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Race 2015 Giro de Hotaka - The perfect Storm - Part 4

Adam Cobain

Maximum Pace
Jul 1, 2014
For those that have not been up the Konroku pass, it tops out at more than 1600m and is a stunning ride. It connects Minakami, Oze and Katashina, and many TCCers have ridden this mountain, both with some Blue Monkey Lodge & Lounge events and on their way to and from Nikko, which is one epic ride. I train out on these roads regularly and to say I know it well is an understatment. I genrally like doing the Giro de Hotaka clockwise as I find it makes the Konroku pass tougher, and the descent into Katashia is one of the best around, but this time, I was heading anti-clockwise and would be descending into Fujiwara and on to Minakami.

It took me 1hr26m to reach the top of the pass, which is 35km from the start at an averge speed of about 27kmh. It was well below my target of 30kmh, but I had been climbing and was about to start the long 15km descent; it was time to have some fun and get my average back up. The wind was gusty and cold and causing havok on the roads, with branches down and loose leaves on the edges and racing line, I had to be careful, yet push it hard to extend the lead out even more. I was thinking a could grab another few minutes on the descent alone if all went well. A few of those tiny Lotus cars caught me just at the pass and the leading Lotus car swooped past when I was not looking, this was not good, no matter what car it is, a bicycle is the fastest way off that mountain. I now had some weekender in his nice little sports car in my way. Crap! The lead moto and I were on his bumper for a bit and I could see that he and moto were both pushing it, I had to back off however not to fly into the back of them under braking. The first 3km of the descent are tight stitchbacks and the remaining descent is more open as it shoulders a gorge and a river, and nearing the end of the tight stuff is where it all went pear-shaped.
There is one particular left hander that drops away steep on the inside and turns sharply back onto itself. I have seen many cyclists overshoot it and luckily no cars have been coming up the other direction, I however, knew it well. We swooped down into the right hander first, the Lotus, the moto; now getting very Rossi like and moving all over his bike, and me, ...and then it happened, as the moto leant into the left hander, he caught his left side peg on the inside of the turn and down he went, sliding abruptly. I immediately locked up the rear a bit and applied some heavy front brake to turn into a sharper line and come through on the inside, I just made it. It is moments like these that the worst case scenario generally happens and that would be a car coming up, which there was and he was sliding into the front of it. It all went slow mo for me, as I went past the moto, his bike somehow stopped sliding just as the car hit the anchors. I shook my head in disbelief, thought for an instant about what to, locked back, saw moto getting up on his feet ...and decided to just ride on. The Lotus saw the carnage, pulled over and now I had a clear road in front and had to take advantage of that.

It may seem brutal to not stop and make sure everybody is ok, but what can I do..., plus I am in a race, there is no stopping! This is not the first time this has happened to me with the lead moto. A few years back in Tour De Timor and 5 day MTB stage race through East Timor I was leading the race over the top of a mountain and had a lead Police moto with me, on a dirt bike. It was thick fog as we were 1800m up and as a cyclist you get an understanding of corner speed and line, the moto-cop was not cornering cleanly and I knew he was going to drop it. Sure to form, down he goes, except this time, there was no car coming up, just a few hundred metre drop off the ledge. As in slow-mo, I again changed line mid-corner and watched the moto and cop sliding to the cliff, his pegs seemd to dig into the dirt on the edge and he and the bike came to a standstill. Lucky for him. I did not stop that time either. A race is a race, and there are no prizes for 'best on ground' and advantages in this game are hard to etch out. I am a nice guy, but racing is different.

I bombed off the mountain, hitting my lines perfect and at the speed i was going, it will be very hard for anyone to claw time back on the descent. I hit the gusting headwinds on the straights at the bottom and pushed through them, waiting for the change of direction at the bottom and the expected tailwind down through the valley. Average speed was now 33kmh, and I was still descending. How much time did I have and how did I my legs feel? The moto caught up at the bottom, he must have had some fun going down that and I'm sure he had some adrenaline pumping from his stack. We were back together and now it was time to head for the finish. 40km to go, one bottle left, it was going to start to hurt!
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Maximum Pace
May 29, 2012
You should definitely print this story, frame it together with some race photos if there are any and have it on the wall in the lobby of lodge!

Awesome stuff!


Maximum Pace
Dec 13, 2014
Hard to stop in a race when the adrenalin and desire to win is in full swing.
However, if a fellow competitor had a major, you'd stop on cue without even thinking about it (even bad guys).
The course marshalls can take care of the non-competitors, it's not your job.
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