zondag 29 juni 2008

AMEGAHARA ツール・ド・雨ヶ原高原自転車レース大会2008

Tour de Amegahara Bicycle Race 2008
Tour de Utsukushigahara + Rain Seasonal front + Post-typhoon Atmospheric Depression = Tour de Amegahara (translation: Bicycle Race Cancelled because of heavy rainfall!!)

Tour de Utsukushigahara…distance is only 21 km, but vertical gain is 1270 meters. Notorious for its GEKI(S)ZAKA (20%+) immediately following the start, this is my No.1 favorite hillclimb time trial! Last year, I finished with a time of 1:19 with “still plenty in reserve” as I recall and naturally I was intent on breaking my record this year and make my entry in the top 10 finishers in my age group.

I had abstained from drinking any alcohol two weeks prior to this race and reduced my body weight to less than 60 kilograms…drivetrain on my Sirius Ti-1 fine-tuned ...everything fully prepared.

I left home early Saturday morning, got on the train in Kokubunji to Tachikawa where the Azusa Super Express No.5 to Matsumoto was waiting on the other side of the platform. Arrived in Matsumoto around 11:00, unzipped my bike out of the rinko bag and headed towards Asama Spa with a brief stopover planned at Matsumoto Castle.

Matsumoto developed as a castle town in the sixteenth century. Matsumoto Castle 松本城 is listed as a national treasure and is famous as the oldest wooden castle in Japan. It is also called the “Crow Castle” owing to its resemblance to a crow with black walls appearing as “spreading wings”. It is a typical example of a flatland castle as it was not built on a hilltop or amidst rivers. The castle's origins date back to the Sengoku (Warring States) period. At that time, Shimadachi Sadanaga of the Ogasawara Clan built a fort on this site in 1504, which was originally called Fukashi Castle. In 1550, it came under the rule of the Takeda Clan and then Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Following a brief photo session, I headed towards Utsukushigahara Onsen and Asama Onsen in that order. Asama Onsen has been a famous hot-spring resort in Matsumoto since ancient times. Taking advantage of the picturesque location, many travelers today use Asama Onsen as a “base camp” for sightseeing the Nagano area. Asama Spa is located at the foot of Utsukushigahara Plateau, commanding a superb view of the Northern Alps. Founded in the second year of the Tenkei era (939) by a powerfull local family, this hot spring area boasts a long history and has served as a source of inspiration to a group of poets (Araragi School). The hot spring (approx. 42-47 degrees Celsius) is reputed to be effective for women’s diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, skin disorders rheumatism and arteriosclerosis. The atmosphere in this little town is truly relaxed and reflects the atmosphere of an old style hot spring resort (much like Kusatsu but less commercialized). Tranquil walks (with an Ebisu beer in one hand), strenuous hikes or even more strenuous bicycle hillclimbs are available in the area as well.

I checked in at Hina-no-yu (just 10 meters from the T-junction where the GEKISAKA starts!!) a little after noontime...the proprietress was extremely kind and her daughter very graceful too, left my rucksack in the room, had lunch at a nearby “Indian curry” restaurant and then proceeded to the venue to complete the registration. Blue skies…long-legged race queens (correction: “race princesses”…) what else does one need to make the long trip worthwhile?...Answer: a trial ride of the parcourse!

I left on a test ride around 1:30 and had no particular difficulty clearing the Gekisaka, mostly en danseuse using 39/25. When I reached the flatter area leading to the artificial lake, I ran into “Humble Mr. Imanaka Himself,” the guy even greeted me! Higher up, I passed three busloads of photographers shooting away at the famous “renge-tsutsuji” (Rhododendron Japonicum). Stupidly, I stopped and took a picture of the same scenes they were focusing on (…missed shutter chance! I should have aimed my camera at them shutter bugs!). The scenery was quite beautiful though and it was nice to be able to enjoy it at a slow speed for a change!

On my way down, I met GORO and had a brief chat…GORO mentioned about the weather forecast for Sunday…rain and I laughingly said…the more rain, the better chance I’ll have for a top 10 finish!

Back at the venue as I was wandering around the few tents set up by the sponsors, I heard a lady call out my name and the company I’m working for!...Are you Tomu-san of O?C? Corp.?? What a small world! I also met frame builder Hosoyama-san and his wife calling him “Otosan”. “Otosan!, remember me? I’m the furyogaijin who’s always ignoring traffic rules!” I re-introduced myself as I pointed to the “ITOIGAWA FAST RUN” sticker on my helmet. We shared a good laugh!

Dinner at Hina-no-yu was excellent (so was the bath!) but I missed my pre-race evening beer (after 2 weeks of complete abstinence, who wouldn’t?!) so I took a leisurely stroll along Asama Onsen Main Street and got myself a can of Ebisu beer. No clouds in the evening sky but strangely enough raindrops were coming down in “potsuri potsuri” fashion. Low-diving swallows were almost hitting the road…there couldn’t be a worse tell-tale premonition of rain! At dusk, I ran into Dan U. from New Zealand. Like me, Dan was secretly hoping for some rain to go with the race…that’ll beat the young guys!

The two other guys in my “aibeya” room sure looked like serious cyclists and turned off the lights around 9 o’clock! Slept well and woke up this morning at 4:30 for a breakfast of raisin bread and yoghurt (my stomach simply cannot take rice in the morning – especially right before a race). When I looked out of the window, it was pouring and the ditch on the other side of Hina-no-yu was flowing rapidly with a gurgling sound. After a while, the okami proprietress came to inform us that the organizers would be calling soon with an announcement… 30 minutes later as I was mounting my water bottle in the lobby downstairs, I hear the phone ring. “Haihai …a so desuka…wakarimashita” “Chushi desu ka?!,” I cried out as soon as the okami hung up. “Chushi da so desu!!”

10 minutes later, deep down in the dumps, I mounted my Sirius Ti-1 in pouring rain and rode to the parking lot venue to return the time-measuring chip…no more race queens only old men with orange caps shouting “Chushi da! Chushi da”….Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.
Boarded a 7:59 Super Azusa to Tachikawa and arrived home at 10:30…

zaterdag 21 juni 2008

Hydrangea ride

Typical rainy season overcast sky when I woke up this morning...a drizzly rain was falling. Consulted the Positivo Espresso blog…sure enough, DJ had decided to take a rain check. My wife tried to persuade me to stay home and take it easy for a change but I was restless and dying to burn those unneeded calories of a bottle of Canadian ice wine I had emptied alone last evening. Finished breakfast, home baked bread with cassis jam and yoghurt with honey, three cups of Kilimanjaro coffee…rain had by then turned into a very fine misty rain…I don’t mind the feeling of being sprayed on by an atomizer while on the bike - in fact I love it - and I quickly changed into my Positivo Espresso cycling gear.

Just as I was about to take the VLAAMS out of the house, it suddenly began to pour really hard! I could hear my wife again urging me to forget about it. I got out of my cycling clothes again and started to read the newspaper while drinking another cup of coffee. As I was reading, daylight became brighter and brighter…that’s it...time to leave! and 10 minutes later I was pumping the pedals!

It was already past 9 o’clock and the TCR was almost deserted…almost no cyclists and dogwalkers…just a wet surface. Once in while, the sun would almost break through casting shadows. I decided to go for the Sagamiko loop combined with the Yuzurihara – Kobu 甲武 Tunnel – Itsukaichi loop. The Shimano Cheapos ran very softly and fast on the flat road. Since I had an 11-23T cassette, I decided to skip Wada. As I discovered, an 11-23T cassette is perfectly usable in the mountains, as long as you don’t venture into 16%+ hilly land that is.

Saw some nice hydrangea at the foot of the road leading to Makime-touge and took a few pictures there. Hydrangea always look best when they are wet (so does titanium!) Crossed Koshu Kaido at Fujino and headed towards Yuzurihara. Before climbing the 2 golf course hills and the Kobu Tunnel Touge, I treated myself to some apple pie and a coke. 39×23 proved to be quite comfortable and fast on the first golf course climb (the one with all the circles in the concrete). Mountains were steaming, birds were singing. I was enjoying a long stretch in danseuse when I chanced upon a huge blue-green snake crossing the damp road, probably an aodaishou 青大将. The downhill from Kobu tunnel to Itsukaichi was very fast, most of the road had already dried up by then and the 52×11 gear ratio allowed me to stay above 40km/h most of the time.

Back on the TCR, I ran into GORO of Team NFCC and DJ (what happened to the rain check??), David and some more folk from the Positivo Espresso congregation…we were crossing each other at too high a speed to stop…just a fraction of a second eye contact.

Got home at 2:30 having ridden 130km, not bad but not enough for my endorphins to kick in! What is so special about an endorphin high? For me, it is like I have reached the end of the rainbow with a feeling of well-being and power…happiness!

Washed my VLAAMS thoroughly and applied some vinegar on my tires…read somewhere that this gives a lustrous shine to rubber…I couldn’t see the difference though.

vrijdag 20 juni 2008

Road shock

I have made up my mind. Although some of my cycling buddies have advised me against it, I decided to get myself a pair of Spinergy Xaero Lite PBO wheels….

While I’m extremely satisfied with the torsional stiffness and the degree of pliancy of the titanium used in my VLAAMS Sirius Ti-1, the frame combined with the Easton E90 straight fork and Fulcrum Racing 3 wheelset is rather inefficient when it comes to absorbing the impact of bumps in the road. On longer rides with plenty of downhils, the accumulation of shocks and shaking when hitting potholes or going over those raised areas where a bridge connects to the road, can become quite fatiguing and annoying.

The spokes in the Spinergy Xaero Lite wheels use a revolutionary PBO (Polyphenylene Bensobis Oxazole) fiber technology that allegedly delivers three times the strength of stainless steel at just half the weight. This synthetic fiber technology, also known as ZYLON®, was developed by TOYOBO of Japan, a time-honored spinning company now active in textiles, films, biochemical and pharmaceutical products. ZYLON® is also used in protective cloth (body armors), aerospace and sports (strings for tennis rackets, ski poles, fishing rods, etc.). The ZYLON® high-performance PBO produces a flexible spoke with superior strength that absorbs impact more efficiently while staying in true. If I may believe the Spinergy marketing people, PBO has a much longer fatigue life and unmatched vibration damping: “Our patented PBO spokes are lighter than traditional steel spokes which results in less rotational weight and a faster responding wheel – giving you the ultimate edge. The resilient damping qualities of the PBO fiber spoke absorb more road shock than a conventional wire-spoked wheel. You will feel the difference your first ride.”

Seeing is believing so I ordered one set with white-colored spokes through Friend Syokai. I was told they are out of stock at the moment and that the arrival of the next batch for Japan is expected for September. For extra comfort on longer rides, I am planning to put on the Aircomp Latex inner tubes and for “good looks” the new ivory color PRO3 Race tyres both developed by Michelin.

zondag 15 juni 2008

370km this weekend...

Another beautiful sunny day...makes one wonder if the "rainy season" still exists! Left home at 9:00 following a relaxed breakfast with the family. Rode to Takao/Otarumi first and turned left to Makime touge, a lowish hill with plenty of ups and downs. Took a few pictures here and there and then proceeded to Fujino, crossing Koshu Kaido. As I approached Yuzurihara, I suddenly felt all my energies had sapped away....hunger knock! Luckily a Yamazaki Daily was within sight and I treated myself on two "stamina" drinks, a cheeseburger, a "melonpan" and "amintoufu"! Nice thing about this Y.Daily is the bench! Feels good to be able to stretch ones tired legs. Following the two golf course hills, I attacked my last hill of the day...the Kobu Tunnel Hill. Drivetrain on my VLAAMS was functioning perfect.

While my Fulcrum Racing 3 wheels feel great especially when dancing, I find them a bit too stiff combined with the titanium frame. For flat road sprints and hillclimbs no problem but for long rides with downhills, softer wheels would be welcome...like the SHIMANO-WH-7850-C24 CL DURA-ACE...made of a unique composite "alloy" of aluminium and carbon and weighing less than 1400 grams (not really an alloy of course but aluminum coated with a thin layer of carbon) . Got to save some money first.

As I was zooming down towards Itsukaichi, I felt my mobile vibrating in my back pocket...Stephan, Team NFCC's president. Happy news again! GORO captured another first place, this time at the FUJI INTERNATIONAL HILLCLIMB race! Fantastic result...I knew he could do it...GORO is a natural talent and great strategist too! Actually, 2 riders of NFCC made the podium with Aichan having finished in 6th place! Congratulations! Stephan sounded real happy and proud. His dream is to turn the team into one of the very top teams in Japan of the same level as Matrix Powertag Corratec or Shimano Racing Team. It may take many, many years but with his vision and willpower, the right sponsors and star riders, I believe the plan is realistic and feasible!


zaterdag 14 juni 2008

La Femme Chinoise

Completed my ride today according to plan! What a happy feeling…my plan must have been realistic this time. I guess this kind of satisfaction can also be savored in the harsh world of business. Very often, however, targets of business plans are set unrealistically high based on wishful dreams and this is inevitably followed by disappointment.

While fighting against the strong wind and the crazy gradients of Kazahari rindo, I also realized how easy it is to come up with excuses for not achieving one’s goal. Too hot, too humid, too windy, hangover, mechanical trouble…as a matter of fact, today, I could have used all of these as justification for not achieving my plan but I turned them all down and as I managed to do so, I started to feel increasingly in super form!

Like last week’s Jezebel, another annoying tune popped up in my head whenever I was battling my way up the steeper parts…"Susie can soothe away all your blues, she’s the mistress the scent of the Orient!" http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=sJuXXGXS3no (YMO). Maybe I ought to rename my Sirius Ti-1 “Susie Wong”. She sure has soothed away many blues of mine already! I enjoyed myself racing down Yanagisawa to Enzan…this descent seems to go on forever…pure bliss!

Then came Sasago Touge…a perfect hill for beginners I think but when it’s the fifth or sixth hill of the day, she can be a real toughie! I noticed something funny, two bikes and a car that had overtaken me earlier were later coming down in the same direction…foreboding of some disaster? Sure enough when I reached the old (haunted) Sasago tunnel, it was completely barricaded – closed for repair works inside….The guard made the typical cross with his arms but I zoomed passed him and he came running after me yelling DAME!! No way I was going to double back and end up having to go through the nightmarish Koshu Kaido tunnel…my mind was made up. The guard behind me called it a day but then midway the tunnel, I got completely stuck, blocked by a truck occupying almost the entire width of the tunnel. People were busy reinforcing the ceiling and sides of this dilapidated passageway. This time there was plenty of artificial light and for the first time I saw how dangerous the road surface is….lots of potholes on both sides, luckily I always stayed in the middle so far. I managed to squeeze my body and that of Susie Wong between the dump truck and the rocky wall. We really got put through the wringer there! Some of the workers witnessing my embarrassing predicament were smiling with compassion (or was it with lust for Susie?) and even saluted me. I guess their employer is different than the one of the watchman.

I felt in great shape for the remainder of the ride and my “second wind” came right before Otarumi-touge and stayed with me until Asagawa. No fatigue whatsoever! I even forgot the prickly heat in my “delicate zone”…I had forgotten to apply Oronine on the chamois something I always do for long rides. Once home I showered and discovered two huge water blisters right in my delicate zone…ouch!! Hopefully they’ll be gone in time before this month’s Utsukushigahara race. Tomorrow, no cycling I’m afraid…or maybe just a quickie...Susie, are you ready?

vrijdag 13 juni 2008

My ride plan for tomorrow…

This week, I intend to take the Itsukaichi approach with Kazahari Rindo as the first serious climb of the day. Will try to save my energies for Sasago Touge this time!


6:00 leaving Home -> 6:20 Sekidobashi -> Itsukaichi -> Right turn at Honjuku -> Kazahari RINDO -> downhill to Okutamako -> 139 -> Imagawa Touge -> 411 -> Inugiri Touge -> Yanagisawa Touge -> downhill to Enzan/Katsunuma (late) LUNCH -> Sasago Touge (which I skipped last week) -> 20 -> Otarumi Touge -> Asakawa+Tamagawa   -> Home

zondag 8 juni 2008

Many years from now...

Hiroshi, a same-age friend of mine I met on Ome Kaido earlier this year, was writing about his inner struggle trying to get to grips with middle-age cycling life.

Mind you, if you see Hiroshi, trademark blue towel wrapped around his head, dancing a la Bernard Hinault on his bike, you’d give him only 27 or 28…so very energetic he is! Moreover, Hiroshi’s pedaling is truly enviable…beautifully even rotations that are the fruit of many years of fixed, single-gear velodrome cycling. As it turns out, Hiroshi has the same secret longing for a “slow life bicycle” as me and similarly, he’s trying to fight the desire of ever owning one; reprimanding himself ”that’s the end (of my youth)…yabai!”

I’m talking of a particular, somewhat antiquated-looking bicycle referred to in Japan as a randonneur, one of those French words that are better known in Japan than in their country of origin. As I was turning the pages of last month’s Cycle Sports magazine…I couldn’t miss it…what a beauty and what a great-sounding name….REVENDELL RAMBOUILLET!

While I don’t know about Hiroshi, at least for me this will be the very (last) bike I will ever buy as a present to myself…when I’m sixty-four!

zaterdag 7 juni 2008

INUGIRI TOGE

犬切峠 (a.k.a.犬尾切峠)

Start: 6:15 / Finish: 17:45 / Distance: 241:20 / Average speed: 23.5 km/h / Max. speed: 73.1 km/h

Home -> Tamagawa -> Asakawa -> Wada T. -> Tawa T. -> Tsuru T. -> Imagawa T. -> Ome Kaido (R.411) -> Ichinose Rindo -> Inugiri T. -> Yanagisawa T. -> Enzan/Katsunuma -> Sagago Tunnel -> Koshu Kaido -> Otarumi T. -> Asakawa -> Tamagawa -> Home

Rainy season started but for today a splendid tsuyubare - a spell of fine weather in the rainy season - was predicted. I decided to call off a rather "unadventerous ride plan" of Positivo Espresso and go for my "monster ride" instead....I almost completed today's ride according to plan but had to abort Sasago Pass as it had gotten late and my legs were pretty much spent by then. Instead I took the Sasago tunnel on the Koshu Kaido... Wada went great....no more chain skipping blues for me! Many elderly hikers were looking in awe as I zigzagged between them. Always makes me go a little bit faster when people are watching! Next came Tawa Pass, not very spectacular this one. As I was climbing all by myself an annoying tune got into my mind and stayed there until the end of today's ride....."if ever the devil was born without a pair of horns, it was you Jezebel!" (some oldie by Frankie Laine). Then Tsuru, this one has something more to chew on! I thought it was strange there were so few riders on the road. On the downhill part to Kosuge village, I broke my speed record...more than 73km/h...I always get a kick here! R.411 (Ome Kaido) had less traffic on it than I had expected. I soon reached the entrance to today's new mountain pass...「林道一ノ瀬線」. It was close to noon already and very sunny. After 300 meters turning left and with R.411 out of sight, the high-pitched noise became louder and louder...the more I continued, the more deafening it became! Then I got a flashback to some old black & white SF movie I saw many years ago...THEM! about man's encounter with a nest of radiation-giganticized ants. Exactly the same eerie sound, the only difference being that there were none of those huge ants around but thousands of cicadas! No, not the cute Minminzemi (robust cicada), Aburazemi (large brown cicada), Niiniizemi, Higurashi (evening cicada - love this one!), Tsukutsukuboushi (my absolute favorite) that can be heard mostly in August even in Tokyo urban areas....no, they certainly did not belong to this species! I encountered many deserted and dilapidated houses adding to the spooky atmosphere. While this is not the New Mexico setting of Them!, I almost ran into some cadaver on the roadside...probably a nihonjika, some kind of deer. I felt like getting away from this creepy woodland path real quick and back to R.411. No sign of the "Dog Slashing Mountain Pass" in sight...犬切り, I found the name intriguing and the folklorist inside me did some research. Here's the folk story (one of the many versions): "Some 250 years ago, a strong man called Chubei from Ichinose went down to Enzan to buy some seeds for his grainfield. On his way back, just around twilight as he was about to cross a ridge said to be infested with wolves, he stumbled across a pair of fiery eyes of a wolf-like creature. Chubei wasted no time and drew his short sword hacking at the beast. The next morning, the villagers found the wolve's tail and ever since wolves would no longer appear in the area. The relieved villagers started to call the place "the ridge with the cut-off tail of the dog" 犬尾切峠 until unimaginative Meiji era cartographers decided to literally cut off the tail and reduce the placename to today's three kanjis...." I really dig these little legends! The remainder of Ichinose Rindo down to Ome Kaido was rather bumpy with lots of short hairpin bends. I took them extra carefully. I was half hoping to run into the TCC guys...the idea to do Inugiri-toge was theirs. Later in the evening, I was reading how one of them crashed his bike at 48km/h going downhill at the fast stretch of Yuzurigahara...somehow (grip on the upper part of the handle + small pothole ?) he lost control and ended up paying the hospital a brief visit - luckily without anything broken (except the bike). So I continued along Ome Kaido to Yanagisawa. As usual there were many motorbikers, even the ridiculous-looking bosozoku kind. I put on my windbraker for the downhill to Enzan, my reward of the day! First time to do it on the VLAAMS...titanium feels so much stabler than the plastic of my Colnago. The only flaw may be titanium's inability to absorb short bumps like when you ride over those protuberances where the road connects to a bridge...this really causes the chain to clatter inside the front derailleur. I guess this is a matter of getting used to. It was already past 14:00 when I took my lunchbreak at the Katsunuma 7/11. Almost totally clapped out from the 6 hills I had already scaled I was pondering if I should add Sasago the only alternative being the distressing Sasago tunnel. I went for the tunnel and got out unscathed. The rest of the ride was classic stuff but no attempt was made at breaking my reverse Otarumi record. Here comes Jezebel: http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=1v2jpDOORTg How's that for a cadence?



dinsdag 3 juni 2008

Aging 3 seconds a year??


20th out of 519 (45~49)...average speed: 18.33km/h. I guess it was a vain expectation of mine to believe I managed to shave at least 2 minutes off last year’s result. Much to my disillusionment, I just found out that it took me 3 seconds longer to complete the 24km-long Mt.Fuji hillclimb course in spite of all the winter training, better and lighter equipment, improved riding technique and supposedly more experience….As it turns out, I have been in fool’s paradise all the time. But wait a second or two, three, if I manage to continue at this pace, I will still be well under 1:20 when I'm sixty-four…what a noble target! Got to set my sights high enough!

2007 Lap Times: 00:17:46 (5km) - 00:16:10 (10km) - 00:16:37 (15km) - 00:16:53 (20km) - 00:11:05 (Finish)

2008 Lap Times: 00:17:26 (5km) - 00:15:59 (10km) - 00:16:28 (15km) - 00:17:44* (20km) - 00:10:55 (Finish)

* obviously something went wrong between the 15th and 20th kilometer!

zondag 1 juni 2008

第5回Mt.富士ヒルクライム

THE FIFTH Mt.FUJI HILLCLIMB

TEAM NFCC RESULTS: Goro: 6th Place !! Wow! Tom: ??
It's over again...this was my second Mt.Fuji Hillclimb following last year when I was riding under a different name. Yes, I think I broke Thierry's record of last year with a minute or two! Anxious to see my result...I didn't want to wait for the organizers to post the result sheets on the bulletin board and rode home almost right after finishing a delicious bowl of local udon distributed to all participants at the end of the race. I got home at 14:30 leaving me plenty of time to clean my Sirius Ti-1.

It was a very exciting race with splendid weather producing most gorgeous silhouettes of Fuji-san. The previous day though was terrible....cold rainfall almost all day forcing me to go Fujiyoshida by train toting my Christo "Wrapped Titanium" art work and cycle the last 10 or so kilometers to Fuji Hokuroku Park in rather heavy slanting rain.

The train part was OK, except perhaps the second part from Otsuki where I had to board a genuine Thomas Train (even the interior was decorated with Thomas and his vehicled friends!) full with awestruck little boys and their young parents who made no effort at all to discipline their kids running all over and into my rinko bicycle bag which admittingly is a bit bulky and must be nuisance to other passengers on crowded trains. I got off at Fujiyoshida Station, put the front wheel in the fork and left in the rain. With 20mm tyres pumped up to the max, I had to be extra careful especially when riding over the white painted line. I arrived at the site completely soaked, completed the registration, had a bite of onigiri and meatballs at the party tent, looked around at the sponsors' tents - nothing could really interest me - met the two Davids and Juliane of Positivo Espresso, chatted with a well-known racer from New Zealand - Dan U. - and then rode to my lodging for the night - Pension Mori - a very reasonably-priced accommodation. Goro of Team NFCC was already there waiting for me. We found a nice restaurant in the neighborhood and I treated myself to dish of deep-fried wakasagi. The guy with the beautiful at-signed eyes (courtesy of GORO) in the photo is the same as the guy in the picture above. I look a bit tipsy but I actually had only one beer!

This morning, we woke up at 4:00 and left Pension Mori at 5:15. When we arrived, there was already quite a crowd at Fuji Hokuriku Park. I handed in my luggage which, as with most hillclimb races, gets taken very conveniently to the finish line. The organization of this Mt.Fuji Hillclimb event is very impressive indeed. I took position in my group with start-time at 7:10 and had two more toilet breaks (the second one simply out of nervousness) before the start.

When the first hilly part came, I found out to my enormous disappointment that the chain was jumping again in the mid-section...the rattling noise of my chain failing to get a grip on my sprocket was accompanied with my swearing NOT AGAIN! ...SH*T! and other profanities in flemish !! In no time I was the focus of attention. For the remainder of the race, I had no choice but to avoid using my mid-range gears and that was really nagging me!

With about one-fourth of the race left, I passed a familiar-looking yellow Assos outfit...sure enough, there was Juliane! So late in the race, there were only few female competitors that had already reached this point so I tried to cheer Juliane up ...."you're the very first lady!" Afterwards I did pass 3 or 4 more but I pretty sure Juliane captured herself a podium place.

The last 5km are not so steep with some flat parts allowing me to use my outer chainring to the fullest and overtake many riders. When the first mini tunnel came in sight, I knew I was almost there and pressed out all my energies left...unlike last year I had no cramps in my tighs and I was most happy with my finish.

During the downhill part behind the "guide car" I had a friendly chat with a guy who recognized my NFCC uniform from last race in Kusatsu. "Is it true Team NFCC has many fast riders?," he asked. "Yeah, but I'm not one of them!"

Turned in the time-measuring chip and slurped down the complimentary bowl of Yoshida Udon....looked around for Goro and Positivo Espresso people but found nobody. I decided to head home with a heavy rucksack (heavy because of the stupid rinko bag inside) on my back. My back is still hurting now!

As I was climbing Yamabushi-toge on Doshimichi, right after Yamanakako, I suddenly remembered seeing my mechanic at Friend Syokai tightening the tensioning barrel connected to the rear derailleur.... The chain was noisy again and while pedalling, I adjusted the cable into a tighter strecth...and SURPRISE SURPRISE!!....the noise was gone and the chain was moving freely and engaging the mid-range cogs again!!!

That's it! While the combination of a new chain and an old sprocket was to blame for the same mechanical trouble with my Shimano Cheapos, this time, with both chain & sprocket brand-new, it is the slack in the tension cable which is the real culprit! Why had it been slackening? Two reasons: (1) the handle turned inwards at 90 degrees when rinko-ing the bike (2) my having put plenty of oil into the barrel adjuster so that when exerting full power on the pedals in danseuse, the cable gave in and lost its tension. Wish I had found out prior to today's race. No regrets otherwise + the Sirius Ti-1 is squeaky-clean again!