zaterdag 19 december 2009

Inukoeji-toge revisited

"11:00 @ Inukoeji-toge tunnel - Hiroshi Lake Tanzawa up, me Doshi-michi up"...this is how Hiroshi and I rather vaguely decided to meet as we were enjoying a pasta meal together yesterday. 
I first greeted the VLAAMS boys at Koremasa-bridge at 6:30 and immediately went solo along the Asakawa river to Otarumi; the electronic signboard by the love hotels read minus wonder my feet were freezing!  Winter shoe covers had arrived in time from Wiggle, however, no matter how I tried, they do not fit those mountain bike shoes I use with my cyclocross bike.  I guess there must be SPD-specific shoe covers around.  My feet got even colder as I started to climb Inukoeji-toge along Kaminokawa-rindo 神ノ川林道.  Some parts of the paved road were covered in ice where I dismounted from my X-Fire.

Like last time, Tanzawa's Oomuroyama 大室山(1,588m) dominated the scenery with its majestic presence.  A beautiful mountain indeed!

 Icicles were hanging here and there in shadowy mountain bellies.  Looking up inside the Inukoeji tunnel, there were more long pointed ice daggers threateningly hanging down from the ceiling!  I reached the other side pinpoint just in time for my appointment with Hiroshi!  Of course I had not really expected him to be there knowing how much he dislikes cold weather like today.  Took some pictures of Fujisan and enjoyed a speedy downhill to Lake Tanzawa. 

On my way to Yabitsu along 246, I got dragged into a minor accident - a car I was about to slowly overtake on the left all of a sudden decided to turn left the driver probably having just realized he almost ran past the shopping mall on the left...a typical dead angle situation.  With my right arm pushing against the car's side and the side mirror cushioning the impact, I still lost my balance, fell and rolled over the sidewalk.  By miracle, I emerged completely unscathed apart from purple marks on my right arm and left leg.  The guy offered profuse apologies after I gave him a long and good scolding.

Yabitsu was almost completely deserted...I counted only 4 other cyclists all coming from the other direction.   The 35c tyres did an excellent job on the in places rather abominable surface.  I got home at 4:30 before dark just as I had planned.  Map of today's near-200km ride is here.  The Kaminokawa-rindo section on R76 is a really dynamic piece of road and it's only a pity I cannot share the excitement of  navigating around those rocks with my buddies....

zondag 13 december 2009

X-MAS Enduro

First of all, the results...they are here!  Thanks Michael, James & Kaori for this fun-fun relay race!  Thanks Nishibe-san for coming to cheer for the team!  Enjoyed meeting many of the TCC members I hadn't seen for quite a long time.  The first half of the race was ridden in windy conditions allowing James to make the most use of his deep rims.  As usual, Michael proved to be a very efficient coach for the team with the right strategy. We all gave it our very best and I was particularly proud that I let not even one rider overtake me.  It seems this race is getting faster and faster every year...a podium place ought to be possible next year!

zaterdag 12 december 2009

Enduro Training ?

The roads were still wet from yesterday's rain when I left the house around 9 'o clock this morning.  Temperature-wise, conditions were perfect for a good, long ride.  With tomorrow's X-Mas Enduro at Tachikawa's Showa Kinen Park, I decided to cut the distance a bit and take it easy on the legs especially on the longer climbs like the Odarumi-toge (twice) and Dozaka tunnel.  Last evening, I changed the cassette on my steel frame to an 11-23 in view of tomorrow's basically flat parcourse and found out that combined with 53-39 up front this actually works mighty well for me even with medium-steep toges on the menu. 

One piece of rather sad news:  Rd 35 is nowadays infested with dump trucks (or, as Ludwig tongue-in-cheekingly refers to with  "dumb trucks").  It seems that the tunnel carving for the linear Maglev test site has gotten back into full swing.  Hiroshi even reported on his blog that entire caravans of these "danpuka-" now cross my favorite little Suzugane-toge to reach Rd. 20....can you believe it ?  This peaceful, little mountain pass getting completely destroyed....downright sacrilege 冒涜 !

All together, I covered 165km at an average of 26.9 km/h, much faster than I normally do on this route

Looking forward to tomorrow's relay race with Michael and James (Mr. & Mrs.!); Michael entered us as a mixed team...who knows, we may end up on the podium!  Should be great fun.

zaterdag 5 december 2009

Rainy Nokogiriyama

Last evening I joined Positivo Espresso's "forget-the-year" bonenkai at restaurant Outback in Shibuya.  Only 6 members showed up but we all had a good time discussing potential sponsorships for our team, ways for merging the team with TCC and celebrating birthday boy Ludwig's JCRC victory.

With too little sleep, I couldn't wake up in time this morning to join the asaren with the VLAAMS boys.  The sky looked very bright out and it didn't seem like it would rain at all.  I left home at 9:30 with the intention to do my usual Nenogongen loop.  By the time I reached Itsukaichi, the skies had dramatically changed and it now looked like the skies could burst anytime.  I changed my mind and went for Nokogiriyama instead.  Somewhere on the TCC website, somebody recently wrote that the landslide which had been blocking the road near the top for so many months had finally been cleared (at least this is the way I remembered having read those comments...).

On the other side of the short Kanato tunnel it slowly started to drizzle but I was determined to make it down to the other side of Nokogiriyama.  I thought it was strange the tsukodome signboard and barricades were still in the old place even though the road up higher was supposed to be cleared.  On top of the mountain, I heard road repair work going on some 500 meters further down.  Oh no, not again!  This time the entire road was blocked by sand and rocks on the spot where the landslide used to be with a power shovel on top in full swing!  A normal person - I mean the average Japanese - would gingerly turn back at this point but the stubborn person I am, I waved at the man operating the power shovel and he kindly stopped!  I politely asked if I could get through and with a big smile, the guy replied "oh!  ii-yo!!...demo ki-wo-tsukette ne!  What a nice guy!

It was constantly drizzling on my descent and my feet and hands felt rather cold.  I guess it is time again for shoe covers and thicker gloves.  I rode back home along the usual way.  The Tamasai was almost completely deserted...very nice for a change.

Weather is expected to be bright and warmer plans but I intend to join the first part of the VLAAMS asaren whereever they are going.  If it is Kamakura, I might as well add Miura Hanto; if it is Yamabushi-toge (another regular destination of the VLAAMS team), I might as well add "Green Line"...always lots of alternatives.

zaterdag 28 november 2009

R.76 or the Grand Kanagawa Loop

...Another solo ride today after I had tried in vain to pursuade some of my buddies to join me on a long loop around Kanagawa Pref. Unfortunately Michael was suffering flu symptoms and Hiroshi had to attend an otsuya wake...

I met the VLAAMS boys first at the usual Koremasa RdV spot precisely at sunrise and we rode together until the Hino Bypass. The pace was a bit too fast for my fat tires but I managed to stay up front. The Hino Bypass is a nice alternative to the usual Akikawa approach and before I knew it I was at Takao. No break at the 7/11 today, instead I climbed today's first pass, Otarumi-toge at a leisurely pace.

My plan was to follow Rd. 76 all the way from the beginning but then I got the idea of trying first Gando-toge 厳道峠 , a mountain pass patronized by Hiroshi and Laurent which starts from Akiyama-onsen (on Rd. 35).

According to Hiroshi's blog, Gando-toge was cut through the mountains by poor honey farmers hailing from the Doshi valley who needed a short-cut to Hachioji to sell their merchandise. When they would return and as they were about to crest the last mountain, robbers would appear and deprive the poor farmers of their hard-earned money. This pass became to be known as 盗人峠 "Robbers Pass" and it was only some hundred years later that the name was changed to today's more civilized version.

Gando-toge was much longer than I had imagined and there was one fairly steep section and some splendid views as well. The road connects to Doshimichi and going down there were some superb areas for viewing Fujisan, today unfortunately mostly hidden in the clouds.

Once I hit Doshimichi, I turned left towards the Rd. 76 intersection; this is exactly the area where Doshimichi starts climbing up again after the long downhill from Yamabushi-toge. At the turn-off, I asked an old lady who was pounding rice cakes if I was on the right way to Lake Tanzawa. She frowned at me anxiously and warned me "too dangerous to be going out there all alone!" "Because of bears?, I asked to which she smilingly replied take care!..."Itterasshai !"

I passed by some nice trout fishing establisments and campings and was enjoying the scenery until I hit the first gate. A few hundred meters further behind the curve, the paved road changed into a gravel one. I was a bit nervous as a signboard with Inukoeji Pass 犬超路峠 was pointing in exactly the opposite way and instead I was climbing direction Himeji 姫次.

The name of this pass literally means "pass of the road to be crossed over by dogs" (犬超路峠)and dates back to the Sengoku Warring States when the Tiger of Kai (甲斐、present-day Yamanashi Pref.), Takeda Shingen himself oversaw the expansionary drive of the Takeda Clan beyond the Tanzawa Mountains into Odawara land, territory of the rival Hojo clan. Legend has it that whenever Takeda's ashigaru foot soldiers headed for Odawara, they had their army dogs lead them on this steep and perilous mountain road.

After a while the gravel road became increasingly bumpy; this was no longer gravel I was riding on but solid rocks stuck deep into the ground. The knobby cyclocross tires did a fine job though as I pushed ahead in 34-25 always in the saddle. I was completely by myself and it was very quiet. Nevertheless, it felt as if I was constantly being watched by some creature. I almost panicked when a bunch of rocks came tumbling down some 20 meters further uphill. I guess some scared animal higher up must have triggered a minor landslide.

I stopped only a couple times to take pictures of the mountain range in the North. Next time I go, I will take more to better illustrate the abominable road conditions. The last 2 or 3 kilometers before reaching the Inukoeji Tunnel were paved again...very wide and in near-perfect condition!

The tunnel inside was quite windy but not as dark as I had expected and also free from rocks and other debris; nevertheless I found the place rather spooky and was relieved to reach the other end safe. The first part of the downhill to Lake Tanzawa is exciting, very wide with no cars (2 more gates further down close the area to ordinary traffic)...perfect for honing one's cornering skills.

Down at Lake Tanzawa, I decided to proceed to Odawara as I felt I had done enough climbing already and didn't like the idea of riding too long along the murderous 246 and then having to face a Yabitsu crowded with other cyclists crawling up like ants.

I was tempted to visit Odawara Castle but decided to save this for a next time. On to Enoshima! I was surprised to see so many cyclists on Rd. 1 and 134 most of them riding in groups. When I overtook some of these groups, they would give chase forcing me to push all the fair play to do this with a middle-aged man on 35c tires. At speeds above 35km/h, these tires make a most impressive VOOMVOOMVOOM sound discouraging most chasers to stay in my wheel for too long.

At Enoshima, I took a break to watch the surfer girls and eat a dorayaki... The return trip was along the slow Sakaigawa cycling road over Machida, Onekan, Koremasa....