maandag 31 december 2007


Some of the races I would like to do in 2008...

April   Tour de Kusatsu  ツール・ド・草津  (Gunma Pref.)

April  Bike Navi Grand Prix Omotefuji Jitensha Tozan Kyoso Taikai  バイクナビ・グランプリ表富士自転車登山競争大会 (Shizuoka Pref.)

May Hillclimb in Ontake  ヒルクライム・イン・おんたけ (Nagano Pref.)

May   Tokyo-Itoigawa 291km Fast Run  東京~糸魚川ファストラン

June   Mt. Fuji Hillclimb Mt.富士ヒルクライム (Yamanashi Pref.)

June 28/29  Tour de Utsukushigahara  ツール・ド・美ヶ原  (Nagano Pref.)

June   Tsugaike Cycle (栂池) つがいけサイクル  (Nagano Pref.)

July Hillclimb Oodaigahara  ヒルクライム大台ヶ原  (Nara Pref.)

July   Yashima Cup Mt. Chokai Bicycle Classic  矢島カップMt.鳥海バイシクルクラシック  (Akita Pref.)

August  Mountain Cycling in Norikura  全日本マウンテンサイクリングin乗鞍 (Nagano Pref.)
September   Urabandai Sky Valley Hillclimb  裏磐梯スカイバレーヒルクライム大会  (Fukushima Pref.)

October   Fuji International Hillclimb Cycle Road Race  富士国際ヒルクライム サイクルルロードレース (Shizuoka Pref.)

October  Nachikatsuura Kumano Kodo Hillclimb  那智勝浦町 熊野古道ヒルクライム (Wakayama Pref.)

woensdag 26 december 2007

Otarumi Record...more mental strategies (tricks)

Slept late today...the bed was too warm to get out. Had no plans to go riding but the sky was so inviting I got into my cycling wear and left the house at 11:00 for a 4 hour ride over Otarumi and around Sagamiko.

It felt pretty cold but I noticed no icing on the road even higher up in the mountains. Just for the heck of it, I decided to challenge the Otarumi Togebaka record of the Positivo Espresso Riders Blog after I drank my magic garlic potion at the Takao 7/11.

Arteries wide open thanks to the "anti-restenosis effect" of concentrated garlic flowing through them and pumping oxygen to the muscles (this is the image I put into my mind), I was going with ease breathing almost normally with heart beat under control. I like to think of the brain as having a type of muscle memory that can be re-shaped with training and repetition. When I took up cycling again three years ago, I thought to myself and kept telling everybody that I am not a climber and would never be a great climber no matter how hard I trained. In reality I was defeating myself mentally before I even reached the foot of the mountain. Negative self-believes like this get ingrained into the subconscious and the trick is to get rid of them! I try to do this by putting a happy smile on my face while I am climbing and this really tricks my brain into thinking that I'm not in as much pain.

Another trick I've been successfully using this year is to try to distort my view in the direction opposite from the climb's inclination. To do this, I simply look straight down at the road surface 2 meters ahead of me. From this angle, it appears to my brain that I am riding on a flat road!

I was stopped once for about 25 seconds for road works going on but pushed on even harder as soon as I was let through again....result 18:30, a new record. Under 18 min should be no problem a next time perhaps when the road is free from construction works.

Weather permitting, I plan to do the same ride once more before the year is out.

Tried another "winter trick" to keep the feet warm. Goro of Team NFCC told me about these inexpensive socks made of neoprene worn by construction workers inside their boots. Instead of wearing them inside, you simply pull them over your cycling shoes and cut an opening freeing the cleats! Very effective as I found out today and 5,000 yen saved!

maandag 24 december 2007

Riding on the day before Christmas

Today is a Monday makeup holiday to substitute the Emperor's birthday yesterday. Michael had invited me for a short ride last evening and although I had different plans (basically sleeping long) I was happy to have an excuse for waking up a bit early. It did not feel as cold as my previous ride and the sky was very clear commanding a superb view of the Yamanashi and Okutama mountains and beyond. Our plan was to do a short but powerful ride over a hill bordering on Ome city called Ume-ga-Tani Toge (also named Jerome Toge owing to the striking resemblance to one of our buddies' belly) and enter No.5 on the Positivo Espresso Togebaka list which I'm sure will keep growing next year! The ride lasted only a little over 3 hours but felt real good. On purpose, I was riding the first flat part on my inner chainring cranking up the cadence between 100 and 120.

Christmas Eve....Brussels sprouts, carrots, roasted chicken, champagne, pistache ice-cream...for the latter, I eat annindoufu 杏仁豆腐 icecream...tastes almost like pistache but without the nice pistache green color. For some reason, I cannot find real pistache ice cream in this country (some pretend to be but (1) they taste like pistachio nuts (2) the color is brownish)...Sandeman Porto, red wine from Hungary...

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!

zondag 16 december 2007

Healthy Lifestyle

excerpt from today's THE TIMES newspaper:

...studies have shown that regular cyclists typically enjoy a level of fitness equivalent to someone ten years younger, and those cycling regularly beyond their mid-thirties add two years to their life expectancy...

zaterdag 15 december 2007

Post-bonenkai malaise

8:30 @ Sekidobashi…Goro, Jerome, Michael assembled almost all in time (Thierry had left a cute & thoughtful message on my mobile wishing us a pleasant ride…last-minute Xmas shopping before the homecoming season…) We quickly decided on the route of the day and gone we were. The air felt cold but not bone-chilling yet, perfect for a high-paced ride I thought as I put our train into motion.

Michael was visibly not in his usual element…his car had gotten towed away by the police at 2 a.m. after a long bonenkai party. And then with barely any sleep as Michael mounted his old horse, his rear wheel had exploded! When I told him a week before that the poor animal was running on its last legs, I knew what I was saying! Yes, I’m afraid mercy killing is the only answer Michael! We all arrived safely at the Takao 7/11 and as we were about to do a mini time trial of the Otarumi toge, Michael discovered a loose spoke on his back wheel…more malaise to come! Anyways we all completed the Otarumi TT with Goro as the undisputed champion. We bid Michael farewell after the descent of the Otarumi and the three of us proceeded to circle around Sagamiko towards Fujino.

Jerome clearly still had the Kyoto Mountain Marathon (30km running up Hieizan, Daimonji and other hills…crazy!) in his legs and fell behind. Goro & I were so fired up we simply could not leave the engines in idling mode and so we parted with Jerome. The ascent through the two Hinohara golf courses (this area is also known as Yuzurihara village 棡原) all the way to the Kobu tunnel was very smooth and quite fast and alternating sitting and danseuse on the FKC was such a delight. Yuzurihara is the village where people allegedly live so long and yet look so young thanks to a healing molecule called hyaluronic acid - in what is also known as the "Yuzurihara phenomenon". Hocus-pocus??

The ride was even more comfortable thanks to the new “Selle Italia” (Slr, titanium tube, 135gr). Saddles are a gambling affair…one is never sure if a saddle will fit unless you actually ride on it. This time I consider myself very lucky; this saddle is the best I’ve ever had. On the way home Goro rode with me through Fuchu and we left each other at the crossing 200m away from my home.
Thanks & otsukaresama everyone!

Come to think of it…all four of us will be riding for the same NFCC Team next year. I'm looking forward to continuing this type of “sorties montagnes” next year, of course interspersed with the more relaxed but not less ambitious Positivo Espresso rides!

zondag 9 december 2007

Suzugane (727m) & Hinazuru (664m) Touges Revisited

Left Sekido with Michael at 8:30 as planned after we agreed to give a shot at Hinazuru which would be a 200k trip or perhaps a bit more for Michael. For Michael this would be his first serious ride after his Saiko-Catapult-Accident. We reached Saruhashi at a moderately fast pace interupted only once after Michael suffered a puncture. After a welcome snack at 7/11 we turned right and followed R509. To make sure Michael was not going to give up, I kept telling him the road would be one easy downhill back to Sagamiko and all we had to do was to conquer one more small hill worked. I admit the road looks a lot flatter on the map than in reality but it is such a beautiful mountain road and the weather was perfect.

Just when I believed I had succeeded in luring Michael to the top in one-go, it was unanimously agreed to do a brief photo session first (read: catch some breath). We then climbed up another 50 more meters or so in elevation and arrived at the summit of Suzugane 鈴ヶ音峠 ("The Sound of the Little Bell" Ridge)...the darn hill has got to have a name! Took a better look at the signboard explaining we crossed an area called "Onchourin" 恩腸林 which at some 158,000 hectares constitutes 35% of Yamanashi Pref. The first character in the name stands for gratitude or indebtedness...apparently this wooded area was a gift to the people from the late Emperor Meiji back in 1911. Less than 10 minutes later we reached R35 and from here it was supposed to be one long rewarding slide all the way to the lake...alas, a lot more climbing was to be done before we reached Hinazuru Pass and got through Shin-Hinazuru Tunnel! YES...I lied...forgive me Michael! Learned lesson of the day: "no matter how fast and powerfully you ride, you can do better if only you remove the mind and for this, a little lie can do the trick!"

Our search for a place were they sell hoshigaki as we were riding through the picturesque valleys of Akiyamamura turned out to be literally fruitless. Once we crossed the bridge over the Katsuragawa river, R35 took us to Hinoharamura were we hit the familiar R20. Michael stayed in my wheel all to the top of Otarumi so much that I was forcing myself to apply the heso technique! Parted with Michael at the Takao 7/11 where Michael had some business left to finish. Once home, I cleaned the Colnago and then ate like a horse...stew with brussels sprouts, maitake, carrots over brown rice!

zaterdag 8 december 2007

Enlarging the nawabari further southwards

鈴ヶ音峠 & 雛鶴峠
Tried a new route today to enlarge the cycling territory a bit and explore some attractive-looking roads running almost parallel to R20 on the south.

I cycled up to Saruhashi via R20 and set a new personal record (27.4k/h) at the point to turn right towards Matsuhime. Today I turned left instead a bit further down R20 but not as far as
Saruhashi Station and followed R509 southwards direction Tsuru, went around "British Garden" golf course and then followed the R35 stretch along the Otabigawa and Akiyamagawa rivers thru the "Shin-Hinazuru" tunnel. R509 was the best - very similar to the road leading to Sasago-touge which happens to be on the same side of R20.

I then proceeded along R35 - a nicely paved road going mostly downhill through Akiyamamura with very little traffic. Going northwards again towards Uenohara I crossed the wide Katsuragawa river and had a quick snack at the first convenience store - I was starving and must have been close to a "hunger knock" On my way home, I stopped at Y's and got myself a new pair of inner tubes (Panaracer R'Air) and tyres (Michelin Krylion Carbon 20C in front and normal 23C for the back wheel).

zondag 2 december 2007

NFCC Annual General Meeting

Last evening Team NFCC held its very first Annual General Meeting followed by an off-season but nevertheless very tasty BBQ party at a prestigious venue graciously put to our disposal by one of our ace riders. Our president did a fine job explaining the goals and future direction of Team NFCC. Thanks to Stephan's tireless groundwork, our team is poised to enjoy the back-up support from a formidable sponsor – almost too impressive for a humble grassroots team like NFCC. The team will have to train hard and capture enough podium places in order to live up the expectations of our sponsor! I enjoyed the spirit of comradeship among the existing members and was happy to meet some of the new people who might join from next season. Some of them are experienced riders with an awesome track record established in the BR-1~3 rankings and will undoubtedly form the cornerstones of the team’s growth and future success.

Got home late in the evening and half asleep and with a runny nose, I prepared the bike for this morning’s “sortie montagne” training session with Jerome and David L. from Positivo Espresso…only a short ride along some hilly countryroads. I was feeling sick when I left the house and had been coughing in bed during the night so at the usual Takao 7/11 break I decided to treat myself to some special 200-yen garlic stamina drink and wow it helped! I felt like Ghislain L. with his double portion injected!

On our way back, we met the Vélosophe and Michael on his battered bike which, since the “Jan-Ulrich Saiko Catapult” accident, seemed even more dilapidated than it has ever been before. I really admire Michael's philosophy (which has nothing to do with stinginess) though…sometimes old horses pull the best but this one is clearly running on its last legs!

I burnt nearly 3000 Kcals on my short ride this morning so I'm enjoying lots of ice cream and beer! This evening I will feast on the brie cheese left-over from last evening’s GM and some left-over Rioja wine!

zondag 25 november 2007


Another long weekend with perfect cycling conditions…cycled three half days covering some 500km. The road leading to Mt. Takao was congested three days in a row…the annual rush of red-leaves kōyō gazers in tune with the official NHK announcement declaring the season is now open. Fortunately Takao is where the mass exodus stopped and I enjoyed some relatively quiet country roads up and down hills aflame with red and yellow leaves around Sagamiko and then via Fujino through Hinohara where I passed the same kaki tree three times.
I prefer persimmons with firm flesh that can be eaten like an crisp apple rather than the mushy kind. A real delicacy are hoshigaki 干し柿 using the bitter, astringent shibugaki 渋柿 variety whose tannin levels are reduced with the aid of traditional hand-drying techniques, outdoors for two to three weeks. Hoshigaki remind me of the tranquil days following the hectic and overcommercialized Christmas period...extremely nutritious and sweet they bring peace of mind to me every year.

maandag 19 november 2007

Another “cycle mode” weekend…secret recipes and places


Got up very early last Saturday, very silently this time so as not to wake up the ladies in the house, to make it to my 9 a.m. appointment in Makuhari Messe, the venue of the annual “Cycle Mode” extravaganza also known as the “Disneyland of Bicycle Freaks & Addicts”. Madone in rinko bag, I arrived at the site at 8:30…

It was under one of those many pedestrian bridges connecting various Makuhari conference and exhibition halls that I underwent my one-hour long ポジションクリニック “position clinic” amidst cold autumnal blasts. The measurements for my custom-built bike (the titanium VLAAMS) were taken in a most efficient tekipaki way on and off the Madone saddle. As part of the “clinic,” I was taught a few secret – or rather (h)esoteric (yes, it all has to do with the “navel”) – lessons on how to improve my hill climb skills. The secret techniques confided to me were quite different from what I had so far read in specialized cycle magazines and publications and the ever-doubting Thomas I am, I was rather skeptical about the new recipe’s merit. When I tried out the heso “belly button trick” the next day, however, I was simply amazed and filled with sheer rapture at the obvious difference…I was going up the Mt. Takao Otarumi-tōge at an average of 15~16km/h compared to my usual 13~14km/h!

Once inside the Cycle Mode venue, I happily met with Thierry and my namesake whose green bike (what a weird saddle!) was very prominently displayed there by the eager sponsor. The first 30 minutes were exciting but as more and more bicycle energumen & -women were streaming in, the whole place became too uncomfortable for me to stay much longer and I was homeward bound by noon. Made a few water mouthing discoveries though, the most attractive one being an all-carbon set of OEM-produced aerodynamic clincher (!) wheels priced at less than 10-man yen (produced by Light-Cycle Bicycle Shop).

Following a late lunch at home, I called David to confirm the time and place of our rendezvous in Futakotamagawa. A rather intense feeling of sadness overtook me when I mounted my Madone for the very last time…some 90 minutes later I parted with my trusted workhorse who, starting next year, is slated to graze on the landscapes of England. May she make the next owner as happy as she made me!

Before getting into bed, I refitted my Colnago CLX – paying careful attention to the saddle’s position according to KH’s instructions. Sunday’s ride was one I had been looking forward to with much anticipation most of all because it had been such a long time since I last rode with the guy who caused my cycle mania three years ago.

It turned out to be a perfect day…gorgeous weather, not the slightest wind, beautiful sights along peaceful country roads around Sagamiko. Thanks Laurent for sharing this off-the-beaten-path “Anaba Route” with me! The whole circuit has got to be kept secret like some kind of sanctuary! Here, another analogy can be drawn with mountain stream trout fishing. Just like those so-called "anaba" surefire spots known to only a few anglers, there are these hidden country roads offering intense cycling pleasure that – fortunately enough - get bypassed by most riders.

On our way back, while we were both taking a 7/11 break, a familiar-looking guy on some fancy bike zoomed by at a speed too fast to convince myself who it was. As Laurent would find out an hour or so later, it was indeed the Vélosophe…who was found devouring, Cervélo within sight, a cinnamon & raisin roll at his regular haunt, a bakery called “Flanders”(!)

Late in the afternoon, the weather suddenly changed...kogarashi ichigo had begun its invasion of the Kanto Area with cold blasts presaging winter…better keep those warm gloves handy (in the right place)!

vrijdag 9 november 2007

Rain = Hometrainer

Rain predicted for this weekend...not being able to cycle for more than 5 days has become like a torture to me. Earlier this year, I found the perfect solution: the hometrainer!

Elite Hydro-Mag...not so silent as advertised but efficient!

An absolute must... Continental "nur fur Rollentrainer" tyre.

Cateye Astrale speedmeter measures speed and cadence via sensors on pedal and back wheel spoke...trying to keep cadence above 90 constantly.

dinsdag 6 november 2007

Giro de Hotaka Results

The results are out….

Official results: 8th…5:11:38.98 / Average speed 23.296

Unofficial results: 4th (there goes my big fish = medal, see!!)…4:39:38.98 (5:11:38.98 - 32 minutes accounting for approx. 15km wrong road…) / Average speed 27.538 (that looks more like it!)

zondag 4 november 2007

Giro de Hotaka and the "Junction of Doom"

"I'm sure I would have gotten a medal if only...!


One hobby of mine is mountain stream fishing…tenkara, or traditional Japanese-style fly fishing, which is in many ways close to Western-style fly fishing but in many others quite different…one distinctive feature of tenkara is that no reel is attached to the rod…in olden days when the rivers in Japan were still brimming with natural, indigenous trout varieties such as yamame or iwana, this was the preferred style of fishing of professional fishermen who would return home every day with a catch of about 50 fish. These days, however, rivers here are stocked with foreign species, especially rainbow trout and it is getting increasingly difficult to catch genuine indigenous fish…some river sections have become fish farms so to speak. A very sad trend but still tenkara remains a fascinating hobby…starting from tying your own flies adapted to the time of the season, selection of tapered line, size of the right hook…a lot of time goes into the preparation and strategy planning before one actually reaches the target stream deep in the mountains. Almost every time however, the catch is very poor and on most days there is no catch at all…but that doesn’t diminish the intense joy of becoming one with nature and hunting after one’s “princess of the river”.

I’ve come to realize that cycling is a very similar pastime…plenty of time goes into the selection of the right materials, carbon vs. aluminum wheels, rear sprocket ratio, the right cycling wear adapted to the weather, etc. Then today, it occurred to me that fishing & cycling have something else in common…the mental process by which humans tend to blow up out of all proportion certain failures which, had they not occurred, would have turned a certain venture into a huge success! The fish one fails the land is (always) the biggest! When I got home this evening, my daughter asked me how I fared at today’s race…and this is how I replied…everything went perfect and I was sure to win a medal, but then I failed to make a turn and continued for 20km along the wrong road…if only I had followed the right course, I would have a medal around my neck! "Sounds like another tsuriotoshita sakana wa ookii story of you, dad!" Alas, this is what actually happened this morning (although the extra distance was more like 15km, still more than 30 min were lost)…

The previous evening, NFCC members Alain, Thierry and I were going over our tactics in all its details, including the exact timing of consuming a power gel. The “race” started perfect…with Alain and me taking the lead on the first downhill section and then myself pulling a small peloton, or rather, an escape group of about 15 riders for some 20 minutes until we hit the forked road spot - THE JUNCTION OF DOOM - one road turning left and the other upwards…we were all looking at each other…no signboards, no official “Giro” marshals to point us in the correct direction and so we decided to go for the easiest…follow the road straight ahead. And so we went in one long-stretched line…beautiful scenery, a nice clear mountain stream on the right side...

After a while, the map, we had tried to input into our minds the previous evening, popped up in front of my eyes, we were going up but not at the steep gradient we were supposed to be following…our doubts were soon confirmed…the road ended in a Y fork chained on both ends! Wrong road…everyone double back!!! Goodbye medals!!!

Since the “Giro de Hotaka” is not a real race but more of a cyclo-tourism type of event, we did not allow the wrong road to demoralize ourselves and completed the rest of the ride in great comradeship!

For me, it was the perfect ride to round off a beautiful year full of cycling. The mushroom soup distributed at the end of the race tasted ever so good!

zondag 28 oktober 2007


Alarm clock woke me up at 6:00...fell out of bed, “dragged a comb across my head,” walked 7 meters to the mailbox and took out my newspaper, got upstairs and fixed myself a cup of Chai tea, toast with honey, bread with Côte d’Or milk & hazelnut chocolate, yoghurt with a kōgyoku apple, filled my drink bottle with water and some energy powder, went down into the bedroom where my wife was still asleep, got into my cycling wear...

Shoot...where is that heartbeat strap again?....where are my sunglasses?....where are my gloves?....where are my socks?...where is the sunscreen?....where are my coins?...ended up waking up my wife...this has become a weekly ritual at my place and it is this last part that is getting on my wife’s nerves! Still, she’s the one who’s been hiding all my cycling stuff in the most impossible places. If I don’t clean up after a ride right away and leave something hanging around in the entrance, she will inevitably put it out of sight...heartbeat strap I left out to dry the sweat ends up in the gardening tool box...and so on!

Left the house at 7:00...taifū ikka blue sky, the road still wet here and there...reached Tamagawa at Koremasa-bashi in ten minutes flat…wow, sure look beautiful today! Proceeded along the Asakawa CR, did my first climb of the day over Odarumi-tōge, almost no traffic on the Kōshū Kaidō (Sundays are definitely better)...reached Sarubashi at an average speed of 27km/h...not bad!

Took a few pictures of the obakeyashiki show window which has been intriguing me for quite some time - every time I pass it on my left side - just before the real climbing begins. Turned out the shop is still in operation...inside they were selling the very latest fashion and flower seeds!

When I almost reached the top of Matsuhime, just before the spot where Goro had his ill-fated crash last week, I stopped to take a few more pictures. This is when a car stopped and an elderly gentleman got out and walked towards me...”Shall I take your picture?”...what heartwarming kindness...only in Japan I guess! The guy had not even noticed I was a foreigner.
I descended extra carefully...lots of wet leaves in the curves! Once through the village of Kosuge, I pressed on to scale the Imagawa and Kazahari ridges. After I hit the Tamagawa CR, I was facing the usual strong wind blowing from the East...decided to skip the CR (too crowded & too many Sunday drivers!) and follow the normal road. Got home very satisfied around 15:30.
Average heart beat: 146
Average speed: 25.2
Max speed: 58.4
Distance: 194.9
Time: 7:44h
Kcal: 5,774

zaterdag 27 oktober 2007


Typhoon No.20

As I'm writing this, the twentieth typhoon of this season is rapidly approaching the Kanto area at a speed of 100km/h. With every gust of wind, the sudare reed screen is hitting the window.

No cycling today. Too lazy to fix the hometrainer, I'm hopeful tomorrow will be another marvelous taifu ikka day when the typhoon moves further eastwards below the Japanese Archipelago.Got to tune up my FKC for a long ride tomorrow! Time now for a few chocolate chip cookies and a cup of Taiwanese tea...

zondag 21 oktober 2007

秋日和 gorgeous autumn weather

Second "akibiyori" day in a row. Was getting my bike and wear ready for a ride over Yabitsu with Michael & Co. but then a call came...David had an accident and they were waiting for the police to come and take a report. Fortunately, as I later learned, the collision was a relatively low speed one with David just rolling over the car's hood and onto the ground. No bodily harm, just a broken rim....thanks god!

I didn't want to just sit around the house in my cycling wear and told Michael I would go on my own. So I went solo again on the Orbea over the Wada and standard five-hour ride and got back home by 14:00...with plenty of time left for a date with my wife!

Fujisan seen from the fields of Hinohara

zaterdag 20 oktober 2007


If you don’t have that“Nanakorobi Hachioki Spirit,” (falling seven times and getting up eight times) cycling is not for you!

Goro, one of today’s companions demonstrated exactly what this spirit is all about. As we were about to finish our medium-paced climb of Matsuhime-touge with the Otsuki/Kosuge signboard high above the road some 150 meters ahead, Goro and I briefly looked at each other and we decided to press out a little sprint. Goro with his superb cadence had of course no difficulty in jumping over me and quickly took a 10 meter lead...but then the unexpected happened…as Goro was continuing to accelerate standing, his right foot shot out of his pedal causing him to lose balance at full speed and slam badly against the rough road surface, twice...once left and once right over his handlebar! Deep cuts on both hands, cycling outfit completely ruined…blood all was Ghislain Lambert grimacing in pain for the umpteenth time! I was watching the whole scene right in front of me and felt very helpless. Goro, however, stood up almost right away, walked over to the lavatory at the top of this mountain road and proceeded to clean his wounds and repair his bike…in no time was he ready to begin the descent after Alain and Thierry had arrived.

Goro would later head for the nearest station as he was obviously in great pain. I’m praying for his speedy and complete recovery…hopefully Goro will be ready for next month’s races which includes “Giro de Hotaka”. The purpose of today’s "sortie" was to get closer to peak form ahead of this Hotaka race…we all still have a lot of work to do I’m afraid!

Alain in his best "mountain" form

...and there comes Thierry!

Akibare...splendid autumn day!

Even Fuji-san joined our sortie

My favorite dish after a hard day's ride (burned a total of 5,738 kcal today)....生姜焼き...ginger-fried pork washed down with beer and wine.

zaterdag 13 oktober 2007

Imagawa-touge 今川峠

Made another 駄目押し”insurance run” on the FKC today…there’s no doubt left now…this is by far the fastest bike I have ever ridden. 28k/h at the turning point near Otsuki! Weather was partly cloudy with little wind and temperatures below 20 (13 near the top of Matsuhime). Used my legwarmers for the first time this season…the right choice! Took some photographs of the little-known Imagawa-touge which connects Matsuhime-touge to Yanagisawa-touge.

This mountain pass is one hell of a nasty climb…not so long but it has a couple very steep parts – steeper than the Wada for sure! Height of this local ridge situated between the villages of Kosuge-mura and Tabayama-mura is 940m. The road itself always has very little traffic on it and is rather darkish set as it is right in the middle of a cedar forest blocking out most sunlight…no matter how many times I’ve cursed this climb in agony, it remains one of my favorite mountain passes in Yamanashi.

Average speed: 25.7
Max speed:
Time on bike:
Distance: 195.53

dinsdag 9 oktober 2007

Osmanthus Fragrans

One of the real pleasures of cycling in the countryside of Japan are the delicate, refreshing fragrances of autumn or spring breezes. Last weekend, the aroma of the sweet-smelling kinmokusei 金木犀 was all over again. This evergreen, fragrant olive tree (or Osmanthus Fragrans var. Aurantiacus in Latin) gives off a perfume of a delicacy I have only encountered in this country. Another favorite of mine is jinchouge 沈丁花 or Daphne Odora (winter daphne belonging to the Mezereum family)...its sweet perfume heralds the beginning of a new cycling season in early Spring.

zondag 7 oktober 2007


Did exactly the same ride as yesterday but on a different bike...the idea being to decide which bike to take to the "Giro de Hotaka" next month... Weather & traffic conditions were virtually the same...maybe a little more windy today but no rain shower. At first it seemed it would be an easy victory for my workhorse, the Trek Madone...average speed until the foot of Matsuhime (Saruhashi) was 27.2k! It was on the first stretch with a more or less serious climb that the difference became soon as I sat down in the saddle after 250m or so "en danseuse," it felt like something was pulling my back wheel! How I suffered...was it fatigue because this was the second day in a row? or was it because this is a normal crank compared to the compact crank on the FKC?...I doubt it was any of those excuses! Proof: even maximum speed was slower than on the FKC!!

Average speed: 24.4 (vs. 25.1 on FKC)
Max speed: 58.3 (vs. 58.5 on FKC)
Time on bike: 8:02 (vs. 7:48 on FKC)
Distance: 196.25 (vs. 196.39 on FKC)

Although the contest ended in a total defeat for Trek Madone, I really enjoyed the ride...autumn weather was gorgeous. This weekend, I used my armwarmers & windbreaker for the first time since Spring. Kazahari was crowded with motorbikes...I've done Kazahari maybe 30 times but never saw so many of them...some kind of sacred congregation?! Once the colder days arrive and the "kouyou zensen" 紅葉前線 autumn leaves front moves further southwards, their number will dwindle away and it will be paradise again for cyclists!

zaterdag 6 oktober 2007

splendid autumn for Hotaka

...three day NFCC group camp with stay in Sasamotoya Ryokan, Enzan and attack of the Odarumi-touge had to be canceled much to my disappointment...with such great autumn weather what a waste! Come on guys what's up!!...where's that spirit?? Decided to go solo again and train for the "Giro de Hotaka" next month. What better preparation for a Tokyo-based rider than Matsuhime + Kazahari? Left home around 6:30 and got back around are some pictures I took...

Tabayamamura Bridge

Tail of Okutama-ko seen from Kazahari

Average speed: 25.1
Max speed: 58.5
Time: 7:48
Distance: 196:40