vrijdag 31 oktober 2008

Eccentric (?) plan for the long weekend…70rpm

With only 7 days left before the Giro de Hotaka, I am planning to go on an extra-long “toge-busting” ride tomorrow cresting some 9 mountain ridge and tracking a nicely-shaped loop like this: Sekidobashi -> ①WADA-> ②TAWA -> ③TSURU -> ④IMAGAWA -> ⑤YANAGISAWA -> Enzan -> Katsunuma -> ⑥SASAGO* -> ⑦SUZUGANE -> ⑧HINAZURU -> ⑨OTARUMI -> Sekidobashi...
View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com
(*completion of old & haunted Sasago tunnel repair works slated for today!...sure hope it will be passable tomorrow!!)

Bike: Colnago / Wheels: Fulcrum R-3 / Gear ratio: F 50X34T B 11-23T

Morning ride with daughter to recuperate: OTARUMI -> MAKIME -> OTARUMI

Bike: Vlaams / Wheels: Shimano RS20 / Gear ratio: F 52X39T B 12-25T

All-day Chichibu pilgrimage: Sekidobashi -> Ome -> SHOMARU -> KARIBAZAKA (the long pancake approach cutting KAOBURI) -> Green Line over SHIRAISHI & SADAMINE -> R11 + some Fudasho (possibly Shinpukuji) -> R299 -> YAMABUSHI -> Ome -> Sekidobashi

Bike: Vlaams / Wheels: Spinergy / Gear ratio: F 52X39T B 12-27T

To avoid getting burned out and to allow my body to recuperate in time for the Hotaka event, I plan to do the Sat and Mon rides at a leisurely but steady pace maintaining as much as possible a 70rpm cadence on the climbs. I am still undecided as to which bike, wheels and sprocket to take to Hotaka. In view of the variegated parcourse and the +22% slope on the Day 1 Hillclimb, I am leaning towards the Monday set-up with the wider gear ratio and the softer wheels.

…Or perhaps an even more forgiving and cushiony combination such as the springy 27T-sprocketed Spinergy wheels on the soothing Colnago CLX frame?? I might test for the first time the efficiency of this combination on Sunday afternoon.

Gear ratio memo to myself:

Supposing a cadence of 70rpm (the ideal number of revolutions for hillclimbs excluding +12% spikes), then:

a compact drive 34T (Colnago) combined with a 23T cog will produce a speed of 13.0 km/h
34T combined with a 25T cog → 12.0 km/h
34T + 27T 11.1 km/h

A normal drive 39T (VLAAMS) combined with a 23T cog will produce a speed of 14.9 km/h
39T combined with a 25T cog → 13.7 km/h
39T + 27T12.7 km/h

To climb hills with maximum efficiency, one must find the ideal gear ratio adapted to one’s engine (= heart, lungs and legs) so as to be able to maintain 70 revolutions per minute.

zaterdag 25 oktober 2008


Left home as usual at 6:15 with a slightly sore throat. My plan was to do another pilgrimage into Chichibu and visit the first temple in the circuit of 34 temples. Shimabuji 四萬部寺is famous for a sculpture of O-tasuke Kannon - the Goddess of Mercy made in the Edo-period out of a single piece of wood. The temple itself has its origins dating back to the Nara-period. I bought a good-luck charm at the temple shop and an elderly man dressed like a Buddhist monk impromptu took me on a tour of the temple! With great zeal, he went on to explain the bas-relief depicting the Buddhist purgatory 地獄の図 and paradise 極楽の図 pointing out each figure such as the scary-looking Enma-sama…the King of Hell pulling out tongues of corrupt business leaders, speculators and other swindlers (don’t they deserve such punishment!), or the Datsuibaa脱衣婆taking custody of wrongdoers’ clothes as their entrance fee into purgatory. Different from Rodin’s famous bronze gate, this representation of hell is not a real bas-relief but can also be admired from the back side as a normal three-dimensional sculpture…quite unusual.

I was riding on my new Shimano cheapos – the WH-RS20-S which I bought for rainy days and training purpose. They run incredibly silent, almost noiseless, and feel very sturdy on hillclimbs. Like last week, I scaled the Sadamine and Shiraishi toges and then did the rest of the “Green Line” over Karibazaka-toge and Kaburi-toge.

Instead of turning back to Shomaru-toge, I went direction Takedera 竹寺 and Nenogongen 子の権現 fondly remembering a hiking trip I did with the family many years ago. The route was well indicated but I somehow managed to get on a wrong and very steep forestry road that ended in a dump. The path leading to Nenogongen was even steeper, especially the last 300 meter…+20% for sure...just like that crazy slope right before the finish of the Hotaka Hillclimb! I soon recognized the two huge Niou-sama guardian gods at the temple’s entrance.

On my way back home, I passed by Friend Shokai in Nishikokubunji to pick up my repaired Fulcrum Racing-3 front wheel. The cycle computer read 211 km.

donderdag 23 oktober 2008

about time...

Thomas of TCC was recently handed one of these leaflets on the Arakawa cycling road. I believe this leaflet stands to reason. I have seen too many collisions on the Tamagawa cycling road. If one really wants to go full throttle, one should use the public road. These river paths were not designed as roads for breaking cycling speed limits. Instead they ought to be taken advantage of merely as a convenient approach to the mountains. "Yuzuriau" is the right word here and it also stands to reason that the 20km/h regulation speed ought to be adapted to circumstances... あくまで臨機応変に!

maandag 20 oktober 2008

DNF in Gunma!

DID NOT Finish my race at Gunma…DNF is the official result.

The organizer’s bike pulled up next to me waving a tiny round placard on a stick with a cross on it…”owari…boushi wo totte kudasai!” At first I could believe my ears…I had been pulling Michael from the start and just as I thought we got some good rhythm going, Michael and I were forced to forfeit the race!

In spite of all, I really enjoyed the gentle ups and downs of the Gunma track...without working up much of a sweat that is!! My only regret is that I could not achieve my goal of enticing Michael enough to stick to the peloton and profit from the easy drafting. The carrot I was holding out obviously was not alluring enough. Next time I will pull an ice cream cart for Michael! Got to find out his favorite flavor first...orange sherbet?

zaterdag 18 oktober 2008

Shinpukuji on Ootana-yama

With tomorrow's Gunma race on the schedule, I cycled for only half a day leaving home at 6:15 and back before 14:00. Beautiful autumn weather again. For my weekly pilgrimage, I visited Fudasho No. 2, 真福寺 on a mountain called 大棚山...about 1.8km south of Rd. 11 leading to Sadamine-toge. To my surprise the second half of this road was incredibly steep...you would almost think you're climbing the Wada! Following Ootana, I scaled Sadamine and Shiraishi and rode back to Ome via Shomaru-toge. Covered 165 km in all at a slow pace to save my legs for Gunma. Will slowly get my stuff ready for tomorrow's race now. I'll be in German company this evening as Michael and Ludwig are participating in the race as well. I will have a pace-setting role tomorrow and hopefully I can help Michael solidify his lead in the JCRC rankings!

maandag 13 oktober 2008

Maria Kannon and paragliders

Did yesterday's ride again but in reverse mode climbing Sadamine-toge and Shiraishi-toge from the Chichibu side this time. For my pilgrimage, I visited Fudasho No.4, Kinshoji 金昌寺 with the famous 1300 stone statues carved in soft sandstone and the even more famous statue of Maria Kannon, a sculpture dating back to the late 18th century representing the Mother of Jesus in the guise of Kannon to worship in secret after the prohibition of Christianity in the mid-17th century. This image is sculpted in the tradition of Koyasu Kannon 子安観音 venerated for safe and smooth childbearing. The two-story gate of this temple bears two huge waraji straw sandals.

Rd. 11 leading to the Sadamine and Shiraishi hills is very nice in terms of inclination...not brutal at all. When I reached Shiraishi, I saw a road turning upwards on the left side and out of curiosity I decided to climb it. To my big surprise, just around the corner on the road leading to Mt. Dodaira 堂平山 astronomical observatory, I ran into a bunch of paraglider enthusiasts! I was watching one after the other take off...very impressive!

380km in two days...feels so good! Next Saturday, I plan to go on another pilgrimage!

zondag 12 oktober 2008

LSD around Chichibu

Second day of sanrenkyu....it was raining all morning on the first day of the long weekend forcing me to cancel an eargerly anticipated ride with my daughter. This morning I woke up quite early as always on a normal weekday and left the house at 6:15.

The Positivo Espresso guys - as I learned only late last evening - had set their mind on a Doshimichi ride to Yamanakako...for me a bit too plain a vanilla...I was longing for different rich flavors like pistache, pumpkin, dark cherry...and perhaps some new seasonal tastes.

Today was a splendid autumn day....a beautiful deep sky, dry air, a refreshing wind, kinmokusei and other delicate autumn perfumes in the air, cosmos and many other autumn flowers along the way.

I decided to try the TCC-designed Okumusashi Madness ride after three unsuccessful tries earlier this summer. My VLAAMS was riding very smooth but I regretted today's saddle choice...I find the AX Lightness comfortable even for longer rides, however, this little plank made of carbon can be so squeaky it is almost nerve-racking!

At the summit of Shomaru I had a very clear view of Shinjuku. At the bottom I rode that stretch back along R.299 to the entrance point leading to Ka(o)buri-toge. I opted for te normal rindo not the road over the pancakes this time. Cosmos were growing abundantly on both sides of the road.

Following a succession of smaller hills, I reached Karibazaka-toge in no time...and then proceeded to Shiraishi-toge. This is the playground of Goro of Team NFCC and I have had a yearning to climb this mountain pass for quite some time. Well...the hill did not turn out what I had bargained for! In no time and without braking a sweat I reached a crossroads with 白石峠 marked on signboards...this can't be the famous Shiraishi-toge I thought so I asked a couple cyclists who were taking a rest. Sure enough, this was it! A bit disappointed I continued direction Chichibu along Rd 11...this would be a very nice road if it didn't have those annoying and dangerous speeding-prevention elevated strips...I almost lost control over my handle!

As I approached Chichibu, the majestic silhouette of Bukoyama showed up...in olden times this mountain must have been much more impressive before the cement plants began to hack away its flanks...poor mountain.

I visited a few temples that are regularly visited by pilgrims and part of the famous "Fudasho-meguri" circuit. At Chichibu Station I had Chinese noodles with gyoza. It was still only 11:30 but I was starving.

For the return trip I avoided the Shomaru tunnel and enjoyed a medium-fast ride to Ome and from there along the Okutama-kaido (so many traffic lights!) to Fussa Tamagawa.

I intend to go again tomorrow...this time cutting the Ka(o)buri and other toges and riding straight into Chichibu for a pilgimage by bike.

zondag 5 oktober 2008

Fourth Suponichi Shiobara Onsen Hillclimb

Bridgestone Cycling Cup Road Race Tournament & Eight Race of the 2008 JCRC Road Series

Yesterday and today Michael and I - both representing Team NFCC (officially) and Team Positivo Espresso (off the record) - were in Nasu Shiobara to participate in the two-day Shiobara Onsen Hillclimb event: yesterday a 6.9 km “hillclimb time trial” and today a 19.2 km “road race”.

The rural mountain village of Shiobara Onsen boasts the second largest hot spring area in Tochigi Pref. with the most popular hot springs located along the Houkigawa (箒川)river. We were staying at a recently renovated pension called Honjin (本陣, http://e-honjin.net/)in a very convenient location not too far from the event’s venue, “Hako-no-mori Playpark” and within the ideal “warm-up distance” to Tepco Shiobara Land, the startline of today’s road race. Pension Honjin prides itself on owning its very own hotspring source and the mineral content thereof is allegedly one of the best in the entire area. The okamisan is a sweet elderly lady who runs the place with her son and daughter in law (or perhaps her daughter and son in law)…the facilities were very clean and the cuisine was a great enjoyment enhanced with a cheap but OK bottle of red wine from the local supermarket.

After we checked in, Michael and I left Honjin to examine the road race parcourse and the event’s base camp in Hako-no-mori at the foot of the majestic 1,392 meter high Yatarozan 弥太郎山 mountain formation.

We took a few funny pictures to be featured on the Positivo Espresso weblog, enjoyed a hearty meal at the Hell’s Angels’ local hangout and returned to our room for a siesta and a review of our game plan. Michael kept repeating the numbers of the guys I was supposed to push off the road so he can most assuredly clinch victory in the JCRC 2008 series! I tried to input those figures into my head and visualize myself as the bad guy in the Benhur amphitheatre producing daggers out of his chariot’s wheels, “de-spoke-ing” and sending his rivals - chariots and all - into orbit. Come to think of it, for some reason, the movie stars I am told to resemble are always the evil, bad guys…like that double agent in Snake Eyes.

At the start line of the time trial we soon found Goro beaming in his pink Finalow Jersey. Michael pointed all his direct rivals out to me to make double sure they were going to get eliminated…ah…all the pressure on my shoulders as if it was not under enough pressure already. I was supposed to “bucchigiri” escape and leave my D Class competitors behind with a wide margin according to Hiroshi who claimed the JCRC “D Class” is only for first-timers…beginners!

In the same D Class, I met one somewhat taciturn guy from Hiroshi’s Keihin Pista club as well as Yoshinori’s good friend. Yoshinori, very unfortunately, recently broke his femur as was solo riding a tour of Japan. His thigh has in the meantime been fixed with titanium rods and bolts…my closest rival getting even lighter and stronger…awesome!

Five seconds left, four, three, two, one…I took off behind Michael and immediately accelerated en danseuse raising my heartbeat almost to max. In no time I was fighting against the hill all by myself. It is funny what can go on in one’s head as one is desperately trying to stay in the race. The most crazy excuses for forfeiting the race keep popping up…on the road surface I saw several motionless snake-like insects and I imagined I was a research entomologist coming across a very rare species. Get off the bike and scoop up the creature!

The course turned out to be less steep than I had feared with several flat stretches allowing me to get my breath back and make up distance on my closest rivals in the big chainring. I finished in less than 25 minutes in 15th place (out of 33) my only solace being the fact that the fourteen guys who finished before me are a lot younger (the youngest a 13-year old boy…incroyable mais vrai!).

With less than 800 meters left just before the last bend, Michael met with bad luck in the shape of a sharp stone or was it chestnut burr? In a very pathetic and touching moment, Michael arrived running pulling his deflated Cervelo over the finish line to the compassionate applause of the organizers and Bridgestone pros.

Following a few more funny pictures and some chitchatting with Aichan on the Hako-no-mori lawn, we headed back to pension Honjin but not before getting Michael his reward of the day…ice cream from the local supermarket! Thirty minutes later, we put our feet up in the hot bath, soothing away all aches and pains and before 21:00 found ourselves in the Land of Nod!

This morning, we woke up at 5:00…and I took breakfast consisting of pumpkin bread, a banana, yoghurt and a cup of cold coffee. 6:00…time to leave for Tepco Shiobara Land, I carefully lowered the bikes outside on the ground right through the window of our room…this arrangement couldn’t be more convenient…no need for negotiating with the okamisan and carrying the bikes through the entrance.

At the start line, I greeted Nakano-san, the owner of my bike shop, Friend Syokai. Michael and I were in the very front row of our “D Class” group but I only managed to stay in front until the top of the first small hill...no bucchigiri! In no time I was overtaken by more than 10 very eager and aggressive riders…no, those are not beginners Hiroshi! I could somehow stay with a group right behind the leaders until the Rd 266 turn-off and hillclimb part of yesterday. Very happily, I was able to find a good rhythm alternating some “out of the saddle in big chainring” and some “final 27T-low” moulinette pedaling (I forewent the normal 12-25T cassette after all and it turned out to be a wise decision). With the finish line in sight, I outsprinted a guy who had been constantly overtaking me with surprising ease.

Michael arrived a few minutes later both wheels still fully inflated and looking like a cat that had just swallowed a canary!

Gunma here we come!