Giro de Hotaka - Turn-by-turn!

WhiteGiant

Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
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#1
Edit: Since the original post, it looks as though there will be 6 checkpoints!
I have edited the "turn-by-turn" to include distances to each of the checkpoints as well - Unfortunately, it has made it look more complicated than it really is - sorry.


Edit: Please find attached at the bottom of this post, a modified version on the full course .gpx file, complete with check point markers.



I went out to Hotaka yesterday (Sun, Oct 6th), to do a reconnaissance ride of the course. If you've read the official "Hotaka" thread, you will have heard Alan mention that some of the turns were "not marshaled" - ie. There were no volunteers standing on the corner to tell you that, "This is where you should turn!"

Alan wasn't the only one to miss that turn the first time (in 2007). I think that year, nearly half the field missed that turn-off. And it wasn't the only turn that people missed! About 40km farther on, I found myself in a group of riders who had somehow managed to find our way over on the wrong side of the lake. There were other times where you literally had to just "follow the leader", and if the leader made a mistake, you were all doomed - If you found yourself in no-man's-land, you were, for all intents and purposes, lost! The following year (2008), most of us were more wary - Alan, in particular (who won that year!) - but I have to admit to taking a totally different route between the first & second checkpoints than the year before (due to getting lost the first time).


So this year, I set myself the goal of "not getting LOST!" Hence, Sunday's ride.


Hotaka Course Recon Ride

I wanted to get there as early as possible, so I caught the Shinkansen to Jomo-Kogen, about 11km south of Minakami. I would use Minakami as my start/finish point, as I could utilize the coin-lockers there. I rode a bit further up the road than necessary because I wanted to check out the run-in to Minakami from the Rte.63 turn-off. Once I was clear on where to go, I doubled back, put my stuff in the locker there, and set off at exactly 10:30. I also wanted to time myself, to get some idea of how I might perform on race-day - More on that later.

Anyway, Minakami is at the 75km-mark on the map, and I did the full loop from there, although I didn't go up to the "Official Start" position (113.6km turn-off on the map), as it is just 5.7km up & down the same road - unnecessary for what I wanted to achieve. By cutting off that section, my loop was shortened to 108km. I had one 10-minute break during the entire ride, at a 7-11 (12.7km-mark on the map), and I made it back to Minakami at 15:10 (Riding time, 4hr:32min).

Rather than talk about "my ride yesterday", which will just put everyone 75km out of whack, I'll shift my position as if I had started at the official starting point, and continue my way around from there. That way, you can read it as though from the start of the race.
First of all, I have also prepared a "turn-by-turn" guide, and will attempt to give some explanation to the road conditions that follow each - Climbing distances are marked in red.



1 - (5.7km) - 5.7km Left Turn
2 - (4.0km) - 9.7km Left Turn
3 - (6.1km) - 15.8km Left Turn
4 - (8.4km) - 24.2 Left (13.3km to summit)
5 - (7.6km) - 31.8km Left (Rte.63) - downhill.
6 - (5.7km) - 37.5km Summit - CHECKPOINT 1
7 - (3.4km) - 40.9km - CHECKPOINT 2
8 - (12.5km) - 53.4 No turn - Open-sided tunnel.
9 - (12.1km) - 65.5km Dam - CHECKPOINT 3
10 - (5.9km) - 71.4km Left - onto main road.
11 - (1.8km) - 73.2km Left down sharp - CHECKPOINT 4
12 - (1.9km) - 75.1km Right - Concrete Bridge
13 - (3.6km) - 78.7km Straight - Join main road.
14 - (1.1km) - 79.8km Left - CHECKPOINT 5
15 - (5.5km) - 85.3 No turn - Summit.
16 - (3.7km) - 89.0km Left - 300m to Tunnel
17 - (1.7km) - 90.7km Right - Sign to Kawaba
18 - (6.3km) - 97.0km Left thru Kawaba Vill (11.4km to summit).
19 - (8.0km) - 105.0km - CHECKPOINT 6
20 - (3.4km) - 108.4km - Summit.
21 - (5.3km) - 113.7km Left - Final sprint to finish.
22 - (5.7km) - 119.4km - GOAL



(1) The start: Distance to the first turn: (5.7km) - 5.7km.

It goes down steep for about 80m, then there's a quick zig-zag - First right, then left (Deej missed that one in 2008, and had a slight crash). Then it's downhill nearly all the way to the T-junction at the bottom.

(2) T-junction to Rte.120: (4.0km) - 9.7km.

Downhill all the way. Quite fast! There's one very tight left-hand hair-pin about halfway down. Almost at the end, about 150m before the Rte.120 turn-off, it starts going up around 6% - The stronger riders will try to pull away here.

(3) Rte.120: (6.1km) - 15.8km.

This stretch is basically uphill, but not so steep - 2~3% most of the time, but there are some (short) steeper sections. There's a 7-11 at the 12.7km-mark (where I stopped for my break), but it's way too soon to stop there on Race-day.

(4) Rte.401: (8.4km) - 24.2km.

Firstly, this road turns off Rte.120 to the left, and immediately crosses a large bridge. It starts off quite fast, but eventually turns uphill very slightly too - It's not quite as steep as the previous (Rte.120) section, so you can pretty much stay in the outer chain-ring, and keep a descent pace.

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(5) "Hatomachi-toge": (7.6km) - 31.8km CLIMB START - 13.3km to Summit!

This is "Alan's accursed turn-off" - This is the start of the main climb. It's 13.3km to the summit from here, but there's a turn-off 7.6km up the road - See (6). The sign at the bottom says "Hatomachi-toge" (*Note: We do NOT go to "Hatomachi-toge" - Our destination is "Konroku-toge", on Rte.63). Anyway, this is a strange climb - Most of us are used to a road that "just goes up, without letting up". This is different - It wavers from about 2% ~ 7%, but then goes downhill a bit, and then uphill again - It's all over the place.

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(6) The turn-off - 7.6km in, what looks like the main road going straight is Rte.260 (going to "Hatomachi-toge"). Then there is a smaller road going to the left, Rte.63, which goes "downhill" and the sign says to 坤六峠(Konroku-toge)- THIS is our road -It's a little counter-intuitive, as you don't expect the turn-off to a hill-climb to be going downhill. Yet, that's what it is. For the next 40km or so, Rte. 63 is all you need to remember! Anyway, it's 5.7km to the summit from that turn-off, and at the summit will be the first checkpoint.

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WhiteGiant

Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
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#2
Giro de Hotaka - Turn-by-turn, Part 2

(7) CHECKPOINT 1 (3.4km) - 40.9km.

The first checkpoint will be at the summit - They'll have bananas, water & sports-drinks (usually). You need to make sure someone writes down your number (to make sure you did the whole ride) and your time! Grab what you need, then head on down the hill. The first few turns near the top are pretty tight, but after that, you can really pick up some speed! You will just be starting to enjoy the downhill, when 3.4km later, you'll have to stop again - to have your number & time recorded - PITA!

(8) CHECKPOINT 2 (12.5) - 53.4 - Downhill!

*CAUTION: Keep an eye on your distances as you go over the top - About 2/3 of the way down, there is a patch that is notoriously wet, and slick with mossy mud - about 5km after the checkpoint 2. There are a few wet patches, but one that is particularly nasty. You have to brake hard before it, and then go over it perfectly perpendicular, don't touch your brakes while you're on it, and hope you don't have to change your line or turn. Once you're over it... WEEEEE! again.

The total downhill lasts for about 14 ~ 15km. You'll go through a tiny village, then cross a bridge and it will start leveling off a bit. The first noticeable landmark is roofed section of road (not really a tunnel, but similar), an open-sided tunnel, if you will. The first one is 15.9km after the summit.

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(9) Rte.63, continued... (12.1km) - 65.5km.

After the first open-sided tunnel, it goes uphill for the first time since the last climb - Up for about a kilometer or so, and it's enough to slow one down a bit. There are more open-sided tunnels, and a few bridges - If you look to your right, you might catch a glimpse of the lake (reservoir) - The water should always be on your right. After the initial uphill, the road basically starts pointing down again, but there are a few very short uphill "rollers" to get over before the next downhill. Then there are two "real" tunnels! They are a few kilometers apart, but notable for being actual tunnels, and not just roofed sections of road. After the second tunnel, you'll cross the dam and the road will come to what at first looks like a T-junction. But it's not really - Just keep following Rte.63 around to the LEFT!
Edit: Here, you will find CHECKPOINT 3.

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(10) The last few KM's of Rte.63: (5.9km) - 71.4km.

Once you cross the dam and turn left, the water will now be on your left (that's OK!) The river will be on your left all the way to the main road. This is a nice, fast downhill most of the time with a few longish flat sections. The last part is basically flat too. When you get to the main road, Rte.291, turn left again towards "Numata".

(11) Rte.291: (1.8km) - 73.2km - CHECKPOINT 4

LESS THAN 2KM!!! That's all you need to stay on this road for, and it's downhill too, meaning that turn-off will come up very quickly! As soon as you turn left onto Rte.291, the road almost immediately curves around to the right, and then starts heading downhill. After about a kilometer, you'll pass what looks like an abandoned hotel on the left (see pic. a) - Directly opposite it on the hill is a dark gray towering building with sharp-edged architecture - after you pass these two buildings, you have about 500 ~ 600m to get ready for the turn-off. It's a downhill ramp that comes off the main road at a very narrow angle (see pic. b). There's a large white sign just before it which reads " 水明荘" (Suimeisou), but it is obscured by overgrowth.
Edit: Apparently, checkpoint 4 will be near this turn-off.

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Abandoned Hotel - 500m to the turn-off!

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*Note: If you do by chance miss this turn-off, rather than hitting the brakes and potentially causing a pile up, you can continue on to the next set of traffic-lights, and turn left there. Turn right at the next set of lights, and you'll be back on course.

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(12) Through Minakami: (1.9km) - 75.1km.

Once you turn onto the ramp, it goes downhill for a few hundred meters, then crosses the train lines. Just follow the road around, past a lot of old houses, and it will cross the train lines once again (You're supposed to cross twice, no problem). Keep following the road around to the left again, and you'll soon pass Minakami station (where I started from yesterday). A few hundred meters past the station, there is a turn to the right! This is our turn - It is actually a large bridge that crosses over the top of the train lines (yet again) - Due to the wide, concrete-like nature of the bridge, it has the appearance of being "Freeway-like", and hence it looks like it's for cars only, but it's not. (Going straight leads to the far side of the river, and oblivion).

(13) Rte.61: (3.6km) - 78.7km.

Once you've turned right (on the "Freeway-looking" bridge), and crossed over the train lines, the road flattens out a bit and you can pick up some speed, then it goes downhill and you can pick up more speed. It does a little wiggle through a residential area, and even goes uphill a tiny bit as it winds through before finally heading downhill again on a beautiful windy tree-covered road. After about a mile of never wanting this to end, it finally levels out a bit as it goes past a few more houses. It starts running almost parallel with the main road, as the two gradually come closer and closer together - The transition is very smooth, and you shouldn't need to slow down at all as the two roads merge.

(14) Rte.61 to the underpass turn-off: (1.1km) - 79.8km - CHECKPOINT 5

After merging with the main road (also Rte.61), you'll only need to stay on it for just over one kilometer! The road eventually goes under the train lines, and the road levels off a bit. Although it's still slightly downhill and is quite a fast section, which makes having to slow down for the turn a bit of a drag (hate slowing down!) There's almost nothing along this stretch, except for a square white building near the train tracks - It's super easy to spot and it's right above the turn-off. This turn-off is usually very well marshaled, because right around the corner (literally 30m away) is the next checkpoint. Once again the obligatory bananas and sports drinks - Don't forget to get your number & time written down again.

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(15) The second CLIMB: (5.5km) - 85.3km.

After the mostly downhill run over the last 40-something kilometers, the sudden change to climbing again comes as a bit of a shock. Not overtly long, and not super steep, it is nevertheless a fairly hefty climb. But it is what it is, and you just try to get over it as quickly as possible. (Yesterday, it was my "first" climb of the course, so I was able to do it on fresh legs - On Race-day though, it certainly won't be easy after 80km of hard riding.)

(16) The downhill: (3.7km) - 89.0km.

The downhill from there is really nice though, and affords you the perfect opportunity to eat one (or more) of the bananas you might have picked up at the checkpoint. The bottom section flattens out a bit, and all you need to look for is the following sign:

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(17) Tunnel & windy roads: (1.7km) - 90.7km.

After turning left at the sign, you will almost immediately head into a tunnel. There is very little traffic on these roads, so your chances of encountering a vehicle are pretty slim. Once it comes out of the tunnel, the road winds around to the left, then the right. It crosses a small stream and there is a set of traffic-lights you may have to stop at. Go straight through those lights, but take the next RIGHT! Follow the signs to "Kawaba":

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(18) The road to Kawaba (SURPRISE CLIMB): (6.3km) - 97.0km

After turning right towards Kawaba, you'll be riding (fast) slightly downhill along a dead straight road, past (what I think are) apple orchards - There are signs for "ringo" everywhere. Enjoy that fast section 'cos it only lasts for about 1.5km. Then suddenly, without warning, the road turns up again! I was not expecting this at all - another 1.5km climb where I thought it would be totally flat. Once you get over it though, is yet another superb (if not short) downhill to savor. Once the downhill has flattened out, you'll hit a large intersection with traffic lights - Don't turn at this one - You need to go straight, until you see the sign for "Kawaba Village Office":

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WhiteGiant

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#3
Giro de Hotaka - Turn-by-turn, Part 3

(19) The final CLIMB: (8.0km) - 105.0km.

When you turn left towards the "Kawaba Village Office", the road immediate starts going UP! It will stay like that for the next 11.4km, until you get to the tunnel. The bottom part of the climb is not so steep, and you can keep a decent pace. Halfway up, it gets steeper though. Once you're about 3.5km from the top, you'll come to the CHECKPOINT 6, the last one.

(20) After the checkpoint, you will still have 3.4km to the summit/tunnel. This is the steepest part of the climb - Thankfully, it's pretty short. You'll start seeing small blue "Curve no." markers, the magic number is "19". Once you get to curve no.19, the tunnel will be just around the bend.

(21) The Downhill! : (5.3km) - 113.7km.

This is without a doubt the fastest section of the race! The downhill from the tunnel is amazing. You almost never need to use your brakes! The 5.3km can go pretty quickly, and you need to pay attention to a few things (lest you start second-guessing yourself: "Have I gone past the turn-off?"). First of all, you should keep an eye out for the "Hanasaki no yu" Onsen!

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Keep a look out for this sign on the way down!

It is the last major landmark before you hit the turn-off, and there are signs for it all down the road. Once you've gone past the Onsen, which is a very large building on the right, continue for another 500m, and you'll see the sign for the "Hotaka Bokujo / Ski Area":

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(22) The final stretch: (5.7km) - 119.4km.

I didn't ride this section yesterday, but from memory, it really isn't that steep, and if you've got anything left in the tank, now is the time to blow it all! The last kilometer maybe kicks up a little bit steeper, but by then the GOAL is so close! There's that final little zig-zag over the bridge, then left up to the top - That last 80m is definitely the steepest section of all. Friends & family will usually be waiting for the finishers there. Congratulations! You've just completed the virtual run of Hotaka!
 
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saibot

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May 29, 2012
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#6
Brilliant!

Also cemented the idea if sticking to the bunch, with my sense of direction, I might never return.
(Not that I would be able to break away even if I wanted to)
 
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Naomi

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Apr 20, 2007
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#8
Wow, awesome job, Travis!! That is very helpful indeed :)

Many riders had lost their ways during the race 3 years ago and at the first year of this race....including me ;)
BUT at the every single complicated corner Travis pointed out, one ( or two ) volunteer was standing to navigate the participators + several guideposts ( in Japanese only ) were on the course last 2 years. so should be fine....
 
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GSAstuto

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Oct 11, 2009
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#13
Travis - these are by far the best recce notes I've seen in a long time! I owe you a pull or at least a carry on the route! @ Chikako - don't worry, I'm forming special Lanterne Rouge team. I'm thinking we'll have gourmet sacoches, what do you think?
 

DeltaForce

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#14
Travis , or anyone. having a really old bike I need to decide what kind of gearing I can get away with.

What do you think the maximum gradient would be? Would it get over say 12% at any point?

Thanks, from the 1980's

Dave
 

WhiteGiant

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#15
Travis , or anyone. having a really old bike I need to decide what kind of gearing I can get away with.
What do you think the maximum gradient would be? Would it get over say 12% at any point?
Thanks, from the 1980's
Dave
Hey Dave,

Don't worry! There's nothing even approaching 12% anywhere on the course.
The first climb (13.3km) varies from around 2% ~ 7%, with maybe one or two very short 9% (maybe 10%) areas.
The second climb (5.5km) is between 5% ~ 8%.
The third climb (11.4km) starts off at 4%, and gets gradually steeper. Towards the top, there may be a few 10%-ish sections.

Nothing you would call "wicked steep" anywhere though.
 

GSAstuto

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#17
@dave - if you're, maybe I'll ride my vintage bike as well. Anyone else game for doing this? If I ride 6sp, then I'll use a standard 42/52 w/ 14-24 or 25 'Alpine' setup. I will probably 'cheat' in terms of using clip-on pedals instead of toestraps, though.
 
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DeltaForce

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#18
Tim, 'Team 80's' would be great. But I'm still debating how retro I'll go. I'll ride this Saturday with an 80s set up and see if it's a goer. I'll most likely use a 7 speed Sachs-Maillard 13-23 and 53x39 up front. I have a brand new 6sp 13-26 Everest too, but don't have the 2 prong removal tool to get it off later.

Unbelievably, I found frame builder here in my tiny town. Maeda san has a pair of Record Strada rims!! The missing link in my C Record set up. Like hens teeth, but I've found out this week he doesn't want to sell them. I was originally thinking of sporting them at Hotaka.

I am also contemplating going early 90's with 1st generation Campagnolo brifter set up, Indurain Style. Wish I could have his lung capacity, too.

I'll post here again on Sunday with my decision. Hope it's not too late for you to get you bike set up.

Dave
 
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GSAstuto

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#19
I'll have either / or ready to roll. I'm thinking about rocking the Gokiso 'woodies' (CB Italia Track Rims) with an 8sp Cassette - or if I go the other way, then my Superbe 14-26 Carbon Hybrid or Nisi Sludi SR with the 14-24 Regina. No brifters - I couldn't bear the sight of those fugly things on my bars. If you don't ride retro, then it'l be no fun sitting as lanterne rouge sipping cheap vino and talking to myself. Oh , wait, that might be fun. Otherwise I'll saddle up the PLA Green Dragon and have at it.
 

rommelgc

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#20
I have a brand new 6sp 13-26 Everest too, but don't have the 2 prong removal tool to get it off later.
FWIW, the 2-prong Regina tool will fit the Everest (from Sutherlands hand book). One could create the tool by using an old Suntour freewheel tool. The hacked up tool I have was created using a Suntour (name stamped) tool. It was originally a 4 prong tool. 2 prongs were ground off. The remaining two prongs were trimmed a bit. The prong was a tad wider than the slots. Grind only from one side to keep one as square as possible. The Parktool FR-2 and it does not fit the Regina slots, grinding the prongs is also necessary.