woensdag 31 december 2008

Makime, Hiroshi's Tsuiko-twist, Sensha-dori....Misoka!

Rode exactly 100km today again under a perfect blue sky with buddies David, James and Hiroshi. Left home at 8:00 and was back by 13:30 for a beautiful half-day of cycling venturing into some new territory.

Amazing how so close to home there can still be some pristine country roads never tried before. Many thanks to Hiroshi for letting us discover a most attractive little road running between Otarumi-toge and Tsuiko with several climactic far-reaching views.

Today was also the first time I did the "real" Makime-toge...quite challenging at 12% as one can see in the pictures below. David suffered one punc...(back wheel wobble still there) creating an opportunity for Hiroshi to show off his powerpumping skills.

On the way home, Hiroshi guided us onto another nice road allegedly famous among roadies which runs more or less parallel to Yaen-kaido but with a lot less traffic. The road runs through an area which was once, during WWII, a test ground for military tanks developed by Mitsubishi Juki...the whole area was later transformed into a peaceful park. I parted from my buddies not too far from the Sakura Golf Course by the Tamagawa. Thanks a lot for the beautiful short ride mates!

Once home, the narcist in me wanted to take a few pics of the new VLAAMS cycling outfit...just as I was doing so, my always very supportive wife came home from shopping...

Also read James' post on Positivo Espresso's blog !
...and while you're at it, do not miss The Dance ! (on air only until Jan. 15, 2009...)

maandag 29 december 2008

Cap cloud hovering above Fujisan

Left home a bit latish at 9:00 with no destination in mind. Original plan was to ride to Kamakura and back with folks from Vlaams Tamasai however there was little or no interest in my proposition...I guess many of them are now gone back to their hometowns for the holidays.
Riding up Otarumi, the temperature signboard near the love hotels showed 1 degree...four degrees colder than last time with Michael and Hiroshi. As I was climbing I thought of possible routes...Akiyama-mura to Suzugane and double-back...Akiyamamura to Dozaka-toge and back via Doshimichi....I finally settled on a Doshimichi ride to Yamanakako. After all, I had never taken my Sirius to Yamanakako and I wanted to take a few pics of her silhoutte against a majestic Fujisan.

Doshimichi was fantastic today...very little traffic and almost no trucks all the way to Lake Yamanaka! The road surface was perfect too...no ice, no slippery conditions. The final climb up to Yamabushi-toge was tough but I tried to minimize fatigue by sitting on the back of my saddle and do more pulling on the pedals.
Down at Yamanakako, I took a few pictures of Fujisan under a kasagumo, almost like a huge U.F.O. hovering above it!

Back home I feasted on a huge bowl of Brussels sprouts and sausages with "moutarde de Dijon".

178km at 25.4km/h.

zaterdag 27 december 2008

Eisbahn between Sadamine and Shiraishi !!

Solo ride today ! Left home at 9:00 in full winter attire and with the new "Potenza" Bridgestone tyres (25c on back wheel). My plan was to visit my favorite little bakery between Rd. 11 and Kinshoji temple near Chichibu after cresting Yamabushi-toge.

This bakery is quite unusual; there is no signboard and it is not facing the main road. The bread and pastries are sold on a counter inside a veranda of a normal house so one actually does not step inside the bakery. My first choice pastry is a very plain and chewy bun with a piece of hard chocolat in it...delicious! I was racing up and down the many hills between Ome and Chichibu with the vision of myself biting away two chocolate buns while lazing in the sun on the temple bench. I arrived and I spotted the bakery lady getting of her car...strange; how come she's not behind the counter? To my big shock, she told me that the bakery closed on December 20 and will only re-open late January! She apologized and in an effort to console me, the lady told me "You're the guy from Belgium right? So glad you like our chocolate here!"

I rode a bit further down R.11 until 7/11 where I had some pork on rice heated up for lunch. Fully re-energized, I began my climb of Sadamine-toge. So far, the road surface had been mostly dry - just perfect. Even when I crested Sadamine, there were no ill omens whatsoever of what was to come...although oddly enough there were no cyclists, nobody at all around the Sadamine teahouse.

When the road bent slightly to the right, I was for a moment almost blinded by brightness...the road in front of me was one big eisbahn with snow all over!

Believing the snow and ice would be just in this one spot, I still had enough composure to take a few pictures. Going up higher towards the top of Shiraishi-toge, however, there were no more dry stretches and I was forced to walk my Sirius for about 1km! En route to the top, I came across a car that had gotten stuck on the ice. The couple in the car seemed panick-stricken and tried to get the car moving but the wheels would only spin on the ice. Then I saw some gravel bags on the roadside and suggested they should try open one. I helped them get one and sprinkle the gravel around the wheels...it sure did the job and the guy offered profuse thanks. Good!

I rode extra carefully, getting off the bike and walking on the road side in the shadowy bends where ice was lurking. My cleats were clogged up with snow and ice and would no longer click into the pedals. Fortunately, the south side of the mountain, from Karibazaka down to R299, was sunny and the road "cork-dry" again.

Once on the Tamagawa CR, I noticed a shadow following me...some skinny, blond long-haired foreigner on an orange Lemond bike. Whenever I would slow down, the guy did the same and whenever I did some 39km/h "flatarsing," this fellow would still hang onto my wheel, obviously profiting from my slipstream. Now, I really hate "drafting profiteurs" (in Flemish: "een vuile plakker") like this who are totally ignorant of the proper cyclist etiquette, this is simply NOT DONE! (of course when cycling together with one's own buddies, drafting and taking turns is the normal thing to do). I had already covered many hills and 145km by then and this youngster who probably knows no better than cruising along the Tamagawa CR, doesn't even greet me or offer to take over the lead...lowermost manners! I don't mind if you're reading this Orange Lemond Cyclist...as a matter of fact I certainly hope you will come across this and learn some proper etiquette!

Covered 164km today at an average of 24km/h...not so bad considering all the ice-walking! I rewarded myself with a long hot bath followed with a couple beers from my alma mater brewery.

dinsdag 23 december 2008


Citric Acid brings you health and youth! For some while, I've been looking for an inexpensive & "natural" way for preventing the muscle cramps that often befall me on longer rides when I'm competing against stronger cyclists. Some buddies have recommended "electrolytes" and similar rather expensive medication for sale only on the Internet. The sceptic I am, I opted to buy something similar at a respectable sports shop. The stuff I got recommended said it contained vitamines and "kuensan". I put a sachet in my water bottle the other day but it tasted awfully sweet, almost undrinkable. Then accidentally I found inexpensive kuensan citric acid (extremely sour, used for preparing jam and cleaning purposes) at my local drugstore...in sachets and tablet form. I've tried both on recent long rides and no matter how much I tried to hurt my muscles, no cramps appeared! It looks like citric acid might work for me and I will surely be drinking it on my next race! I will be on ACIIIIIID! like the Plastic Bertrand tune they used to play endlessly at the army cafeteria....

Today, I - for the very first time (!) - tried to put on bar tape by myself... So far, I never bothered to do this job myself and always had to ask Iwasaki-san at Friend Syokai. Had I only known that it is this easy! Practice makes perfect so I'm already looking forward to winding my next bar tape... the same Italia "SILVA" brand also carries a very attractive red viper snake skin handlebar tape (spotted one at O-Vest!).

Bridgestone recently launched a "long ride-muke" or long-ride specific tyre on the market in size 23 and 25. I put the 25 on the back wheel of my VLAAMS and can't wait to try it out!

zondag 21 december 2008

Winter solstice....a day of kabocha nimono, yuzuburo and torturous cycling (in reverse order)!

December 21…this year today marked 冬至 “the point of greatest deviation of the ecliptic from the celestial equator.” Normally the winter solstice ushers in Jack Frost but not so today…the quicksilver rose to 20 degrees! Going up Otarumi-toge in the morning around 9:30 a.m., the temperature was still a lowish 5 degrees…but ascending the same Otarumi hill from the other side around 2:40 p.m., the electronic signboard showed 20C!

Under a beautiful clear sky, Positivo Espresso riders David, James and Chris arrived a little before the agreed time of 8:10 at Sekidobashi. A few moments later we were joined by Michael who for future rides will be riding in all the way from Yokohama. Michael promptly and very proudly showed off his 2008 Class D JCRC Champions Jersey…well deserved - bravo!

Our train of 5 riders got in motion slowly at first and accelerated stepwise with David clearly the most effective locomotive of us all. I tried my turn up front a couple times but due to my tiny Orbea and my revised lower position on it there wasn't much of a slipstream and my mates were not able to enjoy much drafting...each time, the train would fall apart at the seams…

We reached the Takao 7/11 at 9:10, exactly the arrival time I had informed to Hiroshi. To my happy surprise, just as we were getting our magic potions, bread and other supplies inside, Hiroshi stepped in. I had not expected he would be able to make it after a long and hard day at work and having gotten home past mid-night.
The climb of Otarumi felt real good and I had not the slightest difficulty keeping my breathing under control. The last one-fourth of the climb I did out of the saddle in one stretch without sitting down once. David crested Otarumi and as always proceeded right away with his descent…time to give chase!
Once down at Chigura, Michael, Hiroshi and I split from the rest and continued with our Winter Solstice ride as planned…a loop of Suzugane-toge. Koshu-kaido was OK traffic-wise…very few trucks fortunately. Just before Sarubashi, we stopped at the 7/11 on the right for a brief rest. We all felt very hot by then…no need for gloves, ear warmers, shoe covers and other winter wear. My favorite little hill in Yamanashi coming up next!

On the flatter approach just before the road starts to meander through the valley, I found myself right behind an elderly farmer on his motorbike…all right! The old man had spotted me in his back mirror and was smiling. He let me stay right behind his back wheel for a full kilometer of pure motor-pacing bliss…awesome, now that's a real slipstream! Suzugane is so nice…no cars, not too steep, not too long…just perfect! Michael (triumphantly) and Hiroshi (grimacing in agony) in that order arrived at the top…for Hiroshi a long day spent yesterday almost entirely on his feet had clearly taken a heavy toll.

The ride back through Akiyama-mura territory was also very pleasant if not a bit too hot! Hiroshi and I parted from Michael who decided to take a right turn towards Aone and train back to Yokohama from Hon-Atsugi.

For the rest of the ride it was now just Hiroshi and I and we rode together at a strong, tailwind-aided pace until Otarumi…here Hiroshi begged me to continue by myself as he had no more energy left. Feeling real sorry for my friend I rode ahead and then decided to wait for him to arrive in front of his car parked near Takao JR Station. As I was waiting, Hiroshi called me; he was still midway his Otarumi climb and again implored me to move ahead. A little bit sad but immensely satisfied I rode the last 23 kilometers homewards all by myself.

Once home, I cleaned my bike, took a traditional Winter Solstice hot citron bath supposed to keep illnesses at bay for an entire year and for dinner, my wife had fixed me a plate of simmered pumpkin, a traditional Winter Solstice dish followed by Belgian waffles…not so traditional for this particular occasion, hence no photo…

zaterdag 20 december 2008


Morning training with VLAAMS Tamasai leaving Koremasa-bashi at 6:30 as usual....when I arrived at 6:25 there was nobody there! I took a picture of my Orbea and waited 10 minutes but no one showed up....much too cold I guess.

I took off and headed for the mountains not sure which side to go...Saitama or Yamanashi. I made up my mind just in front of Yotsuya-bashi and rode direction Takao planning to do Wada and Makime in that order for a short morning ride. Orbea was rolling very smooth and I was pleased with the more aggressive position I was able to take thanks to the shorter column cut by Iwasaki-san of Friend Shokai. I took a toilet break at Yuyake Koyake before riding along Jinba Kaido. Turning left at the first bridge though, my front wheel slipped about 20 cm and I needed a super reflex otherwise I would have crashed badly. I tried to continue but noticed there were still plenty of icy patches lurking here and there. It was still before 8:00...probably too early for the frost to thaw. My feet started to feel icy cold so I decided to call it a day! For the coming winter rides, I will make sure to leave home a little later!

Once home I took a shower and got the "papacharin" ready for a ride and date with my wife to Kichijoji. We passed by the famous little O-Vest cycle shop along Tohachi-doro and here I found a nice silver bar tape for my VLAAMS for when I'm in the mood to dress her up a bit on a rainy day. In Kichijoji, I also bought a nice pair of new "long ride" tyres recently launched on the market by Bridgestone....25cc for the back and 23cc for up front.