Breaking news at bottom: James on the fixie got his date (see end of blog)
A motley crew boarded a bus in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon (not worth a photo) but a few hours later, at 6am on Sunday, had been converted into a team to strike fear into the heart of any cyclist (above, and no, apparently Walter and DJ were not holding hands) – if the challenge was pie-eating or drinking yards of ale. We had the kit, but also body fat and hairy legs. It should be noted that many people commented positively on the BGC jerseys designed by Walter. They were especially popular with the old women serving the complimentary bowl of noodles after the race. Talking of motley crew this gives the opportunity for me to get in my now usual mention of a crazed, over the hill rock band, Mötley Crüe.
Readers of the Positivo Espresso blog will recall James K sent out a message late last week
a couple of open slots for the race and there was a reply from an Alberto C, soon followed by replies from Lance A and Fabian C. So it was with some surprise that I looked around the bus and saw someone looking and even sounding remarkably like this gentleman pictured on the left. All weekend he claimed to be called Carlos and that he worked at a major investment bank in New York. After an uneventful bus ride including the obligatory stop at an expressway service area that nobody needed (a Japanese tradition), we arrived at the registration area to check in and drop off our bikes. Bikes were left in the vast gymnasium overnight.
After checking my bike in I tasted the forbidden fruit. Walking past the Pinarello stall the man beckoned me over and invited me to test ride the new Dogma 60.1. To be more precise, I think I was standing in front of the stall with my tongue hanging out and drooling. This is my dream bike which I am currently not allowing myself to buy for no good reason. It isn’t the machine but the man is what the sensible people say.
Back to the hotel, wonderful onsen followed by dinner at the Italian downstairs. We consumed the restaurants supply of aptly named Chianti Fiasco (sounds impressive but they only had 3 bottles) and then finished the Sangiovese (3 bottles) while DJ worked on the restaurant’s store of white wine. Some stuck to beer and a few even water. 2 long tables were laid out for us but when we arrived one seat was already taken by a trim looking guy with coiffed hair. Turns out he is Mr. Hill Climb Japan. Daisuke Imanaka is the second Japanese rider to participate the Tour de France (1996). The first was Kisso Kawamuro in 1926. Also rode in the 1995 Giro d’Italia and won the Tour of Hokkaido a record 3 times.
When Ken mentioned that he was 25 years old and had exercised every day for the past 8 years and was taking bets about his time the next day being better than 1:29 we realised we needed to do something. Since he works for our hosts, BGC, the restaurant staff referred all questions about orders and bills to him, giving Koji the chance to keep filling up his wine glass. Despite this, Ken won his bets in the race the next morning further proving my theory that red wine before a race is good.
After dinner, believers in the school of thought that carbs are good and therefore a cleansing ale is essential before a race went up to The Twinkle Roof on the top floor. Note that this bar is closed on Tuesdays. This is the first time I have heard of a hotel bar (the only one in the building) that closes one day a week. It was here that an important discussion of aerodynamics took place. Who said Positivistas were not well-rounded (academically, not physically)? Tyler explained Laminar Flow (I have included a diagram just in case you don’t know what this is). The wake created by air passing over a roughened surface is smaller than if passed over a smooth one (think golf ball).
Geoff put this theory into practice by not shaving the following day thus having the equivalent of a layer of sandpaper on his face and achieved an excellent time of 1:21. Could there be a link with the tweed-clad mustachioed riders in last week’s blog?
The crew gathered at 5:20 on Sunday morning and took the shuttle to the start area. The photo looks like a provincial Afghan market place which has just been bombed but in fact it was the car park where cyclists gathered. The only explosions were tyres which had been pumped to 140psi by people who forgot they were already at 1050m and were about to climb to 2350m.
This year the Elite class set off 4km further down the road making their race 28km. Thus times are not comparable with last year. This year’s fastest ascent of the usual 24km course was 1:05. So far no rider has officially broken 1 hour. The nearest was a few years ago when someone clocked exactly 1:00.00. Perhaps he too was distracted by the harmonica player who seems to ride around 4-5 km from the top thinking he is encouraging riders when in fact he is quite annoying. Although this year once again we were cheered on by the usually kindly obasans and taiko drummers I noted Japan’s version of Diablo was missing this time. The original is pictured.
It seems that everyone who rode last year significantly improved their times. I was pleased with my 1:32 (almost 12 minutes faster than last year) despite having gear problems which in the end forced me to abandon my ride back to Tokyo and take the bus instead. I now believe the old man to whom I slipped a few Yen to nobble James‘ gears overnight misunderstood me and sabotaged my bike instead. This may have kept me off the podium so I never did discover whether Yamanashi podium girls are any match for the Giro d’Italia ones.
James, with whom I agreed to work with on the climb but never saw again after the start gate, a true PE tradition of not keeping to a plan) very nearly broke 1:30. Konstantin, this year on his own bike and not weighed down by a heavy chain lock came in at 1:18, Tyler 1:32, Ken 1:27, Shane 1:27, Alberto „Call me Carlos“ Contador 1:25-ish etc
(all times are subject to announcement of final results).
Although not in our group, and in fact not officially registered, a Different James rode a fixie up in 1:32, a very commendable achievement but then again, this is the man who rides a fixie up Wada Toge. He started several groups ahead of us and I was sure this was no course for a fixie and that we would see him on the climb. We didn’t. Our descent would definitely have been more fun than his. However, he was keen to get down as he was working to get the phone number of a very attractive non-male working at one of the cycle clothing stalls.
After returning to Tokyo Tyler and I broke our journey from the drop-off point at Ni-no-hashi to home (500m for him and 800m for me) with a couple of warm-down debriefing beers at The Tipplers Arms.
Very special thanks to Walter, James, Ken and others at BGC for their hospitality, generosity and organisation of such a fun weekend.
BREAKING NEWS: Different James, the fixie rider, not only made it back down Fuji but also got his date. Smooth operator.