TdF 2014: In Cartoons, in Japan.

Anbei noch ein sehr schöner Post von David von Positivo Espresso über das TdF Event in der französischen Botschaft in Tokyo und das anschliessende „Rennen“ in Saitama.

As noted last week, there was an event at the French Embassy in Tokyo on Thursday evening, October 24, in advance of Saturday’s Criterium in Saitama sponsored by ASO/Tour de France, sponsored by the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It was good to see a number of TCCers at the event, many of whom I have not ridden with in far too long … as if I could keep up with them!

The highlight, of course, was meeting the stars — Le Blaireau (the Badger), Bernard Hinault, five-time winner of the Tour de France, and winner of all 3 grand tours – the Vuelta and the Giro, as well as the Tour.  He is a very important presence for the Tour, and as Graham Davis notes in a Pez Cycling report, saved the day yet again.  I cannot wait for next year’s Tour–genuinely excited about the initial 2 stages in northern England (beautiful Yorkshire) and the day on the Pave in northern France.

Arashiro, Bardet and Hinault, photo courtesy of CCIFJ

And Romain Bardet, the 22-year old French hope for future greatness, who hails from the Auvergne region near Clermont-Ferrand, where I had such a memorable time with visiting with Jerome and Didier for the Etape du Tour Acte II in 2011 (Issoire-St. Flour).  Romain was in Japan for the race, and his girlfriend was along, so they planned to stay an extra week.  Maybe Jerome will show them around Kamakura or Nikko??

Romain Bardet and his girlfriend, with Jerome and me!

Romain said his father had ridden the 2011 Etape Acte II.  He recalled the miserable weather that day.  Exactly!  The headwinds and cold rain gave me a chance for a decent showing, as the thinner cyclists and many of those from warmer climates — the Brazilians, Spaniards, Italians, et al. got chilled and huddled in the lee of buildings, abandoning early.  It was exactly the type of conditions under which Jerome and I excel — a war of attrition with 210 kms and 3500+ meters elevation gain over numerous small/medium sized climbs.  I hung in there with the Belgians and Brits, and finished something like 1300 out of 1900 finishers (over 3000 starters and more than 4000 registered–major attrition).

Setagayans

Jerome introduced Yukiya Arashiro to the #2 at the French Embassy, so Arashiro-san can get some VIP treatment in getting his visa squared away for next season (not so easy for a non-EU citizen, but in this case essential to Franco-Japan relations and to the Tour’s and French cycling’s status as a global sport.  Of course, Yukiya rides for Europcar, a primarily French team and home of the always exciting Thomas Voeckler.  He said he lives in Setagaya (when in Japan), actually quite close to Jerome and me.  He weighs only 53~54 kgs, but said that if he wants to content for the GC (instead of being an attacking rider, one-day competitor and super-domestique), he would need to lose more weight to climb faster.  Impossible to imagine, but good to know that we have something in common.

I missed much of the marketing presentation — so much the better — but enjoyed mingling, as well as the table full of Bretagne-style crepes, both the kind that make a meal and sweet dessert crepes.  I managed to eat every variety on the table, and to wash them down with a few glasses of French hard cider.

On Saturday, Jerome and I had planned to ride up to Saitama Shin-to-shin to watch the criterium and see the related exhibits … but the typhoon passing offshore dumped heavy rain all morning, so we hopped a train instead.  Most of the exhibits were only tangentially related to cycling, though there were some with a French theme (cheese, wine, etc.).

There was a big crowd, which just got bigger as the day went on.  I guess there is not much else to do on a rainy Saturday in central Saitama?

Indoors in the arena there were cycling exhibits, but nothing to write home about.  There was an educational exhibit on the Tour — which included a nice photo of the Issoire-St. Flour stage from 2011!  And there was a video running where we say excerpts from Chris Froome’s incredible ride up Mt. Ventoux this year.

We did run across Jamie S., one of the few Tokyoites (perhaps the only?) to have ever completed the Race Across America (RAAM), with a 4-person team in 2012 and, much more difficult, a 2-person team in 2013.  Jamie said he and his partner each did 330 kms a day, on around 3 hours sleep.  They rode 2962 miles (4700 kms) in 7 d 15 h 46 m. That sounds like starting with LEL, but add 30-40 kms a day, and extending the event for an additional 3 days/900 kms, and of course riding at a faster pace (but with more time off the bike, when your partner is riding).  He said it was very hard — something about saddle sores and exhaustion.  Not going back again.  Respect.

People keep coming and coming toward the events.

Jerome and I visited some of the booths, and as the rain stopped early afternoon, we saw a points race with Alejandro Valverde, Fumi Beppu and others.  The Japanese police did their very best to ensure that no one stood on the walkways, staircases or other places where it would be possible to actually SEE the riders as they passed in both directions.

Move along.  Keep away from the edge where you might get a good view of the race.

Of course, the races were just exhibitions, not the world championship circuit.  Chris Froome mysteriously won the main event, out-racing several better sprinters who did not even get out of their saddles to sprint, I am told.  Let’s hope that if they ever do this again, that the weather cooperates better, and that they get a longer course with better views for a crowd 3, 4 or 5 persons deep, and maybe even a climb or two.

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