Monatsarchiv: Mai 2010

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Vintage Classic

I’ve been meaning to get some cycling photos up in the house, but I was told it must be tasteful and in keeping with the current pictures we have up.

Some of you who have seen my Flickr account will know I’m a huge fan of macro photography, sepia and black and white photos, so with this in mind I went about looking for photos I could work with.

Hanging around James and Dominic has influenced me in all things Rapha and looking through their website I came across some nice prints, more searches from classic races such as the Tour and the Giro back in the 30’s and 40’s also unearthed some amazing images that I got ideas from, so I thought I would share a few with you all.

To get the full effect its best to click on the image to see them in full screen.


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Tokyo-Itoigawa: Been there, done that.

James and I met at Ebisu station at 4pm on Friday and rode to Hachioji ahead of the 300km Tokyo-Itoigawa ride on Saturday. My pre-hydration plans had gone awry during the week as I ended up going out every night. To make matters worse I spent much of Friday at the Komazawa Olympic Stadium for my children’s sports day. 29 degrees and sunny, but much hotter down on the asphalt track. Not a good place to be. Having been so lucky as to travel to many exotic places around the world, exploring central Hachioji wasn’t to be missed. James and I met in the lobby. We were both wearing black Rapha T-shirts, but they were different designs so we did not have to scratch one another’s eyes out and pull hair and vow to never acknowledge one another again. Even if the good people of Hachioji had been aware that the Tour of Japan was going on at the time and the Rapha Condor Sharp team was participating I somehow doubt they would have mistaken us for professional cyclists.

We found an excellent little bar with a big Shane MacGowan poster (below, ex-Pogues lead singer who was thrown out because he was too rowdy and drunk even for an 80s Irish band so formed his own back-up band called The Popes) serving beer from a micro-brewery in Karuizawa.
The first pint of liquid carbs hardly touched the sides but as we are sensible we resisted the siren call of the beer tap and went across the street for some pasta and pizza and a little more liquid carb loading. Here we were well looked after by Eriko and Ernest (not from Hachioji but Ghana). Ernest’s card has him as President Ernest Amoah. Up before my alarm at 2:30 (no morning jogging) I realised I had forgotten my chamois cream – am must for a long ride. James saved my behind with his tube of DZ Nuts. We cruised briskly to the Takaozan start with Kevin and CJ who had arrived at midnight so were short of sleep – but they are lawyers – where we met up with the rest of the team (Jerome, James M, Chris, Yair and Stephen).
You will see from the photo that Kevin has an „interesting“ way of carrying his food for a ride, especially the banana. I was reminded of the scene from the classic movie „This is Spinal Tap“ in which the drummer of the heavy metal band goes through an airport security X-ray machine with a zucchini wrapped in aluminium foil down the front of his spandex trousers.

At this stage I should dwell on the word team for a moment. We gathered at the start but in true PE fashion, that was the only time we were together. As planned James M shot off like a cheetah with his backside in flames. I saw him as he turned out of the car park but then could not distinguish his blinking rear light from all the red lights flashing at the roadworks. He was gone. The rest of the group went off at a fast pace but split into 2 groups. Jerome was ahead over the top and off with the front group. At one stage some of the riders around him remonstrated about his riding style (traffic lights?) and received the true Gallic response of le bras d’honneur„.

On the way to the first check point just before the entrance to the Sasago tunnel CJ and Kevin were strong and seemed full of beans. However a combination of little sleep and a puncture caused them to fall back and continue at their own pace. James K, Chris, Stephen and me came up behind a group of local riders who were very fast off the traffic lights. We had to accelerate hard to keep up from each red light before settling in behind and enjoying the tow. Assuming they were a group of friends we let them rotate amongst themselves. Included in their number was a petite non-male rider who was every bit as quick as all the others and she took her turn at the front. It was only when chatting at one set of lights that I realised none of them knew each other until about 4:30 that morning so the PE train took over with Stephen taking a strong and long pull. For a man like Stephen this ride seemed like a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. He had after all cycled from London to Tokyo. However, at this stage we did not know that a dodgy curry had led to a case of Montezuma’s Revenge. This led him to fall behind midway through the ride as he paid one of his twelve visits to the little boys‘ room. To his credit he caught up and we were to ride the final stage together.
The road led us through Matsumoto City’s Strip Mall from Hell. Always on the alert for cars turning left into a store car park without checking mirrors. There were a couple of very close shaves and then a lunatic in a grey Honda Odyssey twice accelerated and swerved aggressively in front of me. Watch out for said madman, license plate Matsumoto 500 45-92.
This was a long ride so food and drink were important. Some may have eaten too much at the outset and suffered. Jerome says he didn’t feel good for the first 100kms even though he went off ahead. When I asked whether he was armed with his trademark eggs he said he had six of them so I felt the diesel would fire up at some stage. I worked to hang on to him and an until-then-miserable Japanese man with an annoying bell hanging under his saddle who kept trying to get away from us but who we would catch at red lights. Once he realised he couldn’t get away he accepted Jerome’s wheel and life became much easier for him and he became friendly.
After about 200km some started to flag and needed food. We found ourselves on what must be one of the few roads in Japan without a convenience store. We were getting desperate so would have settled for a chain other than the PE approved 7-11. We eventually found a 7-11 and refueled and rested. The picture below is of a tired man who had returned from a business trip at 11pm on Friday night, not slept as he had to prepare his bike to spend his Saturday riding 300km (edited: thanks to Pro-Dave for the correction). These Israelis are tough….

Once again the Van Houten Cocoa did wonders for me and from then on I felt great. After we restarted Jerome said he needed time to digest his food so we rode at a ’normal‘ pace. After about 10km he announced it was time to test his legs. He invited me to sit on his wheel and he pounded the pedals of his day-glow yellow 17 year old Peugeot tri-bike. We overtook a rider who had passed us a few minutes earlier and I invited him to get on my wheel. We flew along at 48-50km/h and the man behind me must have thought Christmas had come early as we blasted past several groups including a couple of teams. At the next check point we had a huge smile on his face and thanked us profusely before going on his way. The finish was only about 50km from the last check point so spirits were high again. We left as a group and rode fast together, usually with Jerome on the front. The orange PE train picked up a few thankful riders as it sped towards Itoigawa. The tunnels were no fun at all but otherwise the views were stunning. Jerome had his head down and was pouring on the power. Later I asked him whether he could see much when using the tri-bars as from behind it looked like he had his head down. He told me that he looks up from time to time to see the road ahead! Apparently there were lots of paragliders up in the air but I saw none as I was so focused on Jerome’s back wheel, clinging on for dear life.
Tunnels are never fun but when they are long, have a rough surface and there are short-tempered truck drivers who had already had to negotiate a few hundred cyclists on the road earlier around, they are definitely not fun. In one tunnel there was what sounded like an outburst of machine-gun fire which turned out to be a broken spoke in James‘ back wheel. Such power it must take……… Once we regrouped outside the tunnel and he ‚fixed‘ his bike it felt like we would just cruise to the finish and look for a photo opportunity or two.

In this last leg of the ride we were overtaken at quite high speed by a one-armed cyclist. In the ofuro (hot bath) afterwards a Japanese rider told me that this individual is famous in Japan. He is also a strong climber. Whereas he would be lighter it must be difficult to balance when going up a hill. For those who might be wondering about improving their climbing ability, an arm weighs a little over 3kg (The total arm mass is given as mean 3.216kg with a standard deviation of 0.464kg – from Clauser, „Weigth, volume, and center of mass of segments of the human body“, 1969, p.45).
The end came sooner than we expected and was a bit anti-climactic. We could see the town of Itoigawa a few kms ahead down on the coast but out of nowhere baton-man appeared to guide us into the Hotel Itoigawa grounds and the finish. James M was sitting there, showered, changed with a beer. He was disappointed to have taken more than 9 hours including all stops thanks to a blow out after being hit by a bird. He discovered that the small group he couldn’t keep up with after a while were…….. Japanese Olympic riders. It turns out he placed 26th overall and would have made the top 10 without this mishap. A tremendous performance from James ‚Dave the PRO‘ M. The rest of us ex the sleep deprived lawyers finished in 12 1/2 hours of which 10 hrs were in the saddle. It was not a race but apparently we placed a little better than halfway amongst the 500 entrants.
The finish: Coppi and Gimondi with road-dirt

and a tifoso….. (not really, below is James who got me into all this anyway)

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Tokyo Itoigawa report link

A nice trip report on James K’s blog.

And one on Tom’s blog.

And Japanese language reports from the Jyonnobi Team (A. Wood -winner) blog/site, the Ovest „boss no blog“ (Shop Owner/Mgr [Nishitani] – second place, first in age group), and Hiroshi’s report of his assist to Tom during the leg after Nirasaki.

… still waiting for James M’s report of his bicycle being attacked by savage tire-destroying birds and any other as yet not-fully-reported drama.

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Itoigawa Tactics (for the competitive ones)

Following is a (slightly) censored version of some pieces of advice I have shared with some fellow TOITO riders:

~ Remember the tactics ~

(1) Stop only to get your card stamped, fill up your bottle/grab a banana – resist the temptation to linger on at the checkpoints (or to make a conbini stop!)

(2) When you see an elevated intersection („fly over“) ahead, go for it (but at your own risk -cyclists are not permitted).

(3) Do not trespass on traffic rules/lights especially not in a blatant way in front of the organizers near the checkpoints.

(4) Toilet breaks to be taken on the road (use a tree)!

(5) Do not eat the inarizushi distributed at the checkpoints…the fried bean curd will cause your stomach to severely cramp (remember we don’t have the same intestines as Japanese)

(6) Be not afraid of the insanely long tunnels towards the end of the ride- wear sunglasses with clear, non-tinted glasses.

(7) Do not pump your tires to the max. – go for SOFT whatever pressure that is depending on your weight.

(8) Try to keep your average moving speed at least above 30km/h.

(9) Ride as defensively as you can – crazy car drivers out there in the countryside!

(10) Remember this is not a race (never mention the word „race“ during the ride!!) but only a fast run so better make it a real fast one and enjoy yourself!

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Red light

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Three Tetsu Chunen Positivistos on the Road

Nishibe-san, Hiroshi and I – the Positivo Espresso „Steel is Real“ Chapter, left on a half-day ride into Saitama this morning…story and map on Hiroshi’s and my blog. A few pictures here.

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TCC Stats

Took a lot of hard work and dedication to be this prolific.. approximately 260 posts per second.. I am a fast typist though.

Spotted by Auntie Undershirt.

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Wardrobe malfunction…

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MOB wins 219 km Brevet in record distance of 261 km (and finishes last time-wise)

I have to say that I am mighty impressed by all recent posts about long rides to the West of Tokyo. Everybody is in very good shape and will set no record times for Itoigawa. Not that I could write about similar adventures yet, but as long as I haven’t found a team in Bremen and established a blog in German I thought that I might as well post on the Positivo Espresso blog to give some insights into German cycling. Which is quite exotic. Last weekend I attend a 219km brevet (or bike marathon, as it was called).

I could leave the office comparatively early on Friday night and made my way to the local bike store at the edge of the town. There I could buy some parts to prepare myself for the brevet the next day. Most important; Watertight shoecovers, as spray rain was forecasted for all of the race day. I also bought a lock for my bike which looked as it has been milled out of a block of pure cryptonite. On the safety scale of the manufacturer from 1 to 10 it ranked on level 8, which I thought would be appropriate for Bremen. I wanted to confirm this at the counter and created great flabbergastation: „You want to leave your bike parked in the city with this lock? Are you completely out of your mind? Don’t you know that the police recommends at least this type here?“

And with this words the salesman lifted something on the counter which seemed to be suitable to lock a Soviet attack tank to a blast furnace. It was not only heavier than my bike, but even hard to lift up from the counter. Lesson learned: Take the tram into the city.

I also bought a family-packages of Snickers, muesli bars, bread etc. as I was so afraid of getting a bonk due to the complete absence of convenience stores within continental boundaries.

I woke up in time and of course it was already raining. Neverthless I rode the bike out to the start. Finally, some „real“ bikes were there, I noticed a Trek, some „Principia„, but surprinsingly no Canyons or Red Bulls, the two biggest German direct mail order bike brands. I paid my 20 Euro registration fee and got a start number (Sekken) and wanted to fix them on my jacket. There was a basket with safety pins …. I should have taken a photo. While in Japan safety pins for pro bike use are maximum 2 cm long, made out of cross section-optimized lightweight steel and all of the same type, these safety pins were massive. I haven’t seen these type of safety pins since Bill Grundy interviewed the Sex Pistols in 1976. If German bike locks couldn’t stop a Soviet tank – these safety pins would.

Everybody was very nice. And very old as well. There were a lot of cakes, sausages, sandwiches and drinks perpared by some older ladies which all looked like my mum. This is in sharp contrast to Japan, where they all like like my mother in law.

Anyway, at sharply 9 AM the tour started and I made myself on the way with the first and stronger group. Most of the riders were my age but there were also some fast younger guys with us. There were also a lot of tatoos to be seen, mostly on the lower legs. And I was happy to note that the typical body shape of the riders were much more like the one of David, Jerome or me as opposed to the bodily hulls of Ludwig, Fumiki and Alan.

Now the pace was quite fast, always in the range of 35 to 40 km/hr except when there was a turn or a road to be crossed as we had to adjust to the local traffic. After a while we had a fast group of about 25 riders and we were riding in a very organized fashion, taking turns at the front. Every rider stayed in front of the peloton for about 3 to 4 minutes before he felt back and made place for the next rider. Very efficient and organized, very German indeed.
And within no time we came to the first check point after 50 km.

After having experienced this very controlled riding for more than an hour, I thought that the whole group would start together agin from the control point, but there was no organisation at all. Some guys started, others tried to hang on, some didn’t and when we finally formed a group together again, we were only 18 riders left. Again the pace was quick and it was almost impossible to get back to the group once one has lost contact. At one point the front rider and me in second position went straight whereas the rest of the peloton made a right turn. When we found out we had a very hard time to close the gap again. It was strange to experience this difference between effective riding in the group and utterly chaos in group formation.

The second checkpoint was already at the 80 km mark and I utilized the time to clean my glasses. And when I put them on again I noted that most riders from the fast group had left already or where in the process. I hurried up to catch them and I was lucky, I thought when two other young riders from Hamburg University Cycling Team came from behind. Cool. I thought I can hang on to these guys and they will lead my back to the group. I am not exactly sure what has happened next, but they zoomed by at 60 km/hr and I had not even the slightest chance to stay in their draft. Now completely on my own I lost the contact with the group and could see them disappearing on the horizon.

Alone in the rain, without any draft I knew that the remain 140 km would be very much harder than the first 80 km. Luckily at the next light another rider who has lost contact closed up to me and we rode together, changing the positions every 5 to 10 minutes. Apart from the rain and the wind the ride was OK – there was not much to see and there was virtually 0 elevation meters to be made. Later, when I cheked the bike computer it had noted 227 m elevation diffference for much more than 200 km of riding. I guess that would be the same as riding 200 km on the Kawasaki Keirin bank. The Luenburger Heide, a natural reserve, we crossed, was a sandy, barren landscape. Parts of it were used by the British army for tank shooting practice.

So for the next 50 km I rode with this guy, older one, not very talkative. Then at 130 km we came to the next control point and the guy asked me if I wanted to east some hot soup which was served inside. Sure, I said and went inside. What he didn’t say was that he didn’t wanted to eat soup and bat wanted to go ahead, so when I came out again he was nowhere to be seen. Another group of riders was just incoming and wanted to take a soup break as well, so I thought,what the heck, I go on my own and when they overtake me I go with them.

That was a very bad idea. Becuase I thought that we would return the same route as we have come, but in fact there was a much shorter, official way back. So I tried to find the markers from the way out and had to stop quite frequently to check if I had not overseen a marker at a crossing which took quite some time. And there was no other rider on the road who could help. Of course I had no map as well. And after a while I got completly lost. No markers at all. And for the next two hours I rode in circles … Wohnste, Klein Wohnste, Hesslingen, Zeven, villages no living sould has ever heard of and which I crossed multiple times. Until I gave up to find the markers and oriented myself on the markers of the Bremen-Hamburg-Cycling Road.

This would lead me back to Bremen, I thought rather naively. Well, there are plenty of markers but sometimes on crossings where one is desperately needed, there are none. So again I lost the way many, many times. Beside, as German cycling starts at tyre size 700C x 35 in general, some stretches of the cycling road were unpaved dirt roads leading through forrests as showned in the Brother Grimms. Scary, not a house in sight, only forrest and fields, no cyclists, no human souls at all, sometimes a raised hide for hunters on the edge of a clerarance .. is there someone inside watching? Aiming?

But slowly I was coming closer to Bremen. While I did the first 100 km in 2:51 minutes, the second hundred km almost took me more than 4 hours.
Finally I arrived at the oputskirts of the city. I navigated my way to the goal and made it barely before the cutoff time at 6 PM (or nine hours). Most of the riders had already left – the fast group came already in after 6 hours.
I set a new record: 261 km for a brevet of 219 km, I think that is not only a record distance-wise but also pretty stupid. And of course it is the result or riding unprepared. But on the other hand everybody was quite nice to me at the finish and I got some cake and sausages from my mums.

Summary: Nice to talk about later, but very, very hard while doing. I found some better looking stretches of road yesterday, but photos of the weekend tours on the PE blog made me very envious: blue skies, warmth, mountains …..
Lesson learned: If the sky is blue in the morning and the temperature warm, phone the offide and take a holiday. This will only happen once a month anyway. From May to September.

Sorry no photos.

Map of the ride.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Bremen, Cervelo Soloist, Mob