After spending two months in the German diaspora, I will fly back to Japan on July 10th/11th to pack all our worldly goods (except my family) into a container which will be shipped to Germany in due course. Then, the plane for Germany leaves on July 16th and that might be the last time I will come and leave Japan for a longer time. I will be fully busy with rejoining my family, do last minute shopping, meet friends, organize paperwork and removal preps ……..
Naturally I will also want to escape from all of this and it would be wonderful if we can organize a bike ride sometime between July 13th and 15th most likely. I have spoken with Ludwig already and I might be able to put my hands on his cyclo cross for a ride with him. I would like to do one of the nicer mountain climbs I have some nostalgic feelings for, perhaps Matushime, Yabitsu, Tsuru/Tawa or Gando or O-Toge, perhaps Yanagizawa or Doshi-Michi.
If you guys are out there and not vacationing in Europe or elsewhere, please let me know.
As part of my preparation for the upcoming Etape on 18th July I fitted an 11×28 cassette on my wonderful new Dura-Ace 7850 wheels. I discovered that on long climbs having the ability to shift into a 28 really helps – especially in the „disadvantaged“ state I was in for Sunday’s training ride. To paraphrase the immortal words of Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnell, „this one goes to 28“.
Firstly, a lesson in how not to prepare for a day of climbing in summer heat: champagne, white wine from the Loire region, red Bordeaux, Sauternes, vintage port and then 4 1/2 hours of sleep. Whereas I thought upon waking up that I had miraculously dodged a bullet, reality (and a feeling of approaching death) set in on the 7:30 train to Otsuki. I was indeed in a disadvantaged state. Riding away from Otsuki station James K soon pulled ahead. Soon a problem with my front derailleur forced me to stop to have a look. The little devil sitting on my shoulder was suggesting it was damaged beyond repair and the only solution was to retreat to the station but the angel on the other shoulder reminded me of Rule 5 (harden the **** up) and take what was coming to me. The gentle ascent to the beginning of Sasago Toge was the most difficult time I have ever spent on a bike. The heat and humidity were killing me. Once in the shade and quiet of the climb itself the world began to reset back to normal. I am not yet fully used to the noise from the rear hub of the new wheels so on the descent I kept thinking there was another bike right behind me.
We descended down to the Fruit Line and rode across to the climb up Yanagisawa Toge, attacking from the Enzan side (16km). This is a long a steady climb and is ideal for our Etape preparations. Apart from having to stop to switch off the cadence monitor in my Garmin (which was going haywire) and some cramp in my toes it was an uneventful climb. At the top it started raining – this was not to be the only rain of the day. The rain falling on the hot roads made for a descent through steaming rods – very dramatic. Towards the bottom we turned right down the now infamous route 18 – y’know, the road with the „rollers“ such as Tsuru Toge and the Kobu Tunnel approach. OK, you say, those are further down route 18 and we would not encounter them on this day. True, but within a short distance we found ourselves on a 16% slope which eases off to a mere 14%. This was sharp 250m climb. It was indeed a short-cut through to Matsuhime, but in future, beware when James suggests a „short-cut“ or „just a few rollers“. Having said that, his underestimations are not always bad. For example a quick pint after work can sometimes turn into something rather more….
The climb up Matsuhime was refreshingly cooler and then beyond refreshing when the heavens opened and it rained very hard and glasses steamed up etc. Steamed up glasses did not make too much difference on the first part of the descent as visibility was very poor anyway as we were in a cloud. We kept up a brisk pace back to Otsuki station and made the train just in time.
120km and 2700m of climbing. According to my Garmin I hit a new record top speed of 914.3km/h. I’m not sure if that is when I was going uphill or downhill. If you heard a sonic boom yesterday that must have been me.