There are no highways connecting Tsukuba with Gunma as both are places where noboby want to go in the first place and if, then only from Tokyo. So I drove about 120 km to Takasaki on country roads and had the chance to witness the decay of the Japanese countryside. There are places which are basically deserted at 8 PM in the evening. Everybody seems to be 90 years or old and is sound asleep in bed at such late time.
I saw also some very big pachinko parlours.
It took me almost three hours for these ridiculous short distance – about the same time it took us to ride 120 km during the Tsukuba race on our bikes. I was still under the heavy influence of Jerome’s wonder dried plums and continued to fill the cabin of my car with inflammable flatulent gases. That is not so bad when you are driving, but at one point I stopped at a 7-eleven to buy some food and when I returned to my car and opened the door the pure disgust was so extreme that it took utmost self discipline to enter.
Anyway, many times I lost the way as the cars navigation system is running on a data set which is more than five years old. Be ensured that despite the fact that nobody is living in the country side any longer, there are many new roads built, tunnels dugged and bridges erected. The navi ignored them all and showed me the way through the most backward tracks and the „hosoi michi“ of the North.
I arrived at Takasaki at around 11 PM and started the demolition of the toilet. Hard to imagine that this hotel room can be ever rented out again. Looked for a Ramen shop (or „Law men shop“, as I have seen recently in Tokyo), couldn’t find one still open and went to wara wara. Then I had six hours of sleep before I left the next morning for Gunma CSC.
The track itself is at 800 m elevation somewhat close to the ski resort of Naeba. There is a Shinkansen station near by. This is all very well, but it is extremely hard to find the road to the place. When I went there the first time in April this year I thought that I have completely lost my way. Or lost my mind. Or both. Or somebody else did, but I could not imagine that this road was used by somebody else then lodging trucks. But this is exactly the way to Gunma CSC.
There is a very good documentation on the web about the current state of the city of Chernobyl, which was evacuated after the reactor catastrophe in 1986. And there is one photo I like in particular, showing a ferris wheel. Take a look at this photo and then you have more or less the precise image of what Gunma CSC is like. Sure, it must have been nice in the sixties, but now it is hard to imagine why somebody should some here to visit. There are nowadays many places like this in Japan and one would like to scream „Can’t you see that your country is falling apart?“. I was once a guest in a village close to Itoigawa n Niigata prefecture where the youngest inhabitant was more than 60 years old. It was a beautiful village with a lot of old farm houses and the people were so nice and friendly. But it is not hard to imagine that 20 years from now there will be nobody left there. The school was locked up since decades. There was no store, nothing. If you don’t believe me take a look for example at the book Deathtopia. Here are some more photos of the Gunma CSC.
Terrace with greenery [green roofs are now a must in Tokyo anyway, thanks Ishihara].
The restaurant Turini, named in plural after an Italian town.
I added some comments. Funny enough, this maps explains the resting places around the track. You probably need them. It is really a difficult track. It may not be as hard as CSC Shuzenji, that’s true, but for me it is cycling hell.
I was starting in the D class, 6 laps of 6 kms, total 36 kms. In April it was five laps and I finished in D class in 37th position with 1:01:38, the winner was at the finish in about 50 minutes. Oh, did I mention it? 37 riders reached the finish. With this time I would have made also almost last place in E, F and X class. So basically it was a complete disaster. This time my goal was to give everything until the fifth lap. Then I could not be overtaken any longer and would be allowed to finish. The highest risk was to be lapped and get disqualified, I didn’t even thought about reaching a good position.
Before the race we could do one practice lap. The down part is no problem, I could easily stay with the peloton. The exhausting up and down was even exhausting when done in a training lap and at the uphill hell I was not even able to keep the pace despite the fact that this was training.
My plan was to stay with the main field as long as possible and draft until the uphill hell on the second lap. Also Goro Akiyama was in the same D class race, he had woken up at 4:30 AM in Tokyo and took the Shinkansen and a Taxi to the race.
Then it was already time to start. The first kilometer was behind a pacemaking motorcycle and I was in the front group. Then the pace increased as the race started and I could keep up with the peloton during the up and down part. I utilized my down momentum to accelerate up which went very well until we reached uphill hell. My speed dropped to 17 km/hr and the other guys overtook me until I was the last one and then I lost contact. So despite having a good lap time of 11:01, I lost already one to two minutes on the top. I was then on my own for a while until I was overtaken by the D2 group which has started three minutes behind us. I tried to keep up with them, but again I lost contact at the uphill hell. I took me 11:31 for the second lap, which is still good for me and what I needed not to be overtaken.
I was subsequently overtaken by riders from the E1 and E2 class groups. Nevertheless my lap times were OK. with 11:20 min and 11:38 min. I could even overtake some guys from the endurance race that has started at 8 AM and which continued until the end of our race. There is this guy who I meet at almost every JCRC race and who looks like the killer in Silence of the Lamps. I overtook him.
After five laps I had a total time of 57:15, more than four minutes faster than April. And I was not overtaken. The winner finished in 59:38, so much faster than my April time. From the forth lap on I even closed on another D class rider and we stayed together for the remaining distance of the race. I started to took it easy at the last lap. I would reach the finish and it doesn’t matter if I come in in last or second last position. As I had only a lap time of 12:43 min, I then finished in last position.Believe me, I am not ashamed to finish in last position at Gunma CSC. I have been much faster than in April and I have made it to the finish line. I was so exhausted but happy. Goro Akiyama of course made a much better job and finished in forth place.
Goro was so kind to allow me to carry his winner certificate and prizes to my car so it looked like that I have won something. We then stored all our belongings in my car and re-dressed. As we were standing more or less naked in the countryside, I threated him to take pictures and post them on the NFCC website to provide some more excitement there.
We had a very nice trip back, it is so much more fun to travel with somebody as pleasant as Goro is. We were discussing the most urgent and pressing issues of the Japan of today: Why do streets have no names in Japan? But why has almost every slope one? [Goro’s explanation: Because we Japanese like hillclimbs). How can you avoid getting tickets? Why should you not run over red lights during traffic safety week in front of the assembled police force of Okutama? And so on.
So within no time we were back in Tokyo and I could finally collapse in my room.