zondag 26 april 2009

Wet and dry Green Line

Rode the first leg of today's ride with "half-dayers" Yamazaki-san and Narashi-san of VLAAMS. For various reasons, these two guys have very strict mongens requiring them to be home well before noon. Like two weeks ago but less Saruto-san, we went to Yamabushi-toge in Saitama. Both guys are very tough hillclimbers and I knew I was in for trouble! The road surface was still very wet from all the rain yesterday and my Sirius got bespattered all over in no time. I was all by myself after Yamazaki-san turned back at the top of Yamabushi-toge and continued along the Green Line. In the midst of my climb up Karibasaka-toge, I got caught in a rather chilly rain shower which fortunately lasted only 10 minutes. Strong sunlight dried my cycling wear quickly. I carefully descended a wet and slippery Sadamine-toge and hasted towards Chichibu Mana envisioning myself eating freshly-baked pastries on the Kinshoji bench... Big was my disappointment to find out my bakery was closed .....as a matter of fact, it is only open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays! I took a rest at Kinshoji where I admired some beautiful flowers in bloom... wisteria, peonies and many more. Got home at 1:30 where beef stew and a chilled beer was waiting on the table.

zondag 19 april 2009

Kusatsu Futsukayoi Hillclimb

Spent a most relaxing weekend at Kusatsu with the highlight (= the deepest down in the career of this Belgian amateur cyclist) of course being the hillclimb race itself. On Saturday, I got joined by the TCC members at Ueno boarding the same train. From Uenohara Kusatsu Station, Sergey, Thomas and I cycled the rest of the trip to our respective destinations. I checked in at Kiwa Ryokan - the annual accommodation for Goro-san's PianoPiano team - and left for a brief inspection ride of the course after completing registration. The scenery was spectacular and it felt so much warmer than last year. Before dinner, I went with Sora-san, Thomas and Sergey strolling along the many manju shops to the biggest open-air rotenburo bath - a real mill pond - in the village where we all spent a most tranquil time watching the sun disappear behind the mountains. On our way back to the ryokan, we met Alan, the zealous organizer of the TCC's KT training rides this year and Naomi-san who would finish in fifth place! In the evening, I had a very merry dinner at Kiwa Ryokan and probably had a few glasses of beer and wine and sake too much! The kuroto shochu nightcap served by Sora-san at TCC's ryokan - the venue of my "nijikai" - was also one too much I'm afraid! I woke up with a terrible headache and clearly in lack of sleep...

This year, there were about 2,000 participants at Kusatsu, a new record I believe. The race was impeccably organized as usual. During the first 5km demonstration/parade ride around Yubatake, I felt the first symptoms of a mild hangover.... a dry mouth no matter how much I was drinking, nausea and a headache that wouldn't go! The real ordeal started once I passed the official starting line...the will was there but the entire body refused to cooperate. To make matters worse, the front Mavic wheel would rub my brake pads each time I tried to do some outer-ring danseuse...very frustrating. There is too much play on the front wheel's hub...maybe the wheel has gotten too old or maybe the spokes need re-tensioning... I don't know so I will have Nishitani-san of O-VEST take a look. I somehow managed to stay the course and ride the whole distance but almost had a bilious attack seconds after I crossed the finish line.

Next time, there won't be any alcohol anymore the evening before the race, that is for sure!

maandag 13 april 2009

New saddle for my Neocot...

"What should a long-distance saddle do? Something like this... allow unimpeded pedalling, be soft enough to cope with long hours in the saddle and be firm enough for one to exert full power to the pedals. It also has to be lightweight. A tall order, but not so tall that THE's Lux saddle can't manage it. It has Ti rails, a thin, flexible base and a real black leather cover with Louis Vuitton-esque embossed patterns. Very now, darling...."

zaterdag 11 april 2009

280km+ Chichibu - Enzan loop ! Green Line and Fruit Line in 1 single day !!

Another V練 ride leaving Koremasa bridge at 6:15 under splendid blue skies. We headed to Hanno over Itsukaichi and Ikusabata as far as Yamabushi-toge where I parted from Yamazaki-san who was waiting for me at the top. The ride so far had been at a fast tempo and I was happy to continue solo at a somewhat slower pace cresting Shomaru-toge, then Karibazaka-toge and the rest of the Green Line over the Shiraishi and Sadamine passes.

I still had not made up my mind. Saruto-san had half-jokingly suggested I should try to reach Enzan by riding through Chichibu but I felt somewhat insecure as I had not studied the route at all. I only remembered from the map that there are some very long tunnels in between Chichibu and Enzan.

Near Kinshoji tempel I went to "Chichibu Mana," my favorite bakery. I got there at 10:30 and they were already open. The charming lady explained about one curiously-shaped pastry that looked like a sweet potato and indeed had some sweet potato puree inside. The crust was sprinkled with cinnamon ....delicious. As usual, I devoured three pieces on my bench at the entrance of Kinshoji watching cherry blossoms flutter down. How very peaceful.

I reached Chichibu soon afterwards still undecided where to head to next. Road 140, the Saikaikaido 彩甲斐街道 was rather flattish and I continued at good pace direction Otaki 大滝温泉 passing some impressive viaducts where if I'm not wrong Michael and Ludwig of Positivo Espresso also rode recently. Once I passed Otaki, I made up my mind....now way I would cycle back to Chichibu ....on to Enzan!

At 1,036m elevation, the first longer tunnel appeared on Karisaka-michi 雁坂道...there were many of them and in between it was climbing in "final low" 39-27 most of the time...Then the monster of a tunnel appeared ...very innocent looking at the entrance but so terribly long! I checked and yes, this Karisaka Tunnel is Japan's longest "mountain tunnel" ...some 6,625 m long! Fortunately, there was very little traffic making one wonder if there was really a need to carve out a tunnel like this in the first place!

Somewhere in the middle of the tunnel appeared huge kanji....first SAITAMA and next YAMANASHI! All right...I was getting near to Enzan!

From this point on, it was mostly downhill. At the end of Karisaka-michi the toll gates appeared...there was a long tariff list but I didn't bother to check whether "bicycles" was on the list and escaped riding through some barricaded stretch.
{ just found out }
OFF-LIMITS !! Be careful though and warned that the Karisaka Tunnel is really off limits to pedestrians and cyclists .... 雁坂トンネルはトンネル内での事故を防ぐため、危険物積載車両のほか、歩行者まもちろん、自転車の通行も禁止されている.... (had I only known that beforehand .... too late, haha!!)

I found Enzan very easily and decided to get to Koshukaido via the "Fruit Line" undulating through peach and grape fields. I had my spaghetti at the exact same spot as last week and then proceeded along Koshukaido back homewards. This time the new Sasago Tunnel didn't scare me a bit ...piece of cake compared to Karisaka Tunnel!

I got home just a few minutes before sunset at 18:05...exactly 12 hours spent with my dear bike! The new cheapo Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels (14,000 yen a pair at Wiggle!) by the way were fantastic...they run very smooth and I love the ratchet noise! Their heaviness (close to 2 kg) can be compensated by putting on a 12-27 sprocket.

According to my Garmin, today I recorded a elevation gain of 7,804m. For those who want to try, in spite of the OFF-LIMIT warning, the entire map is here.

woensdag 8 april 2009


Cycling buddy Laurent is trying to raise as much money as possible for specific projects run by CARE International. CARE is a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty through education and training to encourage self-help, social inclusion and economic opportunity. CARE also delivers relief in emergencies. Laurent's company (Societe Generale) is partnering with CARE on 3 concrete projects in Peru, Mali and Bangladesh and Laurent recently decided to actively raise funds for these projects by entering a fund-raising 320km-long (!!) bike ride from Paris to London organized by SG in June!

Laurent will very likely be the only participant from Asia and he is counting on a lot of support from his friends in the region and elsewhere. In addition, Laurent plans to start an SG Asia team for future years!

You can help Laurent by contributing financially either directly to him, or via his website http://www.aiderdonner.com/laurentdepus You can also help by promoting this around yourself, to your friends, colleagues and family. Please help my cycling buddy reach as many people as possible. It takes only a few minutes and every contribution counts. The integrality of your donation will be delivered to CARE. Laurent and SG will cover all the expenses of the event itself.

The sky's the limit!

Thank you in advance for your support!