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It is very strange to write in detail about one’s own Sayonara ride while one is still in Japan. So I would like to make a few comments here and there only, post some pics and thank everybody who came along and send me off to the far shores of Germany. Still it is hard to write something which hasn’t been written already a thousand times before. But you have given very much to me and I am very thankful for that.
So, we had a good time.
It started as a nice day in spring with the carp streamers high up in the sky. I met some of the PE guys at the Tamagawahara bridge and we rode off to Takao. On the way we passed a cyclist with an exchange frame on the back. Perhaps, I thought, we should re-start the TCC-thread about the proper content of a saddle bag and include „Exchange carbon frame“ I thought before we realized that the bicycle free flea market was hold at Sekidobashi along the way. Just like cycling, the flea market has come a long way, from a hardly noticeable event to more than 100 people attending last Saturday – not bad at all.
We said goodbye to Dominic who was asked to attend a ballet recital of his daughter before she will be send to Borneo where she will live in the jungle with the Aborigines for two years; hence the need for ballet education which will come handy.And by chance I also saw Zenbiker along the way at the Asakawa. Or perhaps I understood something wrongly. My English is not very good, sometimes I mix up easy words such as „fencing“ and „fanzine“.
A huge crowd has arrived already and I was very much impressed by the turnout. Doing my round of shopping at the 7-Eleven, I noticed a small detail at the Weider Jelly Stand. It seems that nobody so far was interested in Vitamins, Proteins or Beauty, but everybody was preparing himself for a „leisurely“ ride. More energy was much in demand.
We then rode on through Takao, the Showa cemetery (where I once almost met the emperor with the zipper of my trousers open) and along the Jimbakaido to the bus stop at the base of Wada Toge where we assembled the group for the first ever organized time trial of TCC and PE. There was some reluctance first and some riders choose to disappear before we could get started, but overall we manged this quite well and we had a lot of competitive results. James time was very impressive and so were those of James and Tim on their fixies.
Here are some photos which I took at the start of each rider and which documents the various pro starting techniques which are acceptable in Japan as per Japanese Cycling Rulebook paragraph 248 b):
Zen-like concentration paired with minimum wind resistance in standing position. Headtowel soaks up sweat from extreme concentration.The „I am gone already, cannot possibly wait for your finger to push the shutter“ style executed by Yair.
The Scottish copy of the previously described Hiroshi-Zen starting style. The rucksack is filled with real look stone made out of polyester to increase the awe-factor. Note: More efficient when rucksack is open.
The „When speed is more important than direction“ style.
This style is appropriate for rides from Tokyo to Nagoya or further as proven by Travis.
This is Kim starting – easy to mix up with Fumiki as both belong to the blue men group.
The bike starts to move at 40 km/hr immediately after releasing the brakes. The „American dragster race“ style.
Sorry to say, Steve, but this style is not yet described in the rulebook.
Please note that as usual Mike lines up behind Sergey at the start so that his motivation to overtake him is amplified by a factor similar to the amount of Japanese government debts.
…. as we can see here.
Nobody was really in the mood to start another time trial up to Kobu Tunnel (OK, I was not in a mood to do so) but nevertheless once David gave the „Go!Go!Go!“ sign everybody started to move up quickly. I was staying with Yair almost all of the time. Already a bunch of guys were waiting at the top when I arrived and the others came in one by one.Steve almost crashed while trying to raise his arms in victory salute. He barely could stay on the road and in order to calm down he went for a pee with fellow Englishman Michael. Which lasted for only a few seconds as the warning shout „Naomi is coming up!“. Steve managed to zip-up and to play the innocent bystander while Michael couldn’t manage to stop.Naomi nevertheless didn’t noticed anything and showed Steve how to cross the finish line not only in style but also straight and paralell to the road. Also I would like to mention that she was also so kind to finish behind me, I guess some form of Sayonara-present. She overtook me once when riding up to Tomin-no-mori and that was when I set my personal best time. Amazingly after a while also the Fixies were arriving. They had the huge respect of everybody that they could do that extensive climbing on their bikes. Still I guess that everybody else thought that theyr were happy to posses 20 speed geared bikes. I like this photo of James with enchanced colors. The bike itself is rather not enhanced. Cool helmet color, by the way.
And then we went superfast down to Itsukiachi in nice duells giving no rest to the wicked. This also continued on the Mutsumibashi road to the Tamagawa, where Ludwig, James, Travis, Yair and me speeded along at 40 km/hr plus. And what did I get for all of this effort? One lousy T-shirt from Israel!No, I was joking, I think it was the perfect present for the day, Thanks Yair.
As this was my Sayonara ride I rode out the next day with Ludwig to Chichibu, but this is another story to be told another time.
OK, in the photo we can see Ludwig, David and Hiroshi taking little interest in the suffering of Graham on the last meters up to Wada Toge. Not very interesting indeed. But who knows something about the silver-grey SUV trailing behind Graham? I don’t know why, but something make me suspicious … James?
Place / Name / Time / Comment
1. ME 24.12 seconds
2. James 16:06 min
3. Mike 16:29 min
4. Alan 16:48 min
5. Fumiki 16:55 min
6. Sergey 17:10 min
Ludwig 17:10 min
7. Tom 17:36 min
8. Kim 17:47 min
9. Hiroshi 18:48 min
10. Keren 18:55 min
11. Travis 19:04 min
12. Thomas 19:35 min
13. MOB 20:55 min
14. Steve 21:17 min
15. Yair 21:32 min
16. James 23:22 min (Fixie!)
17. Graham 25:02 min
18. Tim 25:59 min (Fixie!)
19. Philipp 129 days 17 hrs 12:34 min (of no riding)
It was fun and one wonders why we haven’t come up with the idea earlier. Also the results were quite impressive – we are a very competitive bunch. To bring them into perspective, please check with the PE blog Togebaka (to the right, #2, the TCC Hall of Fame [Wada Toge East] and the all time cyber cycling list. James winning time of 16:06 min would have placed him in 43rd position out of 457 entries.
On Wednesday I joined a ride organized by Sergey from TCC attacking Yabitsu from the South.
In preparation for the ride I did two things: First I spend the night before with a friend drinking beer and eating yakitori at a very nice establishment on Roppongi-Toge and secondly, I made a post on the TCC blog what I would do after I have ridden up Yabitsu.
So the next morning I had a hard time to get out of the bed. Tuesday was a wonderful spring night in town, or so it had seemed after a lot of beer riding back on the bike, so I left the window of the sleeping room open. It was very cold in the morning and I had to dress with additional layers before I left the house.
I met Sergey at Hadano station, by chance he took the same train and soon after Mike and Dale arrived as well. We started almost on time in direction Yabitsu pass and pedaling ahead full speed. I immediately made the pace in the front, so when I looked back everybody was gone. Later I learned that they have stopped to look for water but in this moment I was feeling like a miniature edition of Deej.
Then we made a very brief stop at the road 246 crossing which is the official start for the TCC Hall of Fame South Yabitsu Time Trial (and now is also the same for the Positivo Espresso Toge Baka). Although everybody said that they would not race and take it easy, I fell back almost instantly on the steep slopes at the beginning and couldn’t possibly keep up. So, I felt like a miniature edition of mob.
I hate to get out of a train, assemble the bike and immediately start climbing. I need a proper warm-up, if possible 40 km. A long time ago David, Juliane and me got out of the Shinkansen, assembled our bikes and rode up from Atami to Atami Toge and that was one of the hardest rides I ever did.
Yabitsu is mean at the start but then it gradually gets flatter and I enjoyed the ride more and more. I was going steadily in the 10 – 15 km/hr bracket, I could constantly keep the tension and even accelerate on the flatter parts. When I made it to the top all three riders were waiting for me and I clocked a time of less than 48 minutes. Which I found very respectable, given the fact that there is much more elevation to cover than on the North approach, so being faster up on the South side seems pretty good.
Note: Of course the North side is much flatter and much longer: 18.6 km compared to 11.7 km.
But then, looking at the TCC Hall of Fame later, I noted that there is a notorious rider from the club who went up the South side in 31 minutes. And all the other good TCC riders are up in 40, 41 minutes so I really felt very weak again.
Anyway, I said goodbye to Sergey, Mike and Dale who have provided good company at the station, at the top of the pass and app. 3 minutes during the climb.
Then I rode down Yabitsu on the North side, a little bit of snow was left on the sides of the road, but basically the road was free of snow and water. I wanted to explore a new forrest road which is roughly halfway down and leads to road 64 (the fast road down from Miygase lake to Hon-Atsugi). I have watched cyclists coming out from there from time to time and one can see a nice bridge of the road from the Yabitsu main road.
There was a barrier which was no match and the road went down. From Mike’s post onthe TCC blog I expected a road leading down all the way, so I was surprised when I had to climb up 100 meters, then go down again, then climb up again. The road conditions were not good, typical rindo but much better than right-left-entry pass some days before. At one point I encountered a huge wild boar on the road, first I thought that this would be a small bear. Luckily it had no interest in me. The road went on forever and I easily added another 300 meters of climbing before I made it to the gate at road 64. In the end the road went down to elevation 200m and so I had to climb up road 64 for another 150 meters before I came back to Miyagase Lake.
I then followed the road on the other side of the lake through a continuous series of long tunnels and bridges before I arrived at Tsukui. After all this slow riding all day long I was glad to find a nice, wide and fast downhill road and speeded down at more than 60 km/hr.
Yeah, that felt good. But suddenly I noted that almost right in front of me there was a white passenger car on my side of the road. It was completely unclear what he was doing there, trying to overtake a car that was parked on the opposite lane or making a right turn. I braked as much as I could so that the bike was heavily swearing to both sides and I braced for the inevitable impact if the car would make a right turn indeed. Luckily it just had intended to overtake the parked car and moved back to his side of the road, so I flew by through the opening but it was very, very close and I was screaming.
I could have been dead or seriously injured if I would have gone faster and missed the time window when the car moved back to the right. I felt like the hero in one of the strangest movies I have ever seen called „Jacob’s ladder“ about an American guy (Tim Robbins, great as usual) who leads a normal living but has terrible hallucinations about Vietnam until at the end of the movie it is revealed that he had died already in Vietnam and that all of this was his dying hallucination.
It reminded me also of the first time I climbed up Jacob’s ladder on my bike which was 2005 in Hawaii when I mistakenly rode up the ramp to a highway (having lived in Japan for such a while I couldn’t possibly imagine that it could be so easy to enter a highway) plus I was so stupid, as the entry was on the left side of the highway, to cross over the complete four lanes to the right side before finally finding the next exit and disappearing in white smoke. Cars were honking and people were looking at me if I were crazy (understandable) and I am sure I made it into the radio news.
Anyway, after that my spirit was completely broken and I sneaked along through Tsukui North lake road (The druglord had visitors and I also noted that he had planted cactus plants on the other side of the road) to Hashimoto where I recovered eating a large bowl of ramen noodles.
After that I rode the tank road and Onekan home, it just wasn’t fun any longer and I was glad to be home again.
But thanks to Sergey, Mike and Dale for the invitation and good company, I wouldn’t have made it out of the bed otherwise and that was good.
Some other news, before I forget: I went to Nagai-San from POSTIVO to fix my Zonda wheel that was damaged in the attack down from Right-left-entry pass. He told me that he will move his shop to a bigger location on Meguro Dori, close to the crossing with Kamapachi Dori (at the entry of Daisan Keihin). I think the move is planned for May.
And Jerome did a Togebaka approach from Yoshino Kaido up to Mitake Cable Car station. Not knowing that this ride hasn’t been included in the Togebaka List yet. James, Michael and Graham will remember that this is the mother of all pointless rides, which started the venerable tradition to include pointless rides in all unorganized club rides last year.
No Davids in sight. Also no slot machines.
When we planned to organize a classic ride on Sunday, we didn’t know that this would draw the biggest group in team history. And for some reason it comprised of only one David, actually the original one, now with beard. And, of course it became an undisciplined, unorganized „recovery“ ride in the typical fashion of our team.
I woke up early in the morning still with very heavy knees as a result of the 200 km trip the day before with Ludwig where we circumferenced the Hakone mountains. Already on the way to the meeting point at the Tamagawa I noticed that I could barely ride 30 km/hr in the flat, neither force my heart rate to go over 155 BPM. But not to worry, as this was an official Positivo Espresso „recovery ride“. So I expected some fast pace along the Tamagawa until everybody burned out and then a leisurely ride up to Otarumi and Tsukui.
Well I arrived on time at Tamagawahara bridge and already a large crowd has gathered, not only the usual Positivo suspects such as David, Jerome, Dominic (David), Bryon, Yair, James (David) and Michael on his Cervelo with new Shimano Di-3 (this is an upgrade from Di-2 which includes a small electrical assistance motor, invisble to the human eyes), but also Fumiki and his friends „Ko“ and „Sho“ (together they ride under the name 故障) and Deej and Jules from the TCC. I was tempted to collect participation fees and ride home (150 Yen for PE members, 15 million Yen for first timers) as a free and rich man.
And while I was talking with Fumiki as he casually mentioned „Everybody’s riding already“ and I turned my head just to see our group taking the first bend at the horizon. So we had to hurry up and chase behind the peloton. It was impossible to catch up as everybody in the front group pedalled as fast as they could and there was a strong headwind that we had to overcome. Finally at the bridge after Sekidobashi we caught up but at this point we have lost already Bryon and either Ko or Sho, not sure. The tempo was just murderous for me and I was looking forward to the point where everybody would relax; this was supposed to be a „recovery“ ride.
We then rode the usual road along the Asagawa where we encountered a dispatchment of stormtroopers or perhaps baseball kids and where we left a mildly negative impression on the local population. Little girls were graping there teddy bears tightly and small boys looked up to there mothers, saying „Mama, when I am big I want to become a foreign bicycle rider.“ „Rather I will set fire to the house and kill the whole family.“
We somehow made it to the Takao 7-Eleven where we re-grouped and linked up with Tom, Hiroshi, Nishibe and Clay from TCC. To the neutral outside observer we must have looked like a very fast group thanks to the strong additions from other teams.
I spoke with Jules and he asked me „Are you the guy with scars all over your leg?“ How did he know? Where my lovely deadhead-diapers lurking out from the bib trousers? But I agree, scars on the legs are even cooler than shaved legs. And they hurt more. But the part of my body that hurts the most was my behind, as I did more than 400 km of cycle riding the last five days. I will refrain from posting pictures here.
Then we started the Otarumi TT and even before the official starting point Tom, James, Deej, Clay, Hiroshi, Fumiki and Jules went off like rockets while I stayed with Nishibe, Yair and David in a second group, followed by Dominic, Ko, Michael, Jerome.
On the top of Otarumi we took a group shot to document this historic event (more riders then average blogviews per day in 2008).
From there on we continued downhill and then took the classic turn to Tsukui lake. All of this still at very high speeds. Things became a little chaotic. I guess all of us took the left turn at the Circle K that leads to the Tsukui North road, but then not all of us went along the North side and definitely many lost track when we rode into Hashimoto. David proposed to ride his favourite backroad shortcut and I was hanging on for dear life, as I had no idea where I was and in case I got lost, it would have taken me days to find the way back to Onekan.
Somehow we managed to re-group at the Starbucks 7-Eleven at Onekan, but in the process we had lost Tom, Michael and Dominic who rode home on their own.
Deej, Clay and Jules started first on the Onekan, followed by Jerome, me and the rest of the pack. Just a few hundred meters behind the tunnel we saw Deej who was screwed. No, I don’t mean that he was bonking, I mean, to be precise, that his tire got screwed by a app. 20 mm wooden screw, NiCr plated, judging from the look, probably made in China. After making sure that he was OK and had everything he needs for repair we continued along the Onekan and at one point I met David and Fumiki again while finally continuing leisurely with James along the Tsurumigawa home. Fumiki said that he enjoyed the ride-out but that he would now ride into the mountains to do some more serious things.
At least the last 20 km or so I had the feeling of a „recovery“ ride.
So I guess it is time to propose two or three things here to „avoid confusion in the market place“ (the most favourite quote by Japanese business executives when a company/competitor starts to do things differently than before):
RENAME THE POSITIVO ESPRESSO TEAM INTO POSITIVO ESPRESSO TEST TEAM
Well, the Cervelo Test Team is called so because in addition to racing, it also fulfils the role of testing the Cervelo bikes under severe conditions. We do not belong to a bicycler maker (well, Prolite, perhaps), and therefore we are not testing any bikes. But we constantly test the well being, patience, nerves and physical composure of all team members and therefore we rightfully deserve the name „test team“.
DEFINE „RECOVERY RIDE“
Recovery Ride – As opposed to the common understanding of a recovery ride in standard cycling, a Positivo Espresso recovery ride is defined by the fact that most of the riders attending, will be recovered sooner or later from the roads by firefighters, ambulances or archaeologists eventually („Hm, high BMI index and DuraAce 7800 group set – probably an investment banker from the early 21st century I would guess.“). The average speed will be ridiculous high and climbs can be long and painful. However, regardless of distance and elevation, a recovery ride must include a statement in the official announcement that it will be finished in the early hours of the afternoon.
Again, if it comes to organisation of rides and freedom of individual members to do what they please, Positivo Espresso is second only to Bakunin. I understand that some of us are not happy with this and I can understand their point of view. On the other hand, the quest to get our unorganized, undisciplined team changed, i.e. to ride organized, perhaps even in a paceline (!) and stay together has been undertaken by many brave souls and not led to any success so far. I also feel that I am lacking the divine powers to change this. So perhaps it is more important to change expectations. An organized rides, in Positivo Espresso fashions means, that we meet in a somewhat organized fashion.
Screwed up the self-timer…apologies!! MOB, hope yours turned out OK….
(„Framed version“ of this pic here)
Imagine you wake up one morning and the world around you has changed completely. All your neighbors have become brainless zombies and you can only defend yourself by throwing Dire Straits LPs at them. Or suddenly, everyone you know goes by the name Dave.
„Oh, David, good that you made it. May I introduce you to David? David, this is David, David this is David.“
„Hi David, Nice to meet you.“
„Hi, nice to meet you too, David.“
With David J. being back in England, David L. injured and David C. taking part only in short trips morning rides, one would assume that the amount of Davids that could be assembled for a ride in Bozo peninsular would be somewhat limited. Nevertheless, when Phil of TCC called for a joint winter ride in Chiba, all remaining cycling Davids and very few other guys turned up, eleven riders in total. We were quite a group: David Dachin (younger brother of James), David Denderson aka as Dominic Denderson and me, the D.O.B. were attending the tour on behalf of Dositivo Depresso.
Phil has warned us that this would become a leisurely ride, adding that we must make 30 km/hr average along the first third in order to be home on time, so we started rather fast and within no time we have also lost some riders of our group. But we always stopped and let the slower riders catch up so that we might have had a good speed average, however the overall progress was rather slow.
It is always interesting to ride in the countryside of Chiba, I believe that I can say that as an expert who has ridden there with Phil already two times. Every time and without him, I would be lost and probably still would ride clueless in Chiba looking for the exit between the vast stretches of land belonging to golf clubs. Nine years ago a Dutchman by the name of Kees Van der Werff got so much lost that he found Chibas‘ exit only after weeks (exhibit 1, at the bottom of this post).
It is also interesting to note that Chiba is not flat at all and consists of many hills, not a single one higher than 400 meters, but some of them quite steep and all in all we were able to do much more than 1.000 meter of climbing before we broke into two groups.
The riding is much different than on the West side. On the West side one picks a series of climbs with impressive elevations and connects them by dotted lines, trying to get us much of them in as possible. One knows the climbs, they are continuous and one is motivated to make an effort, go up fast and reach the top, followed by some leisure time riding downhill. It is like working as a public official in the accounting department and having a wild weekend affair. Riding in Chiba is more like the average marriage: The hills are not that high any more, but the sheer number of ups and downs adds up as well (or perhaps „adds down“ in this comparative case) and leaves its mark on the spiritual and physical condition of the participants.
One climb was particular long and nasty and Phil took photos of all of us coming in one by one except for Tim and his fixie. As there was a road branching off to the right which went down and looked much more inviting, TruffleEater constructed a nice cryptic message out of some bamboo branches which should have indicated the proper road (up) to follow. All you needed to understand it would have been basic operative training in the CIA or MI-5 and an enigma machine to decode the message. The alternatives would have been (a) to block the wrong roads with some logs that were lying on the side of the road or (b) to write a message with chalk on the (wrong) road surface at the bottom of the hill some 200 meters down:
„U-Turn here, Fixie and up the other road!“
But being nice guys we decided something simple. We never saw Tim again that day.
Then we made another stop at a nice country shop (now PE approved) somewhere in the middle of Bozo. My guess what be that our group made not only 50% of the total turnover in that shop on this day, but also 100% of the not-alcohol related turnover. I saw some locals dropping in with their typical agricultural mini cars and every single one of them left with a crate of beers. And nothing else. That should give you some idea what people in Chiba do on their weekends during winter time.
It was nice and toasty (PE rule: The word „toasty“ should be used in every post at least once between December and March.) in the shop that has provided us with a seating arrangement at least as nice as a snack bar and the only equipment missing was a Karaoke machine and some 60 year plus old bar hostesses feeding as with mizuwari from our drinking bottles, peanuts and gently touching from time to time our shaved knees.
We also took a group photo there in front of some old slot machines at the scrape yard next to the country shop.
A few kilometres later our group split, Phil leading the TCC guys back to Honda station and David, David and me riding along road 465 towards the coast to the town of Kanayamahma where we would take the ferry to Miura Hanto. Phil also suggested a smaller detour over a hill on a road (Ken 93) parallel to road 465. He suggested this climb in particular because he never did it before and wanted to know how it is.
We were cruising then at good speeds along 465 and enjoyed the tailwind as we had quite some headwind going South all day before. Unfortunately the reason why we had this nice tailwind was, that we managed to miss road 465 somewhere and we were now heading North on road 410 towards the very ugly part of Chiba, bringing as far, far away from the ferry port.
Luckily I had brought my Garmin Version (1.0, aka as a Chiba map) and we headed up to the village of Kururi where we took a turn on Ken 93 (where well hidden) and rode back to road 465. I started to bonk (no, not that) but luckily Dominic and James gave me a banana and a power bar so I felt much better than. It was the first time I ever ate a powerbar and I was surprised at the resistance it offers against being eaten. The consistency is similar to semi-liquid asphalt or dried squid and the energy required to eat it is more than the energy your body absorbs by eating it. Strange. But I felt better than.
And finally we reached the coast and some minutes later the ferry port. I have checked the departure times of the ferries between 12 and 2 PM, however we were so late because of the many stops we made and the pointless ride we included (living up to this great PE tradition) that we only managed to catch the 4 PM ferry.
This is a great ferry, designed in the Seventies and in service since then with plushy sofas, fancy chandeliers, toasty aircon and a strip show on the upper deck starting at 4.30 PM. Or we could have selected to see Tom Jones singing in the parking deck protected by a series of bulkheads.
Recently some of the ferries had sunken because the loads were not probably secured on deck. During the heavy seas which occur during the winter seasons in the bay of Tokyo, some of the vehicles have gotten loose, moved to either the starboard or backboard side and resulted in perpendicular inclination of the ferry.
As one can see on the photo my Heavy Cervelo Soloist (8.9 kg) required therefore much tighter fixing than the relatively light Pinarellos standing next to it.
In the middle of Tokyo Bay we saw the „Tokyo Express“ container carrier by Hapag-Lloyd moving in which made my immensely proud of all the useless stuff from Germany and other European countries that is carried year by year to Japan and actually sold here. I must be the equivalent to trade beads of the 19th century and in return our ships come home loaded with Toyota Hybrids which will be immediately forwarded to Toyota dealers for recall.
In this context I would like to add that my son asked me yesterday evening if it isn’t dangerous for Toyota dealerships to intercept Toyota cars on recall as they couldn’t brake when entering the premises.
And when we arrived in Kuriyama after having enjoyed a good meal on board (thanks to the Smutje), the strip show and seeing Dean Martin after Tom Jones, it was almost dark. David choose the train home from Kuriyama while David and me took the straight road towards Kamakura. On the trip I have shared many stories about the legendary Helga, her two brothers (not named David) and the German Seacastle restaurant that they operate at Kamakura but we did not had the time to drop in despite being very fast on the last stretch. But it was already dark and we just made it to Ofuna, packed our bikes and took the train home to Yokohama.
142 km of riding and more than 1.500 meters of elevation. And, oh yes, we also met some very nice cycling Davids. Thanks to all of them for the nice trip.Exhibit One