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Berichten weergeven met het label BEACH. Alle berichten weergeven

zondag 22 mei 2011

The 40th Classic 300km Endurance Race

Completed the Tokyo-Itoigawa Classic Endurance Race under 10 hours (9 hours and 43 minutes) for the fourth consecutive year (no podium though)!
Time: 9:43:09
Average: 30.00 km/h
Overall: 11th (out of 359)
Age Group: 5th (out of 136)

Stronger than usual competition for me this year meant that I had to ride more tactically instead of relying on brute force. I was very lucky to be able to start in the last group with Andy W. and his Jonnobi Lieutenant. Ludwig had also shown up at this very early hour in front of Takaosan-guchi to encourage me and give some last-minute "moral support".

Otarumi-toge was scaled before I realized it. I was riding mostly behind Andy and his teammate and right behind me were my rivals from Nalsima, Paris-Brest and a couple other teams, familiar faces from past years. My legs felt extremely fresh and the bike was performing at 100%. Riding behind Andy, I was surprised to see him eat at regular intervals still so early into the ride. Our group reached the Sasago Tunnel almost at the same time - a bit stretched out but I managed to hang on to the top (last year, I could only stay with Andy until Uenohara).

Out of tunnel, my favorite largely-downhill section to Nirasaski came up and the group let me have my little pleasure. I enjoyed a brief escape until Fuefuki where I was hoping to run into Positivo Espresso Super Stamina Champ Jerome...nowhere in sight though (had decided to stay in bed). We approached the Nirasaki checkpoint at Marunoya in one group but some guys started to sprint for "bonus points" (the official ride certificate has the standings/split times for each distance between the checkpoints). One「 けつの穴の小さいなるしまフレンド A」 rider whom I had "beaten in the sprint," pushed in front of me as I was patiently waiting to hand over my time card...やれやれ oh well...this "race" is about having fun after all!

It was slowly and painfully getting clear to me that I would no longer be able to stay in the slipstream of Andy and his mate. As soon as the Fujimi-toge grade started to pick up, I had to let go and tried to find my own rhythm. I joined and got joined by several smaller groups - one of them consisting of 3 very young Tokai Univ. riders...good climbers but not much lasting power. At the next Shiojiri checkpoint, I ran into YellowGiant Travis and my TCC buddies for the first time.

Travis took a headstart and I never managed to completely catch up with him until the next and final "A-COOP" checkpoint at Hakuba. Just before reaching this checkpoint, I began to suffer my first leg cramps....they would move from one leg to another and from one muscle group to another each time I tried to push or pull the pedals harder. These cramps never completely disappeared except inside the tunnels...perhaps thanks to the lower temperatures and the enormous length of these tunnels having fanned the heat out of my legs?

Just as I got out of the last tunnel and starting to get this victorious feeling, Travis flew past me at a supersonic speed pulling two riders (two of my closest rivals!!) behind him. Travis, always the gentleman, was so kind as to slow down to allow me to jump on the bandwagon (First Class Service!) which I did. After a while, the pace went up again and the painful cramps reappeared. I gave up chasing the three and finished one minute behind my 2 close rivals (finishing 5th in my age group - could have been 3rd otherwise if...)

I spent a great evening meeting David L. and other Positivo Espresso/TCC buddies at Hotel Itoigawa but had to wait quite a while before all my own BEACH team members (five in all) arrived. Like previous years, we celebrated at the downtown yakiniku place - this time unfortunately without Saruto-san.

This morning, it was raining very hard in Itoigawa and Ichiro-san and I quickly abandoned the idea of cycling back to Tokyo. Instead, we all went to the usual little restaurant at 7 am and feasted on all kinds of dishes and delicious "gengyo" fish.

Already looking forward to next year's TOITO!

zondag 23 mei 2010

TOITO camaraderie

Got home at 14:30 today…2 hours later than planned due to ferocious winds having played havoc with the Shinkansen between Itoigawa and Echigo Yuzawa…

Spent a wonderful time on and off the road meeting many people and buddies from the Positivo Espresso, Vlaams and Beach teams. At the Takaozan starting point, I met Andy W. and O-Vest Tencho who both had the same starting time as me…I also greeted last year’s fluorescent green guy. A good five minutes before 6:00, Ludwig - my first voluntary domestique of the day – arrived. He was still suffering from some pain in the chest and was clearly not in his best form. Still, last year's JCRC Class D champ courageously took the lead from the start, setting a high tempo for last starters group of the day and staying in front almost to the top of Odarumi. I cleared this first hill of the day proudly finding myself in the company of Andy W. & Tencho…both guys would later turn out to be the No.1 and No.2 TOITO finishers respectively!!

With the champion's advice fresh in mind, I descended cautiously and caught up again with Andy & Tencho near the bottom. For a while as far as Uenohara, I took my turns riding up front. I lost sight of both guys and three more with them around Shiotsu after crossing Katsuragawa…their pace kept accelerating and I tried to avoid running out of breath. After a while, the champ showed up again with in his wake some 5 or 6 “fearsome” riders – one looking very “veteran” in his Paris-Brest-Paris Audax jersey. Immediately, two of them started getting provocative and noisy shouting “rote – rote – rote!!” as if that was the only word (to rotate, rotation) they knew! I certainly did not appreciate their paternalistic antics and tried to ignore them as much as I could by “negotiating the traffic lights”. This went on some 4, 5 times and every time they would catch up with me again. A by then very much embarrassed Ludwig (sorry mate!) convinced me to bear the unpleasant company and patiently wait together at the traffic lights so as to "preserve energy". Perhaps more than physically, Ludwig turned out to be an assistant in psychological combat.

At the first Sasago checkpoint, VLAAMS buddy Toriu had been patiently awaiting my arrival and helped me get my card stamped and my bottle filled up. Toriu was on his V練 and ready to ride back home. Thanks Toriu for the heartwarming support!!

The distance between Sasago and Nirasaki has been my fastest stretch every year and this year was no different…I finally managed to break away from the noisy bunch and I’m sure I would have stayed in front of them until the finish if only….

As I approached the Nirasaki checkpoint around 9:05, I spotted Hiroshi in his Positivo Espresso best holding a camera…here was my second, major domestique of the day!! Hiroshi had kindly offered to assist me and I was free to name any point along the ride for him to jump in. Hiroshi drove by car all the way from Kawasaki to Nirasaki to help me out on the stretch I hate most of all…Fujimi-toge! The new Super Six helped me pick up a nice pace but it was in the first place Hiroshi who expertly pulled me in his wake as we passed many, many tens of riders among them even some bright orange PE jerseys! I didn’t recognize their faces and little did I know that I would have to pass them a second time…

Hiroshi did an incredible job, sometimes slowing down in order to stay within my visual range…man, we were going fast! Drafting behind Hiroshi gave me plenty of time to slowly recharge my batteries for the second half of the ride…this all felt so great until….

Always behind Hiroshi, we were approaching Lake Suwa…we were following a group of four or so riders about 500 meters ahead of us, one guy in a yellow jersey and red bibshorts. Suddenly, there was this eerie déjà-vu as we crossed a railroad which was not supposed to be on today’s course... I then had a flashback of a ride I did with David L. four years ago when both of us did an unofficial TOITO and ended up on the wrong side of Lake Suwa….Oh no, major disillusion!! Double-back!

We rode back as fast as we could unsure if we would ever find the right turn-off and asking directions here and there…how frustrating…more and more time getting lost! Finally we spotted a long train of TOITO riders. I was very much agitated by then and in that moment of complete discomposure; I rode through somebody’s backyard cutting a corner to reach the right Tsuetsuki-kaido 杖突街道(R16)road again!

Hiroshi followed and once on the road he immediately took over the lead again. We passed many familiar jerseys for a second time, including the two newcomers from Positivo Espresso. Climbing up Shiojiri-toge, I slowed down and started falling behind but Hiroshi tactfully adjusted the pace and at the top produced his camera for a farewell photo! How can I ever thank you Hiroshi ??

Riding through Matsumoto and beyond, I was accompanied by Tosa-san (a.k.a. "103"), a very nice gentleman and member of the O-Vest Team. Last year – we were also riding together in almost the same part of the route. We took turns and the pace was quite brisk. Traffic got terrible though with many ill-mannered and even evil drivers with Matsumoto number plates. Saw two accidents involving TOITO riders – including one lady who was brutally hit in the side by a car abruptly turning left. We stayed with the lady for a while until somebody called an ambulance and until she told us she felt OK and her team’s support car was on its way.

With the Itoigawa signboards now overhead, I felt very much encouraged again and had almost forgotten the Nakagawara Junction of Doom. In previous years, I have had to cope with severe cramps on the last 50 or so kilometers….not so this year! I was solo all the way from the first tunnel to the Hotel Itoigawa where I proudly handed over my time card. Just learned from James M. that I finished 23rd overall 19 seconds faster than him! All right! James had his share of misfortune when some bird (a swallow?) hit his front wheel in full descent causing a bloody mess and a tire burst! I’m sure James M must have lost quite a bit of precious time too!

Spent a peaceful evening in Itoigawa, meeting all my friends (even Jerome was there!) at Hotel Itoigawa. The Beach/Vlaams team got together for their annual “yakiniku uchiage” closing dinner in downtown Itoigawa!

This morning at 7 'o clock, all five of us went to eat "gengyo," a very special annual TOITO treat!