Apart from the less than average performance of my twin-brother Jan, the weekend in Saiko proved to be very pleasurable. I had a lot of difficulties to register both of us : Jan and me with the organizer Nikkan Sports. Finally I got a call and the supervisor asked me, to confirm that he got two registrations, one for a Michael Kraehe and one for a Jan-Ulrich Kraehe. This I confirmed. Then he said: „Yes we noted that also for both riders the birth day is the same [note: pretty stupid of me in the first place], so are you twins?“ „Yes, of course, my brother Jan and me are twins“: In confirmed. „Ok fine, then the matter is settled, you re registered.
Henri and our Aupair Anna took the BMW and headed in the morning for Saiko. Because of the stupid BMW navigation system we missed the right exit from the Chuo Highway. Bad enough. But it turned out to be a very good mistake as we entered the Saiko area from the West side by a beautiful road through the mountain area we have never taken before. Thank you BMW. Then, we met at the Cafe M which is our favourite hang out in the Saiko area and had huge bowls of spaghetti with mushrooms and excellent curry.
After a good lunch it was time for some training laps. The road surface was still a little bit wet but it was not raining as when we left Tokyo. So I took a lap first on my own which felt good. Then I rode together with Henri who was registered for the 10 km race for the first time. He had no problems to complete one 10 km within 30 minutes or so which made me confident that he would finish the race on the next day – this year it was anyway the idea to set a benchmark time against which he can measure himself in the years to come.
After that we all went to the Onsen next to the ex Kuwarubi Hotel on the shore of the lake and enjoyed the outside pool. Still Stephen and Ryoko haven’t arrived so we settled again for a nice dinner at the Cafe M and went to bed early.
Next morning I started to do some training rides in the area and then I went to attend the D class race. I felt very confident. When racing in Saiko I always have some worries despite the fact that I really love the race: In 2005 I got dropped by the peloton after being too optimistic in my strategy to run out the peloton together with David Litt [also I was under the influence of drugs which were given to me because of a stiff back on the day before the race]. Then I am worried that I am surrounded by riders on the left side of the peloton and have no room to sprint. And then I am afraid of crashes, so I stay in the first third of the peloton, also because I am not a technical very good rider and I always loose some meters in tight curves.
Ok, consequently I tried to stay in the front group. After the first lap I was in the third position – this was not really necessary but a good show for my family that was waiting for me at the finish line. Then after relaxing the next 5 km and falling back, I attacked the front again and from 15 to 19 km I was almost all the time in the front doing a lot of drafting work for the rest. But I still felt strong. And suddenly I was also in front at the 19 km mark, so there was only 1 km to go until the finish. So I accelerated even more, but then I ran out of steam. About 400 meters before the finish is a slight uphill stretch and I couldn’t keep up with the other riders. Just as every year, good run but then wrong strategy at the end. A lot of riders overtook me on the last stretch and also Stephen managed to pass by. The race was rather slow as the road surface was still wet (31 minutes winning time), so the peloton stayed together until the end, not many riders were dropped.
So in the end a result like every year, a 29th place (out of 41 riders), but only 4.4 seconds behind the winner. in 2006 I was 25th in the D Class out of 42 riders 8 seconds behind the winner. 2005 was a disaster. 2004 I was 28th out of 62 riders 5 seconds behind the winner.
Ok, I thought it would be better to have two chances … so later my twin brother Jan started in the E class race.
Ok, the next event was the Milky Way race for my daughter Karen. This is only a 500 meter race from the parking space at the bat cave to the finish. The two years before Karen went on her bike with supporting wheels, but this year she tried without for the first time. I waited with her at the start area with my bike somewhere parked 10 meters behind. So suddenly there was the start sign and the race started. I ran back to my bike as I wanted to ride together with Karen. But she was so fast! I caught her only close to the goal.
There are no results for the Milky Way race, as this should be non-competitive, but she was really strong. Ok, her future fate is already decided as her mother set her career course in figure skating … but with some subtle manipulation there might be still a chance to convert her to bicycle riding.
In the years before all Milky Way kids got medals from Mr. Nakano presented, however this year there were a lot of riders in this class so unfortunately Nikkan Sports decided to abolish this ceremony. But all the kids got some toys and Karen was happy with that one too. Of course, nothing can be beaten by a medal handed over by P-cup idol Fuko. Alas, only Flat-cup idols Lady Marmelade, partly dressed in fashionable Scottish pampers,made it to the race and Dennis collected his 5th place MTB certificate.
Then it was time for Henri to start the Primary School higher grades 10 km race. He hates loud noises so when the start pistol was shot he covered his ears and he couldn’t pick up speed fast. Hm, he is special anyway but that is ok. He also made a good race and he ended up in 28th place, so one place better than his father [ok : 5.50 min gap to the winner]. But I was very impressed that he managed to finish the race in a good time of 22:56 minutes and an average speed of more than 26 km/hr. Last year when he rode the 3.2 km race with the same bike he was at 20 km/hr average speed. So, as every father should be, I was very proud of my son.
We then went home quickly has we wanted to avoid the traffic jam on the Chuo. The weather was now beautiful and we could see mount Fuji with the summit in the clouds on the right side of the road home. Jan was driving. His body started to hurt and it was painful to make it to Tokyo – but surprisingly fast. There was still some time to visit the fantastic WORKMAN shop on the Nakahara Kaido, introduce Anna to cheap construction worker T-shirts, Pump trousers and tabi socks and to buy a nice orange handkerchief for my daughter as a bonus.
A very nice weekend for me and my family. Not so nice for Jan although.