Mt. Asama HC


Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
Racing again at the weekend, this time up Kurumazakatoge for the Mt. Asama hillclimb race in Nagano.

Here's the course:

It's a fairly steady climb of 12km, rising 1005m to a finish 2000m above sea level. I had managed to get a couple of practice runs in during Golden Week, a couple of weeks previously. That time, the weather was freezing cold and Naomi and I were forced to take shelter in the Takamine Kougen hotel at the top of the hill, while outside the temperature dropped to 6 degrees and the wind blasted the mountain!
But on race day we were treated to unbelievably perfect weather. There was truly not a cloud in the sky and just a gentle breeze. Couldn't be better.
The day before the race we rode what was supposed to be a flat circuit the other side of the valley from Mt. Asama, however, this being Nagano, we clocked up nearly 600m ascent in 25km!

The hillclimb course goes up the toge next to my right shoulder in this photo.

Unusually for a hillclimb race, there were no electronic timing chips, and no individual start times. So if you were at the back of your group, it could take an extra 10 or 20 seconds before you even crossed the start line! So after warming up as best as I could, I lined up with my age group (35 to 43?). Anyway looking back I could see a very large number of riders behind me so I was glad to be at the front!

The group in front of mine started (men <35) and the front runners shot off up the hill. As I had feared, those at the back were still climbing onto their bikes when the leaders were well away.
I still get very nervous before races and was impatiently tapping the handlebars, trying to concentrate on the race, trying to stretch my legs and wishing we could get down to it and just start racing!
A few minutes later it was my group's turn. The countdown came, then the starting gun and we were off.
I pushed the pace as hard as I dared - I "budgeted" for around a 50 minute effort, and I knew the hill from my practice runs. Within a couple of minutes a group of six riders were clear of the field, with me in 5th place.
Three of the riders then broke away, and I was feeling the pressure, and dropped to about 50m behind the fourth-placed rider. I had lost most of my warm up while I was waiting for the start, so my lungs and legs were really hurting for the first 3km. The sixth place rider caught me but was unable to pass, while the rider in front of me started to edge away. "I'm not having that" I thought and dug a bit deeper to stay in touch - but I could not reel him in. I could gain a bit of time on the steeper sections but when the road flattened out he would leave me again - this went on for 6 or 7 km!
As I climbed, I started to feel a bit better but still my lungs and legs felt like they were at 100% effort.....I grabbed a drink at the water station without losing time.
About 9 km up the course, towards the top, the sixth place rider caught me again but as he looked done in I did a short sprint out-of-the-saddle and got a gap which he couldn't close. I passed the 2km to go board and decided I had to make a move on the rider ahead. I cranked up the pace as high as I could, did a couple of sprints and got closer to him, then tried to look as calm as I could as I passed him. He was on my wheel but I managed to shake him off with half a km to go. The final section of the course was a long straight with one final corner to finish.

I sprinted the last couple of hundred metres, crossed the line and basically collapsed, panting and coughing, leaning over the handlebars. It was a true 100% effort.

After a few minutes I was able to cheer Naomi-san on as she crossed the line.


Our results: I was 4th in my class and 23rd overall (of about 700 racers) and Naomi-san was on the podium again with 2nd place in the ladies!
(Youngest racer was 7 years old and the oldest was 76! Hope I'm still racing at that age)