Berichten weergeven met het label TT. Alle berichten weergeven
Berichten weergeven met het label TT. Alle berichten weergeven

dinsdag 5 juli 2011

Duo Damme Done!

Back in Tokyo following a blitz visit to my motherland !

Last Saturday, I took advantage of my parent’s golden wedding anniversary to form an alliance with my brother and enter the much-anticipated fourth edition of the Duo Damme Classic Time Trial Race.

While a near full-member PEE team - joined by PE Japan Chapter David L. - was attacking monster hills including the Passo Tonale and Gaupenjoch on its second-last Transalp stage, I was time-trialing with my brother – ten years my junior – across the pancake-flat but splendid polder landscape of Damme nearby my parent’s home.

On Friday, the day following my arrival in Belgium, I went to fine-tune my brother’s Bianchi alu training bike and – not used to his high-tech torque gauge Allen wrench – managed to wreck both his stem and seat clamp bolts! Without getting too panicky, Hans and I rushed to the LBS and got a new stem; the seat clamp bolt however had lost its grip and turned out to be irremovable. Luckily, I could compensate by moving the saddle all the way forward and angling the saddle’s tip downward. A few moments later, we were making reconnaissance laps of the 11.79km long “parcours” which contained two short cobblestoned sections and a few sharp turns around the “maïs” corn fields and cow farm lands. It took a while for me to get used to the clip-on aerobars and find good form and balance and only during the third lap I started to feel a bit comfortable.

Our official starting time on Saturday was 14:58. Many amateur cyclists had come from far by car and were accompanied by family members. I was surprised by the number of female entrants – not seen in Japan. I was also very much impressed by the high level of organization, very efficient and effective – certainly not to be outclassed by the cycling events I have attended in Japan! Sponsors, spacy tents complete with beer bars, a huge police motorcade presence, road marshals at every turn and corner, Tacx Satori trainers freely available for warming-up and all kinds of attractions for kids, live broadcast of the Tour de France, Waxx Underwear Summer Party with DJ “Jerre”, BBQ and…cow dung mine fields!

My personal photographer showed up with her BF just in time before the start to help eternalize the rare brother act. As expected, Hans went for it right from the start and around the first corner, I was already trailing 10 meters behind! A gap of about 10 meters between me and my brother would open up many times until the finish line, meaning there was virtually no drafting advantage for me at all! Several times, Hans looked behind him and pointed to his back wheel angrily shouting “get right in over here!”… but my legs refused every time and my lungs felt as if they were about to burst. A week earlier, Hans had won a silver medal at a major solo time trial event and he certainly deserved a faster partner than the weakling I turned out to be. Nevertheless, we savored every single second of the race…crossing the finish line I felt like spitting blood – legs completely kaput.

The live race result display screen inside the tent showed Hans and I were in fourth place with an average speed a little above 41km/h. The final standings are still not known to me right now as we had to leave the venue to join other festivities taking place at my parent’s place. Next year, I would love to stay a bit longer so that I can attend the Waxx Underwear Summer Party!

the obligatory pre-race interview

posing with my personal photographer

about to be escorted by a dedicated police motorcycle

trying to relax
Brother turning bemused eyes on my “Japanese stretching routine”


Checking the standings

pain, pain, pain

Hans ten meters ahead approaching the finish

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, 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 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!

zaterdag 19 januari 2008


RdV at Koremasa Bridge with Jerome (NFCC), Adam (NFCC) and Nishibe-san at 8:30...everyone on time...not a small feat with today's freezing temperatures! According to the Japanese solar calendar, January 20 marks the beginning of the coldest 15-day long period of winter. A midwinter ride it turned out to be indeed. Like last week, there was a fairly strong and chilly headwind blowing from the northwest slowing us down far under 30km/h. Nishibe-san retired and left us at the Itsukaichi 7/11 and the 3 of us headed towards the Honjuku T-junction undecided which way to go as we had entered "twilight snow zone". I was intent to break my previous TT-record and as soon as we passed Honjuku, I began to give everything within my might. Once I passed the Uenohara Y-junction, roadside snow and ice on the road took increasingly frightful proportions. For some reason (the cold?) I just couldn't find the right cadence today and was shifting gears good for the legs! As soon as I drove into Tomin-no-Mori's parking lot, I stopped my stopwatch....1:04:10...darn! I had just failed to reach my under-1h goal. It has got to be the season....only way to defend myself. Wrong season for breaking records...yeah yeah! Tomin-no-Mori was completely deserted, just like when I got there the day after last fall's typhoon. Tried on one of those special "heat-tech" face masks (the kind that makes you appear like a bank robber - courtesy of my sweet little sister) for the this feels great...except my big nose felt like freezing off and so did my fingers....gloves being of very little avail. Heartbeat dropped down to 110 during the descent and this does not help to keep warm. I was careful not to gain too much speed in order to avoid slipping and slamming down the surface on those "Eisbahns" that were lurking around most shadowy curves. I reached Itsukaichi safely and it then occured to me that I had not crossed Jerome and Adam...they must have wisely turned to the left at the Uenohara Y-junction. Saw Michael who was cycling on the other side of Mutsumibashi-dori direction Itsukaichi...I bet he did the Jerome hill... Took a long 42C hot bath right after I reached home a little before this felt good! Can't wait for my next 大寒 ride!

zaterdag 22 december 2007



Today is quite a special day, it is the day when Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess came out of the cave - in which she had trapped herself - and brought sunlight back to the universe. As described in the Kojiki, she was lured out of her cave by Ame-no-Uzume, the voluptuous goddess of merry-making who was made to dance in front of the cave by 8 million Kami gods desperate to save the world from darkness and starvation. Ame-no-Uzume proceeded to expose her breasts and lifted her skirts as she danced on top of an upturned washtub much to the enjoyment of the 8 million gods watching the striptease. Curious about the laughter and joy going on outside, Amaterasu peeked out and asked the nearest god what the excitement was all about and he replied a new goddess had appeared. When Amaterasu asked where she was, he pointed towards a mirror. Amaterasu had never seen her self and when she caught her reflection, she stared at the radiance of her own form. She was so captivated she uttered “Omoshirioi!” 面白い meaning both “white face” and “fascinating”. Having thus lured her out of the cave, the gods convinced her to go back into the Celestial Plain and all life began to grow again and become strong in her light.

This suggestive episode is my favorite in Japanese mythology and somehow speaks more to my imagination than Christmas which originally also started as a celebration of rebirth following the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

On the shortest day of the year, what else makes more sense than a time trial of the Kazahari? CLX waxed and chain lubricated, I left the house at 8:30 under an overcast sky. After 2km, my covered ears caught the sound of my cell phone ringing in the back pocket…usually this means either flat tire/accident or last-minuteどたキャン and sure enough it was David to inform me that unfortunately we would not be riding together.

Reached the Honjuku 本宿 T-intersection at the head of a bunch of yellow HOSEI riders who had earlier tried to intimidate me as they overtook me in one fast train formation. 20-something young students riding for their university’s cycling club and trying to make a coward of a poor Belgian more than twice their age…come on! I felt I had to teach these young fellows a lesson about dignity and show them who is the real champ. Chain in outer ring, I gave chase – not easy if you are alone against a train of 9 riders! Sooner than I thought, I caught two of them yellow HOSEI riders who were panting for breath…they were clearly “aan het einde van hun bobijntje” as they say in Flemish! The rest of the HOSEI troupe turned out to be a piece of cake – devoured in no time! That felt so good!! I stopped at the T-junction to set my chronometer for the TT, the big event of the day and saw the yellow canaries - still panting and puffing - escape in the other direction (towards Kanoto).

Today’s TT is No. 4 in the “Togebaka Series,” the brainchild of Michael who started this initiative with the aim of adding some extra excitement to our weekly mountain rides. My heart was still pounding heavily from the effort to shake off the HOSEI youngsters but breathing gradually became easier during the first half of the climb. The undulating motion of the first half is what I do and like best. Had to slow down twice for road construction works in progress but each time the compassionate traffic control guys let me continue even though the light was on red! There was hardly any traffic and I only saw one motorbike.

My objective was to reach the top under 1 hour…almost made it! Next time, I must shave off more than two minutes…shouldn’t be a problem with a little help from my friends and good competition around. Let's say I left some energy in reserve today.
Once home, it took more than 15 minutes to get rid of that stinging sensation in my cold feet and warm them up. It is a happy feeling to know that starting tomorrow the days are growing longer again…longer rides!