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

woensdag 28 december 2011

In retrospect

2011 was a pretty good cycling year for me with plenty of smaller and bigger “ups and downs” both literally and figuratively.

In a figurative way, there were 3 "major" downs: seeing my old VLAAMS asaren (V練) team disband immediately following the March 11 disaster, losing my great training buddy and daredevil adventurer Ludwig von Rindomeister (a.k.a. Manfred von Holstein, his real name) due to a serious but not life-threatening lower back problem* and suffering myself from a cycling-induced medial collateral ligament (MCL) ailment (because of excessive climbing in the saddle).

In terms of literally “ups,” I was very fortunate to scale new heights (Crystal and Venus lines, Hikarigahara-kogen and many more ridges) and crest new toges (Nomugi, Suzuran, Sakai, Mugikusa, etc.) thanks to Ludwig’s superb planning and guiding skills. Particularly memorable were our multi-day mid-summer exploits such as the two-day Karuizawa-Hakuba-Ueda adventure which Ludwig had purposely mapped out with meandering detours to make sure we would climb every single mountain pass and ride on every single rindo en route to our final destination…sometimes that meant cycling on gravel and muddy forest roads in the middle of the wilderness for extended lengths! As a “dream combi,” Ludwig and I easily managed to keep a great “fast & steady” pace on each of these adventures. On a typical “toge-goe” 峠越えride, I was able to get my breathing back under control while waiting at the top (WATT) while Ludwig was able to do some back stretching (quite a bit!) while patiently waiting for me to reach the bottom.

My only “race” this year - the classic TOITO - went fine, finishing 5th in age group (11th overall) in under 10 hours (9:45) more than one hour slower than Andy W. of Niigata. I enjoyed riding with (mostly behind) Andy and his teammate during the first one-and-half laps of the ride. Andy will be aiming to finish under 8:30 next year! Not sure yet if I will be participating again next year now that my VLAAMS team has disbanded. If I can find a team willing to take me on board, I would like to finish under 9:30 and 1st in age group (yeah…moving up to “50+” !!)

In terms of total distance covered (not necessarily an indication of athletic prowess - plenty of junk miles !!), I have been doing better than last year’s 15,272km and am projected to reach around 16,200km by year-end. The 18,000km target set at the beginning of this year turned out to be an elusive one after I began underperforming due to a knee problem (torn/overstretched MCL in left knee about to become chronic) from mid-September on. I think I have by now completely recuperated from this ailment and intend to focus on LSD training this winter using my kotei as well to regain stamina and build up muscle strength. I also want to improve my climbing skills and try to find a better “seated vs. danseuse” balance so as to avoid future knee problems.

Looking forward to another year of happy and accident & injury-free cycling!

* A good sign for 2012…LvR in the meantime underwent a successful operation in Germany considerably reducing his back pain with excellent prospects that the pain will disappear…all right!

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!

zaterdag 8 januari 2011

To Hakone and back

Met Ludwig and saw Jerome speed by on the Tamasai right at Koremasa @ 6:15 precisely. Those 2 daredevils were on their way to Karuizawa! Too scary for a chicken boy like me so I joined my Vlaams buddies Saruto-san and Ando-san en route to Odawara and then continued solo to Hakone. I was very near Lake Ashi but decided to double back after seeing snow and ice and my Garmin indicating temperatures had dropped below freezing point again...the descent toward Odawara was a bit scary. Before turning home, I dropped by O-Vest and had my BB (to ceramic bearings Token) and chain (to the latest Dura-Ace) changed. My legs felt incredibly strong today...a very weird feeling indeed !

Today's route: here
Today's BGM: Mozart Flute Quartet in D-dur, KV Anhang 285, Allegro Quartet with Aurele Nicolet (op de dwarsfluit natuurlijk)
Today's inspitation: Four Roses Bourbon met HOSHI-IMO!! 絶妙 (それしかない)

zondag 2 januari 2011


First ride of the year of course had to be in the company of the one & only VLAAMS team!
Getting out of a warm bed at 5:30 was difficult but two cups of Kilimanjaro and two toasted English muffins with speculoos paste helped !
Only one toilet stop on our way to Enoshima...about to burst !
Saruto-san - by now the "unofficial VLAAMS Leader" - treated all members who braved this morning's cold to fresh and still warm Enoshima manjus...gochisousama!
Great atmosphere at Enoshima...
Left my VLAAMS buddies behind to cycle to the tip of Miura-hanto
Reached Misaki around noon time I should bring along a small rucksack
seen from Enoshima this morning

zaterdag 2 oktober 2010

Okinawa training

The VLAAMS boys are getting ready for the big annual Okinawa event coming up this November. Ogawa-san had posted on the blog he wanted to do a long ride by way of training. I was able to persuade him to ride all the way to Gunma instead of yet another run-of-the-mill route like Matsuhime. His friend and mate from his other team called "Fitte," FY-san decided to join the Gunma ride and we continued the three of us following an earlier start than usual together with the VLAAMS boys.

As always, we were making good pace - a little bit too fast though in the few residential areas we pass through and I got rightly reprimanded by Nagashi-san for accelerating and pulling too hard up front - I admit these narrow residential streets can be very treacherous.

We skipped the usual conbini stop following Umechan and headed straight to Yamabushi-toge. On the Ikusabata O-hashi bridge while waiting at the traffic lights, I caught stinkbugs in the act of copulation...well, it sure looked that way.

Ogawa-san was not in his usual strong wonder, he had ridden more than 180km just yesterday! As we approached Chichibu, Ogawa-san asked for a conbini-stop which we took as we rode direction Otaki just before taking the right turn. I couldn't believe my eyes...Ogawa-san began eating a big hot meal and we were only 9 in the morning! This guy was eating like a horse...must have been completely famished. I thought it was rather funny. I have noticed many times how young riders tend to burn a lot of gas...the younger the more! Fortunately, I am getting a little more mileage...perhaps this comes with age, I wouldn't know.

FY-san was really strong on Tsuchisaka-toge and got to the tunnel first. We rode through Mamba and had a quick early (it was still only 11) lunch at the Mamba "Michi-no-Eki" two mates took huge servings whereas I was only hungry for a small plate of soba noodles.

We didn't want to waste too much time as Ogawa-san had a 4 'o clock mongen and crested Shigasaka-toge. Once all 3 of us were assembled on top, we sped down to Chichibu having agreed to wait for each other "at a conbini in town".... Halfway I lost all contact with my buddies who seemed to be far behind...puncture or just "chigireta"? Once in Chichibu, I occured to me that there are quite many convenience stores...which one to stop and wait? I went to the Sankus conbini located right after passing through Chichibu and waited for some while...

In the end, I decided to complete today's Gunma loop solo and rode the last stretch back home along a crowded Tamasai at a cautious pace. Arrived home at 4:15....hope Ogawa-san was able to find a short-cut and meet his mongen! Here's today's route.

zaterdag 11 september 2010


Gunma has got me in its spell. For the third time in a row, I crossed Saitama and rode a little bit in its neighboring prefecture. Today - after joining the weekly VLAAMS asaren as far as Itsukaichi - I entered Gunma via lovely "prefectural road" 県道71...which meanders all the way up to Tsuchisaka-toge 土坂峠.

Gunma is on the other side of the tunnel - just like with R299 Shigasaka-toge tunnel. R71 ends in Kanna-machi, also known by the more exotic-sounding (old) name of Mamba (Manba). I really like the atmosphere of this little peer inside these mostly empty shops and you see these little "nekoze-hunchy" old ladies waiting inside for many a day you wonder...

On the other side of the road, I saw some cold water freely flowing from a stainless steel container...all right!, time to tank and I filled up my two bottles. Another stoop-shouldered elderly lady came out just as I was about to take off. "自転車じゃ暑いでしょう!"she said. "With all these moushoubis this year, I've gotten used to it" I replied. "By the way, that water is drinkable, right?"...NO!!! never drink this water...this is our otori tank! But wait, I'll get you some tasty cold water..." Thank you old lady! I was just about to carry with me two bottles of ayu sweetfish wastewater...haha! We had a good laugh. 「死にはしないよ。大丈夫よ!」 Her shop specializes in "sewing machines and fishing tackle," hence the otori (sweetfish to which fishermen attach hooks to then let them swim in the territory of natural ayu sweetfish. When the natural one spots the (fake) intruder, it will try to push out the outsider and end up getting hooked as contact is made...).

I rode back via R299 - just like last week. Instead of going straight home, I paid a visit to O-Vest. That plastic part attached under the bottom bracket to guide the wires had split in two and one wire was rubbing against the steel. Tencho had a spare part and fixed + fine-tuned my Neocot in no time.

This evening I was sipping on some Tennessee Whiskey - a double one on the rocks...I felt in great shape today climbing all those passes. Weight is now back to 58kg...4 kilograms less than my average "winter weight". I can feel the difference.

Oh...the route, almost forgot.

zaterdag 10 juli 2010


Played guide today for VLAAMS buddy Toriu-san and his colleague who decided to cycle to Hakone for a get-together and stay at their company's "hoyoujo" sanatarium. Although it was supposed to rain, the weather forecast got completely reversed and when I left home at 5:45 the air felt very light and crisp - not the heavy and sultry tsuyu air. Fuji-san was clearly visible from Koremasa-bashi and all the way to Odawara. After I pointed Toriu-san in the right direction, I took off solo. Road 138 was even more terrible than last time....huge traffic snarls and very little or no room to pass the cars on the left. This time, there were not only those dangerous tourist buses but also all kinds of military vehicles. Fortunately, the last stretch leading up Kagozaka-toge is relatively quiet and nice. The heat was intense and made me devour three garigarikuns en route. Met an athletically-muscled rider at the fountain near the end of Doshimichi and we met again a little later on Onekan. This chap's english was very fluent and we had a nice conversation. Reached the front of our home before 16:00 at exactly the same time as my wife who had gone out grocery shopping. 400km in 2 days with plenty of climbing...I think tomorrow will be a rest day. Was happy with the flashy yellow looks of the new "Contador Keos".

zondag 27 juni 2010

Utsukushigahara 2010 ... no rain check !

Spent more time cleaning my Super Six today than completing the 2010 Tour de Utsukushigahara. It rained from start to finish but as soon as the race was over, the sun appeared.

Had a great time staying at the same ryokan as previous years. Like every year, I attended the "race queen" photo shoot (I kind of liked the Showa-esque "motepuyo" queen standing on my right side) yesterday and then did my little reconnaissance cycling up and down Lake Misuzu - once alone and once with a VLAAMS team mate. I was glad I had changed the tires back to normal 23c ones. The first part of "Utsukushigahara Skyline" up to the lake is the steepest and the rain had made it extra slippery.

The race this morning went better than I had expected and I managed to shave more than 4 minutes off last year's time in spite of the slippery and misty conditions. Near the top, visibility was at times less than 10 meters - precisely were the downhill section is... Curious to see my official time and the rankings!

Two nice videos shot by a VLAAMS buddy here: "start & gekisaka" & "misty downhill & finish".

zaterdag 12 juni 2010

Mighty Five-peak Loop

With the rainy season misery about to dawn, I took advantage of splendid weather conditions - not too hot, not too windy - for another 250km ride. The VLAAMS ride plan for this morning was to attack Kazahari-rindo; however, there was very little enthusiasm with ace Yamazaki-san even proclaiming he hates mushrooms (read: "Kinoko Center"; to quote Yamazaki-san: " キノコキライ°・(ノД`)・°・ ")! Only good old helper ("domistique") Ichiro followed me in the end. I really like the gently undulating hills leading to the T-junction before the more serious climbing begins. The Super Six recently shed some more weight and I'm starting to get the knack again of fast rotations on the compact crank. At the top, Ichiro decided he'd done enough climbing for the day already and rode back. The rest of the day was solo cresting Imagawa-toge (first time this year!) followed by Yanagisawa. Between Tabayamamura and Yanagisawa I was followed by a chap wearing the Canadian national team jersey but I did not allow him to get any closer than 500 meters. Kamihikawa-toge (1,596m) is now my absolute No.1 favorite mountain road for several reasons...little traffic, beautiful scenery competition! Strangely, the only cyclists I encounter on this pass are of the randonneur-type. I had a "hiyashimen" lunch at the 7/11 on Koshukaido not far from where Rd 218 hits Koshu-kaido. The mountain roads were filled with high-pitched noise from cicadas; they must be of a different kind than the aburazemi that appear in more urban areas much later following the rainy season. I was all by myself again climbing Sasago-toge. The bottom bracket of the Super Six began to make a short dry sound with every pedal stroke...needs to be looked at. I skipped Suzugane-toge today and followed Koshu-kaido all the way to Chigira Elementary School from where I descended for a "Hiroshi Twist" and visit to the Columbian drug lord. Elevation gain today was 4,182m - probably a bit more though as my Garmin 500 froze again mid-ride and it took me a while to find out. Tomorrow, I will take it easy...rain predicted late afternoon - maybe I should visit Nishitani-san and ask him to check the bottom bracket.

Kazahari-rindo -> Imagawa-toge -> Yanagisawa-toge -> Kamihikawa-toge -> Sasago-toge