Monday, 20 October 2014

Oct 5 day tour - part 5

After a great sleep at Alps backpackers in Hakuba I hit the road at 6am , rode to the nearest 7/11 for breakfast and food for the days ride which was to be Tokamachi. The scenery from Hakuba to Nagano city was fantastic with trad small villages and beautiful lakes. One road I ended up on had a warning sign that said it was a 9% downhill for 4 km which was awesome riding along at 60km per hour without pedaling. It took forever to get through Nagano city as it is very spread out, I did stop at Dennys for a 2nd breakfast , but by the time I was on the outskirts of Nagano it had started raining and never let up.

Finally at 2.30pm after having ridden 100km I pulled into a roadside rest area in Ieyama  and saw that there was a train station nearby , so rode down to check it out and saw that a train left at 4pm heading out of Nagano which would allow me to take connecting trains all the way back to Niigata city. But I had one big problem as I had not bought my bicycle rinko bag with me that I needed to put my bike in , you need your bike fully wrapped to be able to board any trains in Japan.  With 1 hour to spare I rode to the nearest home center bought a huge blue plastic sheet for 400 yen plus a 25mtr roll of tape for 100 yen and made an improvised rinko bag in a hurry before boarding the train at 4pm  and arriving back in Niigata city at 7pm . It was a shame to finish one day early , but it was not pleasant cycling in heavy rain and sitting here typing this blog it's still raining heavy so I am sure I made the best decision to retire early. Even though some days were pretty tough it was a great tour and glad I went and experienced my 1st ever single speed MTB champs

Oct 5 day tour - part 4

Luckily race day was just a nice as the Sat and by early morning all the racers had arrived , most were either test riding the course or making last minute gear changes while several famous bicycle shops set up booths selling their products at heavily discounted prices. Even a huge truck arrived to set up a free Red Bull sports drink stand. It certainly became a busy race venue rather quickly and at 10.30am there was a race briefing and welcome ceremony which my name was mentioned along with famous racers  because I was the only one crazy enough to have cycled 215km  to attend.

As I mentioned single speed riders love having fun and dressing up in costume, some more daring than others . Some of the people in costume were strippers ( men in T backs ) , Ronald MacDonald , Super Mario , Mummies , Zombies , school girls  & construction workers just to name a few and they raced hard some of them in the pro class 20km course !. I entered the pro class and enjoyed the technical single tack and downhills as I had not ridden anything like that since back in NZ. The start of the race was rather unique with everybody riding around a big loop on the side of the hill and when the music stopped the race started, I keep near the back and slowly worked my way forward to a better position on the flater sections which allowed me to pass several riders with my higher gearing. Also this race had a beer short cut which allowed riders to escape riding up a long dead grass climb before zig zaging back down again, you could only do this once and I chose to do it on my last lap. With riders hot on my tail I out sprinted several riders on the flat gravel road leading to the finish line drank the 0% beer which tasted terrible and crossed the finish line with a time of about 2 hours. I had a free Red bull  then attended the prize giving ceremony before getting a hamburger and a glass of Shiga Kogen IPA from a Kiwi mate called Troy who runs a backpackers and bar in Hakuba village . Many of the racers had come from as far away such as Kobe so they had a 6 hour drive back home , most racers took off as soon as the prize giving was finished and late afternoon I was informed that I too had to leave our free accommodation at the Ski Field and find somewhere else to stay . luckily my mate Troy offered to let me stay for free at their backpackers and I enjoyed a nice nabe for dinner and a nice warm room and a few beers after dinner. 

Oct 5 day tour - part 3

After a nice sleep indoors we all got up early, I cooked up some fantastic hot pasta while everybody else ate cold leftovers from the night before. them we headed out in teams over the 10km course , blocking off side trails with tape and putting in marker posts.

That job was completed around 11am then we test rode the entire course , that's when I realized that I was rather over geared for such a race with my touring gear of 33 - 16T while everyone else was running 32 - 24 T etc. The gearing on my bike is set up for long distance bikepacking which allows me to ride fully loaded at 18km per hour rather than racing up and down ski fields. so after test the course I decided I needed more grip on my Shimano saint pedals to took out the washers to extend the pins, readjusted my chain tension and cleaned the chain ready for the race the following day. That afternoon my mate Brian arrived from Niigata on the train to also take part in the race, we meet riders and bicycle shop owners from all over Japan and a couple of really nice French single speed racers David & Benoit who were fans of this blog !. Also riders that had arrived early were able to test ride the course which helped a lot for the following days race. After a great onsen which was located nearby everybody enjoyed a big BBQ party from 6pm till 11pm - I found out single speed racers really love drinking and are not very serious , more into having a lot of fun which suited me fine. I went off to bed around 11.30pm ready for the following days race.