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Ride Sat, May 31st - Super early, Super hard, Su... a little bit fast!


Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
Saturday, May 31st
Early - 5:20 Train from Tokyo (5:29 from Shinagawa), arrives in Odawara at 6:42. Rollout from Odawara at 7:00.

There will be minimal stops - a drink-fill in Oyama (30km) before heading straight up Mikuni-toge. Then, rather than stopping at the Yamanaka-ko 7-11, we'll continue on to the Rte.138 descent and have a break at the bottom (60km), at the base of the Azami-line, near the Subarishi interchange - There is a Lawson convenience store there, where we'll eat before climbing the Azami -line.

This will be my first time up the Azami-line - I've heard a lot about it, but have never climbed it before, so it'll be intersting to find out what kind of monster it really is.

After descending back down the zig-zag Azami, we'll ride all the way through Gotemba and make one last stop at the Mini-Stop (95km) just before the last little climb of the day, Nagao-toge.

After that, it's pretty much a straight downhill run into Odawara again - 130km, with over 3,500m of climbing.
If you're interested, please be on the above-mentioned train.
See you there!



Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006

Things started out according to plan; I managed to wake up at 4am, have breakfast, leave home by 4:50, and be on the 5:20 train out of Tokyo bound for Odawara.

After setting up the bike, I started rolling a little after 7:00, and made my way up Rte.74 to Daiyuzan, and the start of Ashigara-toge. This was the first time I had been there since buying a Garmin computer, so there was no previous Strava time for me to beat - Whatever time I got would be my PR. I knew that the more difficult climbs were waiting, so I tried not to destroy myself too early in the game - Still, a decent time of under 48 minutes. I had a "daifuku (rice & red-bean chewy sweet)" as I went over the top, and rolled down to Oyama.

After rolling through the tiny main street, there is a left turn onto Rte.147 that takes you up to the infamous Mikuni-toge. I cannot tell a lie; I had looked at the Strava segment for Mikuni the night before, and lusted after a place on the "First page" - ie. to be in the Top 25 - which would mean a time of no more than 41 minutes, and an average speed of 9.9km/h.

The start of the segment is a right-hand turn, where Rte.147 turns north toward Yamanaka-ko. I tried to carry as much speed as possible around that corner and managed 16km/h for the first few hundred meters. As the speed gradually dropped from there, all I could do was to try and keep it above 10... not possible. About 3.5km later came the 18% donuts - I was forced to stand up, and raise my HR above what was sustainable for any length of time. The speed dropped further to about 6km/h - there goes my 10km/h average. If only I could get to the first "false top", 5km in, within 30 minutes, I'd have a chance - Surely then I could ride the final mile in under 11 minutes, right? I was 2 minutes behind; it had taken 32 minutes for me to reach the 5km-mark, the "false top" where it flattens for the next 800m before ascending again for the last 800m (hence, the last mile). 9 minutes to ride one-mile; sounds easy when you say it like that, but when your heart-rate is going through the roof, confidence tends to wane. The final 800m is dreadful, aching lungs, burning muscles, heart-rate over 180 now, trying to find those last few seconds - Try doing math in that situation: What time did I hit the start? 8:56 + 41 minutes = What time? ... Long story short: I was aiming for 41, but I managed to get under 40 - That's well within the first page, and with some very select company indeed. I rolled over the top of Mikuni-toge at 9:35am.

Needless to say, the roll around the lake (Yamanaka-ko) was extremely leisurely. I climbed the short ascent to the lip of the crater before heading down to the Lawson near the Subarishi interchange - *Note: The Lawson I have marked on the RideWithGPS map does not open until July. I had to go to another convenience store around the corner.

Bananas and cheesecake - Why not, I say? It would have to do, for it was now time to see what this "Azami creature" is all about. I spent a bit longer at the Lawson (the other one) than I had intended, but I was on my way up Azami by 10:45. Having studied the profile, I knew that it was basically the equivalent of TWO Mikuni-toges back-to-back. Having already achieved the day's victory on Mikuni, I decided to take this one very easy - In fact, I set out to try and "enjoy" it.

The first part is a long straight - ave.12% - that goes on for about 2.4km. After that, the zig-zagging starts. This first set of zig-zags is fairly subdued, with nothing much over 10% anywhere - Indeed, I DID enjoy this section; I was able to ride very comfortably with an HR of just on 150bpm. But this only lasts until almost exactly the 6km-mark. Now, it becomes a different beast altogether. Looking at the profile, this steep section (yes, up to 22% in places) lasts for about 2km, and I made the mistake of thinking that after the 8km-mark, it would just be easy-going again. While the overall gradient does lessen after 8km, there are still sections in the high teens (16%, 17%, 18%) all the way to the top; and a lot of them are not that short, either. They take all the enjoyment away - Where's this "fun ride" I'm supposed to be having?

I finally made it to the top at 12:10 (ie. 1hr:25min), and had a piece of poundcake to celebrate. I heard the announcement for the "Kudari-Bus" and did not want to get stuck behind it, so I hurriedly put on my shoe-covers and light wind-jacket for the descent. The top part is scary, with some very steep sections leading into the corners - It's hard to drop your speed without locking up the wheels. The lower part is much more fluid, and finally, you have that deliciously long, straight 12% section where you can go for your top speed - I was happy with 82.8km/h.

After all that, I was back on Rte.138, hurtling towards Gotemba by 12:30 - A surprisingly fast turn-around. As Rte.138 heads downwards, there was a fair bit of traffic, so I sat in with a group of motorcyclists. The road was wet, as if a sudden squall had passed through a few minutes earlier; although there had been no rain at all on the slopes of Mt. Fuji. As the motorbikes and I continued our descent, about 5km from the Gotemba town-center, the skies opened up with rain and hail. All the motorcyclists made for a family-restaurant, while I went next door to a very conveniently located 7-11. I wasn't planning to stop until after Gotemba, at the Mini-Stop at the base of the Otome-toge climb, but now that I was here, I decided to eat while I waited for the rain and hail to stop, along with about a dozen other cyclists & motorcyclists - all of us standing outside the 7-11, watching the hail come down.

After the rain had let up, I started on my way again. As I was coming through the town-center though, the rain suddenly hit again - A terrible heavy squall that had me saturated in less than a minute. I stopped again, under some awnings, but it seemed to be waiting for me. As soon as I had ridden another kilometer or so, "PSSSHHHH" down it would come again - Very annoying. Finally, already as wet as I was ever going to get, I continued up to the Nagao-toge turn-off. The rain eased off as I turned onto Rte.401 and for the second time that day, I went into "as-fast-as-you-can" mode (it's possible I had delusions of taking AlanW's KOM title, although I would never admit such a thing), and what'ya know, I got 10th place - Of course, that's all I was aiming for.

After that, there was just over 20km of downhill to navigate back to Odawara - Traffic was heavier than expected coming through Hakone, but it wasn't too bad. I arrived in Odawara just on 3pm - I lost a lot of time waiting for the rain to stop, otherwise I'm sure I would've been back by about 2pm.

All in all, pretty happy with the ride today.
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