Tagesarchiv: 7. Juni 2009

Exploring Gunma

Having passed on the Fuji Hill Climb race fearing rainy weather, I woke up at 5:30am this morning to find an almost perfect blue sky. Having left the house at 6:30am, I found the Tamagawa as busy as during mid-day, baseball practice in full swing whereever I went. Still some clouds hanging in the mountains, and quite a bit of humidity which got me to sweat easily going against modest head-wind.
I decided to try a new route to Ome. Not Jerome’s hill, but a similar climb close by, up Umegaya Toge (altitude 310m) which I wish to be known henceforward as „Ludwig’s hill“.
I made the holy fountain at the bottom of Yamabushi Toge my first pit stop, and didn’t eat anything until reaching Chichibu-shi. From the city, I ventured towards Gunma, this time neither via 299 nor 140 and Hacchou Toge, but along routes 37 and 71 leading up to Tsuchisaka Toge Tunnel. The first third of the climb turned out to be quite steep, alla Wada but with more sun. The heat and humidity got my pulse up into the 160s even as I was trying not to go particularly fast.
Down into the Kanna valley (route 462, which I have taken on previous occasions both towards the west taking me to Honjo and to the east all the way up famous Juishi Toge and into Nagano-ken), the next and final climb followed, up to Shiozawa Toge. Starting at an altitude of 300m, the road passes the picturesque Shiozawa Dam and one anticipates a similarly nice climb along the river up to altitude 1,073m.
Indeed the landscape is beautiful. But the climb becomes incredibly steep. Wada is no comparison – rather the steepest parts of Wada are the flattest parts of Shiozawa. There are parts where mere pushing no longer works – one needs to pull with one leg while pushing with the other. Trying to go as slow as possible, the steepness and heat let my pulse shoot up to almost 170. At some point I decided to take another really steep slope on foot to keep my pulse under control. The very first time I was walking up a hill with my bike! (Mitake-san will likely be the second time.)
Shiozawa Toge offers great views towards Chichibu.

It is one of those passes that MOB hates so much – it isn’t actually at the top of the road, and there are another 100m or so to climb before one can descent on the north side towards Tomioka/Takasaki. The descent offers great views of Odokeyama and the Takasaki plain further afar.
The first part of the descent is on a fully build out racing track. At some point and without any warning, the racing track becomes a narrow but paved forest road. Once again unbelievable how our taxes are being spent! Instead of heading to Tomioka, I went down the Ayukawa valley.
As I was passing through Fujioka, heavy, gusty head winds started to appear and tortured me right until Takasaki, at times slowing me down to a crawl. I finally reached the station after 7.5 hours cycling, 180km and something slightly over 2,000m of climbing. Actually not that extraordinary, but the humid heat made it exhausting at times. And from now on it can only get worse…
From Takasaki I was home in a mere 1.5 hours – thanks to the shinkansen connection to Omiya and a kaisoku from there to Shinjuku.

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Mt. Fuji Hill Climb 2009 — Report

(David L.’s trip report)

The view from the top of the Mt. Fuji Hill Climb (5th stage — top of the Mt. Fuji Subaru Line):

A great event again this year. This climb is only 4-5-6% grade much of the way, after some longer 7-8% sections during the first 5 km, and some shorter ones near the top (including the last 500 meters). Just in case anyone wants to check this year’s time against last, the 2008 BGC team times can be found here . The 2009 official times should be posted in a few days (James – please let us know if you see them), but I think I improved from around 1:41 to the 1:33~1:34 range. Christopher D was up in approximately 1:28. Konstantin, who rode last year on a mountain bike, had a sleek Look racing bike this year and told me that he went from over 1:40 to something like 1:22~1:23.
As usual, the mountain did not show itself fully the day before.

But unlike last year, the registration was conducted without pouring rain, and we were able to walk around the exhibitors and find our good friend and Assos importer, David Marx. Stephen Coady and I each seized the opportunity to buy some essential items. And despite a discouraging email from Ludwig/Manfred when he decided on Friday morning not to join the event–something about how he wished us luck but it was going to be really shitty weather to be riding on Mt. Fuji and so we were all going to die from hypothermia–the view was spectacular from the staging area on the morning of the ride, and overall the weather was close to ideal.

*(I think this photo is worth the extra click to see it at full size — it give the appearance of everyone and all the bicycles anticipating the attack on the mountain … though in fact they are just looking in that direction to listen to the introductory speeches and usual warnings about riding safely, slower riders staying to the left, etc.)
Everyone was in good spirits, including a slim Michael H. and a very strong looking Konstantin. I’m not sure why Dominic is smiling, since he said he has not ridden in months … but must have been staying in shape by other means.

Denis, who Stephen reports has taken a job in Hokkaido, and so will be cycling different routes for awhile.

David L., in his law firm’s cycling kit.

Even the long line queuing for the portable toilets seems in good cheer, with a spectacular mountain view and sculpture.

Jerome and his son Augie, who wins the „youngest participant in the men’s road race division“ award … or maybe youngest overall or youngest ever, since he is only 11 and the rules state that participation is only open to those 12 and up.

I raced back to the hotel (figuratively), packed my rucksack, and headed for Tokyo via Yamanakako and Doshi michi. I made good time, not stopping after the convenience store next to the hotel, except to fill my water bottle from a roadside source in Doshi, until I arrived at Hashimoto Station and hopped a train to my office, spent a couple of hours doing work essential to make Monday tolerable, then rode 15 km home for dinner.

Please add your thoughts.

(James K.’s report:)

„I attended for my third time. I can say that this event does not get old. It is very well organised every year, and with the bus trip up there and the nice hotel close to the shuttle buses I think we have it down.

I rode without my Garmin this year, thinking that a ‚Zen‘ approach might be kind of interesting. I have absolutely no idea how I did and am looking forward to the official results with great anticipation.

Highlights for me were:
Chianti Fiasco.
Augustin’s ride, truly impressive.
Konstantin flying past me – with three small Japanese riders tucked into his slipstream (they must have thought it was Christmas!) – after starting one group back.
Dominic’s claim that it was the hardest thing he had ever done, delivered with a huge smile.
Chris (Orr)’s astonishing and continued ignorance of sunscreen.

Following my Kyushu exertions the other week I have been suffering with what I can only describe as some sort of tendonitis or repetitive strain injury behind my right knee. It was very sore over the initial stages of the climb, but became less so as the ride progressed. As soon as I stopped, it was back and so I decided to err on the side of caution and very sadly abandon the ride home. Need to get this fixed.

David ‚The Pillow‘ Clinch took over the ‚ride home‘ leadership responsibilities very well and led Dominic, Michael and Konstantin off to Tokyo.

Post ride comments included,
„Nice ride but still quite challenging“ – Dominic Henderson
„Home at 18:05. Totally knackered. I weighed 2Kg less than on Friday!!“ – Michael Hancock
„I’m bringing in a special seat cushion at work today!“ – Konstantin Prodanov
„My calf muscles feel about 5cm shorter this morning!“ – David ‚Lube Boy‘ Clinch

Graham, Mark, Ono-san and I hopped on the bus and after a brief stop after Hachioji were dropped off in Tokyo around 2:30pm. Home at 3pm, much to the delight of my wife, daughter and dogs.“

Jimmy Shinagawa.

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