Monatsarchiv: August 2010

More high-altitude conquests

Day 1: back over the highest pass in Japan – Norikura, at 2,700m
Day 2: over Utsukushigahara Kogen at 2,100m
Day 3: over the highest national highway pass in Japan – Yamada Toge, at 2,172m
More here.

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Laurent Fignon

Velonews and others reported today about the death of Laurent Fignon at the age of 50.

Laurent Fignon followed by Greg Lemon(d)
My first thoughts when I read he news were: „Oh, he is not that much older than me and he has won the Tour de France twice AND died already.“ I guess this is what happens when one get older and people one know are passing away to the right and to the left. Until, those who are still standing on the right or on the left will say: „Oh, mob has passed away already!“
I never watched cycling races on TV when I was a kid or later as a student, but for some reason unknown, I remember same names from the Seventies and Eighties: Diddi Thurau (noboby could escape the hype that was created in 1977 when he was leading the TdF), Raymond Poulidor, Joop Zotemelk, Freddi Maertens and of course Eddy Merkcx. And Laurent Fignon. Poulidor and Fignon I just loved for the sound of their names.
Moreover, Laurent Fignon wore this big oval glasses which made him look rather like an intellectual than a road racer. One could imagine him in the Sixties on the barricades in Paris leading the student unrest, agitating with a megaphone.

In this sense he was similar to Günther Netzer, the leading blond soccer revolutionary from my home team Borussia Mönchengladbach. Much adored even in these days. In the end nobody started any revolution but even years later one has the feeling, yes, these were the guys who could have managed it.

As Laurent Fignon was riding during a time when sun glasses were not popular and helmets not wore, one can remember his face and hair style well, they cast a well-known shade. Today, riders are almost anonymous when racing. Would you be able to identify say, Pettachi in a police line-up? Nibali? Tyler Farrar? Rudi Project. Oakley. Addidas. Rh+, Giro, Bell, Specialized, Mets and Catlike.

I am not sure when exactly, for sure not the first time when we met, but Jerome’s glasses plus hairstyle reminded me of Laurent Fignon. Not to mention his riding style. So I am happy to see Jerome alive and kicking in Japan: riding on the right, or riding on the left side.

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On the demise of the Cervelo Test Team

David posted already about the end of the Cervelo Test Team. I just would like to add some longer thoughts, perhaps too long for simple comment.

OK, Cervelo shuts down it’s own racing team and joins forces with the team of Garmin-Tranisitions. Things like that happen all the time, is there any team that starts in major cycling events that runs under the same name for a longer period of time, say 3 years? So one should not be sad. I would be sad if my hometown soccerteam Borussia Mönchengladbach would be renamed for obvious reasons of speed of spelling into Postbank MG, but teams in the peloton are lacking a more emotional bound.

Which is to say, that the Cervelo Test Team might be the obvious exception to this rule for several reasons that came to my mind the moment I read the news.

Well, I ride a Cervelo bike and so do some other Positivo Espressionists and TCCers. It might not be the greatest bike in the world (that is perhaps because it is the cheapest bike in the Cervelo lineup; so the more expensive ones must be greater and better: S1, formerly know as the Soloist). I personally also don’t think that it is much better or worse than a Cannondale, Colnago or Canyon. But it is my bike, the one I chose some time ago, and for that simple reason I would have loved to see the Cervelo Test Team continuing.

Why is it so hard to support a team called „Liquigas„? That is indeed another point for Cervelo: A sponsor who manufacturers road racing bikes and setup his own team. It is hard to support teams that are sponsored by companies distributing gas, providing credit, telecommunication, power tools, promoting strange countries or distributing consumer electronics. Moreover in countries I travel to very rarely. So I liked the idea very much that a cycling-related company sponsors a cycling team. That seems so logical, but with the exception of Skil-Shimano and perhaps Garmin-Transitions, there is not very much logic out there.

Exceptions to the above comment: Gerolsteiner, because they had these nice bubbles on their racing jerseys some years ago. And Euskatel, for the fantastic orange color. Definitely not exceptions:  Milram and Team Telekom. Minus points in addition for the magnenta color and failing to provide me with a telephone line within 4 weeks in Bremen.

Cervelo has great marketing. They featured a series of short videos called „Beyond the peloton“ which were very well made. Yes, yes, they brought great insights into the world of pro cycling and looked deeply behind the scenes of the teams. Sorry, but not the point. My point is that they had a good music track, some kind of modern version of Erik Satie’s
Gymnopedie No.1„. Plus some very nice pictures, all together creating an atmosphere, an image in my mind of how cycling could be.

Last but not least, the team featured some sympathic riders. No, not Heinrich „Barbie“ Haussler, who was rumored to take a leading role in Toy Story 3.  Rather, Carlos Sastre, who came across in the video series as a very responsible and modest guy, Thor Hushovd, and Andreas „GPS“ Klier — of whom I had never heard before.  And so far we have never heard any doping rumours about them. This is more than one can expect.

Finally, Cervelo had the best designed jerseys of all tour teams, with the exception that Team Euskatel has the better color. No sponsor names in completely different designs all over the place. Simply three colors plus oversized „“E accent aigu“ or however this thing is called.

That sums up my thoughts. So let’s see how the new liaison with Garmin will work out. How would a GPS system look like if it were designed by Cervelo. How would a bike look like if it were manufactured by Garmin?  I’m sure it would come with a 492 page user manual and a reset buttom located under the bottom bracket. And you must call Garmin every second month and ask for a new bike update.

Anyway. The Cervelo GPS could be the salvation.

Thanks to Podium Cafe.

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No more Bartape.Net

Cervelo Test Team confirms it is ending its Protour team sponsorship.  Sounds like the cost is just too expensive.  Sastre to Geox for the coda on his career.  Hushovd and Haussler rumored to be going to Garmin Transitions, and there are rumors that Garmin Transitions will become Garmin Cervelo, swapping out their Felt bikes for the faster, lighter, more aero and more comfortable Cervelos.

„The team had a spectacular debut season, winning stages and the green jersey in the Tour de France, stages in the Vuelta and Giro, as well as seeing Heinrich Haussler break through as a major force in one-day racing.“  They also made a nice video sitting around on the team bus.

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Climbing the Jens Voigt way

With thanks to Race Junkie at

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"Be a Man" said the Russian

As I rode out towards Ome with Laurent I thought I was unlikely to write a blog about the ride as I did not want to draw attention to the fact we were sneaking off for a Monday ride. Admittedly I had some concerns in the back of my mind as this was my first ride with him and like the other Belgian-on-a-bike I know I suspected he enjoyed pain & suffering. The previous night I saw the weather forecast was calling for 92% humidity at 6am and a high temperature of 35-36C and told Laurent whose response hinted about the events of the next day: „I’m just re-watching The Deer Hunter and if they can go through that then we can ride. Just don’t bring a pistol and a bullet as we mind end up preferring that.“

We made the obligatory stop at the Aurora Bakery (the PE sticker is still on the pole outside the shop) when we were approached by an American man who said our accents reminded him of a TV Cold War spy series called The Company which he was watching. When Laurent pointed out he was in fact not British the man said „of course not, you are Russian“ and then told us about Sasha, a mole in the CIA and to be particularly careful of his cardboard cut-out because it is alive. Confused? So were we. He explained he had been to a party „for a couple of hours“ – it was now 9am on a Monday morning. I never knew Ome had such a wild scene. Our stoned American sauntered off towards the station but reappeared in 7-11 warning us that we were being followed, but not by him. Drugs do strange things to people and this enables me to introduce the usual drug/booze crazed rock star.
This week I learned the story of Vince Taylor, the singer who David Bowie credits as his inspiration for Ziggy Stardust. Vince was a moderately successful Elvis-type singer who in 1958 wrote the song Brand New Cadillac, made famous by The Clash in 1979. Although popular, the BBC would not play the song on the radio as it was deemed to be advertising. Vince’s career struggled so he found work in Paris.

Vince became seriously unhinged when he tried LSD and appeared in front of his band-members holding a bottle of Matteus wine telling them he was now Matteus, the son of Jesus Christ. At the concert that night he took a jug of water into the crowd and tried to baptise the black leather-clad audience. It didn’t go down too well and his career was pretty much over.

On the road to the Holy Fountain the temperature was already 33C. The heat, the previous day’s ride and my first run in 2 years which left me with very tight hamstrings made climbing tough. My time up Yamabushi was almost 4 minutes slower than in the spring. On the way up I was thinking about which station I could get to on the other side but the descent made me feel OK and I told myself to HTFU. In the now searing heat we turned off up to climb Shigasaka. Last time Laurent took a wrong turn and ended up riding up a wall before the road leveled out. This time we got the ‚right‘ road which initially felt like a beautiful and gentle climb up the valley. No sooner had I said we had dodged a bullet and had found a nice road the gradient kicked up, and then up more. 10%, 11% and even 12%….. hard work. About 2km from the tunnel at the top we found a pipe gushing cold mountain water. Even Bertie Contador would have stopped. By the time we reached the top I was cooked and fully intended to branch off at the bottom of the descent and head to a station.
At the junction at the bottom I was about to make my excuses and say farewell when Laurent, the Russian, delivered the killer line: „Be a Man“. This is an in-joke between Laurent, a mutual friend and me and is a more polite version of HTFU. I could not face our mutual friend questioning my manliness. The video clip explains the phrase.
So instead of turning right and enjoying a flat/downhill ride to the station I turned left and headed up the road in blazing sun. At the entrance to Shiozawa Toge we stopped at a local village shop for water and ice-cream. No water so cold green tea. Very nice on its own but not so good later on during the climb when luke-warm and mixed with High 5 summer fruit flavoured energy powder. A very chatty old lady running the shop pulled stools out for us and offered us her kuri-gohan (chestnut rice) from the previous night. When we told her we were riding up Shiozawa she was surprised and said she had never actually been up there despite probably living around there all her life. I grew suspicious. Laurent claims he remembers a steep bit from the year before but not much else. The human brain has the ability to suppress painful memories.

The climb starts as quite hard work (9-10% up to a bridge) but soon after becomes a monster. Coming around a corner the road narrows and kicks up to 16%. Just as I was about to tackle this slope a truck came so I had to stand aside. No chance of starting again so I walked the next 50m. I thought I could have done it so soon when the next ramp came I managed to ride it (16%). It got worse. On the next slope I managed to keep riding until about 18% then stepped off. The next one was a non-starter for me: 200m at 22%. Even the local postman’s motorbike was struggling. After this the gradient dropped to a more comfortable 7% only to kick back up to 14% for a short stretch. The descent is long and fast but narrows in the middle so caution is urged.
We hammered it down to Tomioka and then up an unexpected 100m climb to Annaka where we boarded the train to Takasaki from where we took the shinkansen. I felt sorry for the people sitting around us on the train. The man sitting next to Laurent abruptly got off at Omiya, probably to call his wife to say that he felt faint and wasn’t going to back in Tokyo that night but felt he had to break his journey in Omiya. When I got home my children didn’t want to come near me. I got in the shower fully-clothed.

Although my legs were not in top form it was a very enjoyable and challenging day. 180km, 2500m of climbing and 8 or more litres of fluid during the ride and lots afterwards. I didn’t have a camera so had to make do with my cellphone, hence the lack of photos.

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Red ticket

„In the case of running a red light, for example, car drivers can be fined up to 9,000 yen, but cyclists face a fine of up to 50,000 yen, and there is a possibility that they will automatically get a criminal record.

In April 2006, the NPA set up a program to promote road safety measures, and told prefectural police divisions to crack down on cyclists who violated regulations. In March 2007, while the Diet deliberated on a revision to the Road Traffic Law that would tighten enforcement of the regulation that in principle cyclists should not travel on sidewalks, police began to crack down on cyclists riding on sidewalks. After the revised law came into effect in July, the NPA told police to issue traffic tickets to cyclists for blatant or dangerous violations.

In 2006, a total of 268 cyclists were issued red traffic tickets, but this figure jumped to 598 in 2007, 903 in 2008 and 1,326 in 2009. The most common offence in 2009, committed by 436 people, was passing through closed railway crossings. Next was ignoring traffic lights, for which 358 cyclists were ticketed. Another 67 received tickets for riding at night without lights and 50 were handed red tickets for riding under the influence of alcohol.“

Over 1,300 cyclists ticketed for serious offences in 2009 amid police crackdown

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Orange Bullet Night Ride

I awoke at a reasonably normal hour for the first day following a flight from the US West Coast–at 6:30AM.  I took my time getting started in the morning … until around 8:30AM my email started to flash and I learned of a 10AM conference call.  Somewhat relieved of the excuse not to head out into the furnace, I jumped at my wife’s suggestion of a late afternoon ride as things started to cool down.

This gave me a great opportunity to try my new Mavic orange reflective jersey, and my „fibre flare“ rear flashing light, attached to my seat stays.

It was still hot at 4:45PM as I started my ride heading directly toward the sun, low in the western sky.

I was rewarded once I got part of the way up the Asagawa toward Hachioji, as a strange cloud appeared directly in front of the sun, blocking it except for a golden lining around the edges of the cloud.  This site had many pedestrians stop, point and shoot with their cellphone cameras.

As I passed Takao, some of the summer festivals were underway.  One group had their matsuri along the Asagawa path, in a nice spot.  Another decided to have their matsuri on Route 20 near a busy intersection, complete with police traffic escort (I think I saw some of the same elderly cops who handled the Tamagawa fireworks on Saturday — overtime pay bonanza this weekend.

Anyway, I skipped the Seven Eleven and kept going up the hill, turned around about half way up, and upon the return saw two motor scooters actually turn right into a newly constructed tunnel that has opened up since my last visit to the Otarumi climb hill, just at the location of the Ken-O-do expressway bridges early in the Otarumi TT route.  The tunnel had a sign indicating „Machida“ — a great find for me since I had been planning a return by Onekansen, and knew I did not have time to go West over the Otarumi hill and around via Tsukui-ko.  The tunnel was cool, fast and well lit.  It must have been 1.5 or 2 km long, and all of 2 cars passed me during its length.

Now the orange bullet really started to fly — down Machida Kaido, then Onekansen, with a slight tail wind to ease the pain. 

The reflective vest, and my flashing fibre flare, must have made me the most visible cyclist in Japan for a hour or more.  … unless the rider from the May 1 600 km Brevet who had a similar Mavic vest happened to be out at the same time.  Do people wear these in Europe?  The label said something about compliance with European Union requirements?  Why wasn’t Sarkozy in one of these for his cycling photo op?

The rider who had one of these won the award for „most visible“ rider in May … but will have competition if he happens to ride theChubu Audax October event.

In any event, I made good time, and after a quick water stop, enjoyed the ride down the Kawasaki side of the Tamagawa.  This afforded a good view of the Keirin track (Tokyo Oval Keio Kaku), which, like many other buildings, looked totally different at night.  Not better, not worse, just different.

This may be a decent solution to the summer heat problem.  Next time — I think I will just head out, keep going in the dark, and hop the train home.

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One more step along the road to global domination: PE has conquered the highest mountain pass in Japan (2,700m).

More here.

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Holy Ride

I found this Youtube video on the TCC website. While watching I was constantly thinking that among us, only David L. may have the nessesary skills, courage, weight and luck to attend this race.
Its was hold on the premises of the Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Yawata City, Kyoto prefecture just a few days ago.

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Eingeordnet unter 2010, Mob