my Mt. Fuji time on June 1! Must keep on training!

Near my home, they were selling freshly unearthed bamboo shoots....now is the season and I cannot resist them. I like them best baked in the oven - like sweet yaki-imo potatoes - and eat them just with some salt. Found cookies on the table baked by my daughter and ate half of them with chocolate-chip ice-cream and two glasses of Spanish wine.

zaterdag 26 april 2008

Taming my Sirius on a very misty Matsuhime

Over-excited about my new toy, I only slept 5 hours last night. Woke up at 5:30 and left the house an hour later, no particular destination in mind. Boy, she felt nervous the first 30km or so! I stopped several times to ultracarefully tighten and untighten the bolts here and there, especially the saddle pillar clamp and the bolts keeping the Ax-Lightness saddle in place. Even though I had applied the anti-lubricant Tacx on the stem (EASTON EA90 4B) clamp and the saddle pillar (EASTON EC90 ZERO), going up seated on the Otarumi, I sensed my saddle sinking twice into the frame. When I reached Saruhashi, it looked as if the weather was clearing up and for the first time I took some time to view the historical bridge there.

Before my attack of Matsuhime, I once more checked all the bolts, tightening them to a sligthly higher torque...always a bit scary! For the first time, I tried danseuse and was extremely pleased to feel the out-of-saddle rigidity...exactly what I had hoped for! The Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels together with the EASTON EC90SL straight carbon fork also provide the desired stiffness...what a joy because I love dancing!! Another first today was the drivetrain completely Dura-Ace...yes, I can now tell the difference with Ultegra! Very precise and a faster responsiveness. I opted for a normal crankset (52T×39T) combined with a normal cassette of 12×25 this time and had no problem scaling the steeper stretches on Matsuhime.

As I was getting onto higher elevations, it became increasingly misty and here and there a drizzly rain was coming down. I noticed how much easier it was than my other bikes so far to climb while seated and this must be thanks to the frame having been built to my measurements and also the fantastic carbon handlbar developped by Ken Hashikawa, the producer of Sirius Ti-1. This handlebar is incredibly shaped like a bow and has dents for holding the fingers and thumb in place which is especially helpful when doing the "heso trick" !! This trick significantly enhances the pedalling power efficiciency but I still need to train myself to "ride with my belly buttom" for more prolonged distances.

I ate my dorayaki at the summit of Matsuhime before going downhill direction Lake Okutama...the road was wrapped in a dense fog and it was "mizzling". Worst of all, it was terribly cold...if only I had taken my winter gloves along! My fingers felt like they got frost-glued to brake levers; very painful, so agonizing I instantly gave up my plan to add a reverse Kazahari to today's parcourse! Instead I circled around the lake through the many tunnels direction Ome.

Once I reached Tamagawa, the drizzle gradually turned into a downpour! But I loved every minute of it! For tyres I was using Panaracer Stradius Elite Light 23C...since Ive been using Michelin Krylion Carbon 20C for several months in a row, it felt a bit awkward at first to have the standard 23C on the wheel again but I was very pleased with how good the Panaracers keep their grip on a wet road (for wet weather conditions, I also purchased Redstorm tyres - but have yet to try them).

Got home soaking wet but extremely satisfied with my Sirius....I think I got her tamed! Fortunately for me, Sirius turned out to be not of the "ontembaar" おてんば kind, she's perfectly "tembaar" (=tame-able) thanks to her creator, Ken Hashikawa and his incredible sense for perfection.

For more details on this marvelous bike, check out the following website! (Japanese only)











On Sunday, I added another 160+km ride over Kazahari (no, not the URAKAZAHARI 林道) and Tsuru, Wada and Otarumi together with David of Positivo Espresso for a total of 340km this weekend. David did all the pulling on the first half of Kazahari as my legs felt rather heavy from Saturday's ride. The VLAAMS Sirius Ti-1 behaved very well on day two as well...one big difference with my Colnago CLX is the shock-aborbing performance: carbon vs titanium...whereas the CLX rates very high, the VLAAMS is much less efficient in absorbing jogs in rough and bumpy roads. This is apparent in the chain rattling - even in the big chainwheel, the chain tends to hit the front derailleur's bottom. But otherwise, I am extremely pleased at how titanium feels...I find that the power transmission is so much better than with carbon.

vrijdag 25 april 2008

VLAAMS ARRIVED SAFELY !!

VLAAMS - SIRIUS Ti-1































Thanks Ken!! Superb job!! I'm moved to tears!!

The producer of my Sirius Ti-1 : the one and only Mr. Ken Hashikawa (alias HASHIKEN), seen here in full action!

zondag 20 april 2008

Thirteenth TOUR DE KUSATSU

第13回ツール・ド・草津

Got home about 2 hours ago from my participation in Kusatsu, the event I had been training for all winter. The result? I don't know yet but I believe I did pretty well...everything went smooth, no cramps, not too many people blocking my passage, drivetrain on my Colnago working perfectly, no mechanical problems...in short I'll have no excuses if my time turns out to be poor! But I don't think it will be very poor as my tactics for the race went perfect. I managed to start in the second group following the "champions" group which fielded only 67 riders, among whom NFCC's Kotaro. The first 5km of Tour de Kusatsu is conceived as a "demonstration ride" around the famous Yubatake open-air hotspring - symbol of Kusatsu - with hundreds of tourists and a few bathers in yukata lined along both sides of the road cheering "ganbatte!" even though all of us are still in warm-up mode. Still, it feels nice to be cheered on like this and pretend you're a real professional cyclist.



















When the real start-line came for the remaining 13 km, I had already worked my way up in front of my group. Time is measured by means of a chip attached to the front fork when one passes the antenna picking up the radio waves. I immediately started "en danseuse" in big gear overtaking one after another although once in a while I was also overtaken by some very fast ones. I kept riding in the outer chainring until the very end and only did relatively short sections on the saddle. This strategy seemed to work quite well as I was gaining plenty of field on my competitors especially on the flatter stretches because of the built-up momentum. Some even cried out in surprise "nanda are??!" as I zoomed by at full speed only to get caught again on next hill. For the last 4km or so I stayed with a group of 4 and we were constantly trying to outride each other. One guy in the group, looking very young, asked me while gasping for air "where did you come from?" "BERUGI! "I shouted back....but there was no reply! I grabbed my last cup of water at the final supply area and must have lost some time there just when two in my group decided to launch an attack. Then came the signboard, 1km left! Flat road...just what I needed. The finish was very fast but the two youngsters in my group managed to beat me in the final 50 meters with one bike-length difference. As we were rolling out, I asked them "which age group are you guys in?" Their reply made me particularly happy! "No age group, we're from the "champions group"!

I soon saw Kotaro who was beaming himself....he had finished 4th in the champions category! Very nice result for Team NFCC! I tried to find Goro who was in the "Male A - up to 30 years" category fielding 227 riders. I'm positive Goro got an excellent result for Team NFCC as well! Goro can accelerate like a rocket no matter how steep the road ahead.

My own category, "Male C 40~50 years" had the second most entrants of all at 367! All categories taken together, 1,697 people participated in this Tour de Kusatsu. I did not attend the closing ceremony as I wanted to be back home before dark so after the race, I simply continued all the way to Naganohara-Kusatsu-guchi Station, packed my bike and was homebound at 13:35. Arrived in Kokubunji at 17:00.

Kusatsu is a cosy, little hotspring village also famous as a ski resort. The Yubatake 湯畑 "hotwater field" functioning almost like a market place is most impressive producing some 4000 liters of 70 degrees celcius water per minute! A wooden terraced structure in seven conduits was designed to cool down the piping hot water - smelling like sulphur (or more like wrotten eggs) - to a bearable temperature and from there the hot water is pumped to all the ryokans in the center of the village. Kotaro and I were staying at Suehiroya Ryokan 末広屋旅館, next to Suehiro Futonya! Yes, the bedding was very nice! Most of Kusatsu is very much stuck in the "Showa" period...complete with a "Nude Theater". As Kotaro remarked, only the cars in this little town feel contemporary!

On day one, I met about 6 or 7 people of TCC and we even staged our own pre-race event with Thomas the absolute winner after a long solo escape! For Travis this was his third Kusatsu and he courteously guided me all the way to my ryokan. Thanks Travis!

I also had the pleasure of sharing a "reconnaissance ride" up to stage 2 on Saturday together with Goro and his cycling mates of FinalLow...a very happy bunch of bicycle lovers and I hear of gourmet food as well.












Reconnaissance ride with FinalLow members incl. Goro



RESULT IS OUT : 0:45:23.653 ...

31st place out of 338 !



Kotaro 4th place (0:35:46.555) in Champions group


Goro 5th place (0:39:57.608) in A group !


Two podium places for Team NFCC-Peugeot -Calyon ! !


http://www.kusatsu-onsen.ne.jp/event/pdf/13th-C.pdf

zaterdag 12 april 2008

Weekly dose of endorphin

Couldn't make up my mind yesterday on which ride to go...a Kusatsu rehearsal with members of TCC or a ride over Yanagisawa with Positivo Espresso. I didn't want train too hard because of next week's Kusatsu race but I needed my weekly endorphin dose badly. I decided to go solo again and aim for Yanagisawa. The skies were overcast when I left home and several times it threatened to rain. Reached Tabayama-mura via Wada, Tawa, Tsuru and Imagawa. Along Rte. 411, I overtook two guys who immediately did the same but I could easily stay in their wheel all the way to the top. Turned out they were two velodrome track specialists from Kawasaki belonging to the Keihin Pista Club with good hillclimb skills. They (=Hiroshi and his senpai) had driven by car to Kosuge-no-yu http://www.vill.kosuge.yamanashi.jp/kosugenoyu/index.html, left the car there and were on their way to Enzan before doubling back to the hotspring in Kosuge. Clever idea! It is really nice to soak in a hot bath knowing you don't have to cycle the remainder of the trip. A cold wind was blowing on top of Yanagisawa so I decided to double back direction Kazahari with the intention of meeting the Positivo Espresso people along the road. Sure enough, we found each other in a tunnel at elevation 735m. Saw Michael's Soloist in the flesh for the first time...very fast-looking machine with wonderful carbon Zero Gravity wheels for clinchers. I tried to cut our chitchat short knowing they still had some 700 meters more to climb. Rode a total of 215km today with my "rider's high" halfway the Kazahari. Finished a big bowl of genmai rice with beef stew and then took my CLX to Friend Shokai in Nishi-Kokubunji for a check-up prior to next week's race. Was told my chain was over-stretched and that I needed a new one + a new cassette...no wonder with all the danseuse in big gear I have been doing lately! Wore my new Team NFCC outfit for the first time today...produced by finisher http://www.finisher-sport.com/ the pants have the best chamois I have ever ridden on!

zondag 6 april 2008

92nd Edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen!

My daughter in Bruges just sent me a few pictures of the peloton riding past her dormitory! She even spotted Tom Boonen! Favorite to win this 92nd edition is Fabian Cancellara while most Belgians hope Tom Boonen will win his third one. My own favorite is Gert Steegmans... Let's find out in a couple hours from now!

I had intended to do the same 259k as the pros one day before on Saturday. Because of my work, there was no way I could take enough days off to make the trip much to my disappointment...next year more luck hopefully!

zaterdag 5 april 2008

KABURI-TOGE & NOKOGIRIYAMA IN ONE DAY + Total of 350k this weekend (Oo-toge revisited)


With new "Topsport" jersey - souvenir from Belgium
Got invited by GORO of NFCC for a ride into Saitama Pref. with climb of Shiraishi-toge 白石峠, a hill famous among roadies for time trials and one I have never tried. GORO and JTB met me at 8:30 in front of Itoyokado in Higashimurayama and off we were. After only 20 minutes or so, GORO suddenly reached out for his right thigh with a painful grimace. GORO was talking of a sharp pain in the thigh's front muscle group (perhaps a torn muscle - nikubanare 肉離れ) and decided to double back. That meant we had just lost our guide for the day! GORO did give some instructions for getting to Shiraishi-toge, but JTB and I soon found ourselves lost when we hit a busy traffic section along Rte30. I suggested to turn right and we almost immediately hit a very rustic countryroad called Moroyama-rindo 毛呂山林道...beautiful with sakuras in full bloom. We followed this forestry road until we hit a direction board with Kaburi-toge 顔振峠 on it...familiar territory! I used to drive here with my motorbike and enjoy tempura soba in a place with a great panorama (which is why it is called Ka(o)F(b)uri...the scenery is so awesome, people keep turning their head from one side to the other!). We descended down to Rte 299 (this time, JTB was superfast, incredible braking in those hairpin bends - almost too scary to watch) and we stayed together until I decided to ride direction Ome and Okutama. We parted from each other at Kosogi-kaido 小曾木街道 which I followed all the way to Ome (not bad this road - rather flat for this mountaineous area and only one short tunnel). My plan was to continue around Okutama-ko and then do a reverse Kazahari! My legs felt great however I was not breathing easily and the coughing which has been annoying me all week reappeared. I opted for a "short cut" instead and at Bentenbashi 弁天橋 I turned left with the intention of taming Nokogiriyama 鋸山. As always, the road surface was in terrible shape, it is very rare in this country to find a road - no matter how remote - where no maintenance work is done. It is not really advisable to ride this road on a road racer (...simply tyre- and wheel busting!) but somehow, one gets addicted to this Nokogiriyama, especially when you climb it from the Kanato 神戸 side. It is as if every time you walk your bike through that pitch-black tunnel, a magic spell is cast on you and you're spellbound all the way to the top! When I reached Honjuku, my legs begged me go up again direction Yuzurihara through the Buko tunnels but the coughing was still there. I had to force myself to turn homewards via Itsukaichi. All in all I covered 165k today...maybe not so bad considering the nasty cold I caught since last Sunday. Tomorrow I might go and revisit Oo-toge for another Kusatsu rehearsal...
Sunday:
Went all the way to the top of Oo-toge and back for a total of 185k. Met the Senior Velosophe on the Otarumi and after a brief chitchat continued full speed reaching Otsuki at an average speed of 27.4k/h. Tried to better my previous time on Oo-toge (1:11) but with no competition my intentions turned into a leisurely ride (1:22). Noticed lots of monkey poop on the road...like nicely shaped softcream cones. Higher up, I must have encountered probably 30 monkeys - some very cute infant ones - crossing the road (the last 10k or so to the top is closed to traffic). Looks like Oo-toge is infested with them! Met not one cyclist - just a few hikers. Back home, I cleaned my Colnago, degreased the chain, took a long bath and ate a huge bowl of "Pho" Vietnamese rice noodles with 香菜 coriander and pork.