From Saturday to Sunday I rode BRM328 NishiTokyo Fuji 300 km. It was the fourth time I participated in the AJ NishiTokyo 300 randonnée and my second brevet ride of the year, but the first randonnée for my son Shintaro. Like me the first time, he had not done a 200 km event before the 300, but based on his other riding I had no doubt he would be able to finish it.
Like all 300 km brevets the course has a 20 hour time limit (22:00 on Sat to 18:00 on Sun). Total elevation gain was about 2850 m over 304 km (courses are usually a little longer than the nominal distance to ensure they can not be too short due to margins of error).
With a night start, the first 7 1/2 hours of the ride were in darkness. From Machida to Enoshima we had plenty of company as the riders were still clustered together. From Enoshima to Odawara it was just the two of us, mostly me trying to stay in Shintaro's draft and not falling behind. On one hand the drafting helped to raise speed, on the other the speed was not very constant as I often couldn't keep up. We were 01:15 ahead of closing time at PC1 (point de contrôle).
On the climb from Odawara to Gotemba Shintaro had to be patient with me. It wasn't as cold as we expected on the descent from Odawara to Numazu, despite the event being earlier in the year than before (May in 2012, 2013 and April in 2014). We started the ride in winter trousers, then changed to cycling shorts in the morning and finally wore rain gear in the afternoon. Lots of stuff to carry!
After sunrise around 05:30 we got our first views of Mt Fuji from near Numazu (Shizuoka).
The ride along the coast to Fujikawa seemed much shorter in company than when I used to ride by myself.
The weather in the morning was ideal for views. It only got overcast and later rainy in the afternoon.
The Shizuoka coast has a lot of industry, particularly chemical industry.
Shintaro was getting a little sleepy as we headed towards the Fujikawa bridge, where the road turns away from the coast, towards the west side of Mt Fuji. We agreed to have a brief nap at PC2, 167 km from the start.
After that began the long climb to the viewpoint over Motosuko (Lake Motosu) some 1100 m above sea level, about 33 km from the check point. It usually eats all the time that I have in the bank and I'm usually not very happy for the last 10 km or so.
The road is very rural, with just one or two convenience stores, but a nice area.
By the time we reached the highest point of the course, around 200 km from the start, it got quite overcast. The top of Mt Fuji was shrouded in clouds and everything started looking a bit grey.
During the slow climb Shintaro got very concerned about whether we could make it to the goal in 20 hours. Having come this far on his first randonnée and easily fit enough to complete in much less than 20 hours, he still wanted to stay with me and complete together, which meant his completion entirely depended on my performance.
We put on our wind breakers at the view point and descended to Rt139 and slogged it through traffic in Fujiyoshida. Then a long, fast descent to Tsuru for PC3, the final check point. We were only about half an hour ahead of closing time, with a fairly hilly return route to Machida ahead of us. At PC3 we put on our rain gear against the drizzle and headed up Rt35 to Akiyama.
Shintaro kept asking the time and remaining distance. We kept track of how much we were ahead of minimum course speed. While I had been doubtful if we could still make it when we left PC3, our small time buffer did not drop quicker than the remaining distance. By the time we got out of the hills in Sagamihara, the average we needed to make closing time was around 14 km/h and I knew that, excluding major technical problems, we'd make it.
In the end we rolled up in front of the Cherubim bike shop on Machida kaido (Rt47) at 17:45, a quarter of an hour before closing time. There were still five participants on the course after us, out of about 60 starters. I'll be doing the 400 km ride in April on my own, but I hope Shintaro will try another brevet ride again later in the year.
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