Thanks for the post, Pete!
I can't make the "Fuji International" race - in October - due to other more important personal matters, but September... I might even be able to make it for all 3 days.
I'll let you know by the end of the week.
There will be many going at a leisurely pace. There will be a support car cut off time but it's not important I don't think.
Not sure if I want to do it after figuring out the cost.
I can ride those distances and sleep at home without paying anything....
I'm new here (this is my first post). I'm going to out for
the Tour de Chiba tomorrow morning and was looking for any
new information --especially in English-- and Google turned up
this forum. So I joined.
So, nobody else decided to participate? My coworkers who
got me into this (cycling) all had other commitments so I
won't know anyone else there. Hopefully that will have
changed by Monday evening when I get back.
Just got home (okay, got home two hours ago) and haven't really
finished winding down yet. Getting home via JR was worse than
all but the steepest climbs this morning.
People are asking me if I had fun, I guess I did but it might be
better if they asked again after the pain of my sunburn fades...
Saw some SEMAS jerseys and spoke to one of the guys briefly
Sunday morning but just then the announcer drowned out all
conversation and then Bang! the gun went off and the first
group was on their way. I was in the second start group and
had to immediately take my place and head out.
The lodging arrangements were nightmarish but that might
be partly my errant expectations and partly my bad luck.
Met a lot of nice people and made several new friends. And
just maybe, I'll be on Chiba TV when they air their report in
the near future. (There were only a few foreigners and only a
handful of ladies but the cameras and reporters seemed to seek
both out. No doubt trying to make the event look international
and more widely appealing.)
I'm also in recovery mode from the Tour, which was an all-round great experience--extremely well organized, great atmosphere on the road and at the aid stations, and, considering all the floods and mayhem elsewhere in the country, we really couldn't have been luckier with the weather... Kicking myself now though because I didn't know about the SEMAS jerseys until I saw Edogawakikkoman's post this morning; I remember seeing the team because one of the guys flatted just outside Shirako on the morning of the second day...
I'd like to try and add a detailed report and some pics, as soon as I figure out how.
jam, maybe we chatted briefly? Sounds like we were starting about the same time--were you in a red jersey?
There was an opening-night party on the Friday afternoon before the official start of the event, so as we are only about an hour from the Mobara, we decided to drive down for the free food.
The Aerobics Center that was the starting and finishing point for the tour is a very nicely appointed sports facility, surrounded by woods and a golf course. Check-in was very quick; I received my numbers and participation gift (a Tour de Chiba baseball cap), then we were all ushered into the banquet hall for a couple of hours of speechifying and all-you-can-eat buffet and booze. The keirin cyclists who would serve as ride stewards/pacers were also introduced. Keirin was obviously a major sponsor and provided a lot of resources and manpower. Some jieitai guys were also there in combat uniforms. They were providing a lead vehicle and perhaps first aid support(?).
It was all over at 7, and suitably fueled up I headed home for an early night.
Riding Time: 4:56
Distance: 122 km (including a couple of kms to the hotel)
Average: 24.9 km/hr
After arriving at the Aerobics Center at 7:15 AM, I said goodbye to the wife and she drove off to a presumably blissful three-day weekend of peace and quiet. I checked in my backpack (a truck transported the rider's overnight bags from each day's starting point to end point), grabbed a sports drink and then settled down for the speeches. There were about 600 or so participants starting that first day.
We left as scheduled behind a pair of police motorbikes. The entire ride was split into three speeds: 20-25 km, 15-20 km, and 10-15km, with the riders choosing their class when they registered. These three classes were then split into groups of about 40 or so riders, who were supposed to stick together behind the keirin pacer, with another keirin racer riding sweeper. At first this sounded restrictive but the system worked out very well. In the faster groups, at least, it helped ensure that we were riding in a pace line for the majority of the time. The groups usually broke up into smaller sizes and many of us moved between groups as the mood struck throughout the weekend, but in general you tended to ride with the same people over the three days.
There were four groups I think in the 20-25 km class and I left in the second. It was already fairly hot and humid, but not miserably so. The route took us up north, inland of the Kujukuri plain, among the hills around Yachimata and Sanmu-shi to Asahi-shi, then across to the coast, and finally south along the sea to Shirako. Mostly flat or downhill on relatively quiet roads, it was a comfortable introduction to the weekend's ride. There was a morning aid station stop at about 25 km, early bento lunch at around 10:30-11:00, and two more stops in the afternoon. At each stop you could pick up a bottle of water and a banana or two.
Riding Time: 4:52
Distance: 120 km (including hotel back-and-forth)
Average: 24.9 km/hr
Natto and raw egg for breakfast and thence to the staging ground for day 2. The ride took us briefly down the coast, cut inland for half-an-hour or so, and then turned south for good. Today we hit our first proper slopes, though none were particularly grueling and they were over by lunch. After an exhilarating plummet down a tight, twisting road we emerged onto the coast, which we followed for the rest of the day. There was an unrelenting headwind all the way south, which made us grateful for the hardworking keirin guys at the front, although I can't imagine it did their sprinting legs much good!
Quite often, especially in the inland areas, local families, from baby to baachan, would be out in front of their houses in lawn chairs to wave and shout "gambatte!" One town even put out banners and a mass of taiko drummers to greet us as we went by. There were also countless volunteers/staff manning intersections and making sure we stayed on course and also helping to look out for traffic. That, plus the fact that the police would hold up traffic for the cyclists at some of the busier intersections helped feed our pro-racer fantasies, I'm sure.
Again, we arrived on schedule a little after 2pm, and I rode off to find my pension. I'd arranged my own hotels as it looked like the official accommodation service was putting people into shared rooms, and in fact a computer company salaryman I talked to that night at the pension confirmed this. Apparently, the first two nights he'd shared a room, but he decided to book the pension at the last minute for an evening of privacy.
Riding Time: 4:49
Distance: 124 km (including hotel back-and-forth)
Average: 25.9 km/hr
Max (also weekend max): 61 km
This was the longest day with by far the most climbing--after a quick loop around the coast it was straight up the spine of Minami Boso to the goal at Mobara. While those of you out west in Kanagawa and such are no doubt used to proper mountains and would make short work of these climbs, for northern Chiba folk this is as steep and as long as it gets. As soon as we hit the first long climb the groups started to break up, reassembling partially on the giddy runs down the other side. At the same time, we were passing through some of the best scenery of the tour, with the lakes and reservoirs of Kimitsu being particularly beautiful.
After lunch it was all up and down, but with the groups breaking up and everyone trying to catch everyone else, we were riding as fast as we had all weekend. Eventually, we left the last rest stop for the final steep climb before rolling into the finish zone. I just managed to hang onto the back of the lead group of 30 or so and together we rolled across the finish line a half-an-hour ahead of schedule. There we were given a sandwich, a bottle of water, and a certificate of completion.
All in all, a fantastic experience. I've never ridden an official event or in a proper pace line, so that alone was worth the price of admission. The event was extremely well run, as they often are in Japan, and as far as I could tell everything went off without a glitch. The pace was just right (for me), though no doubt overly leisurely for some of the experienced riders on this board! We were also blessed with perfect weather—sunny on the first two breezy days down the coast, and cloudy and coolish for the climbs on day three. The only negatives I heard were about the accommodation, but as I had my own I can't really comment on that one way or another. All in all, an extremely enjoyable time!
No, that would be Bevan, he was wearing red every day. I was the
guy with the blue Y-foil. Day-2 I had on my day-glo orange jersey.
You are right about the accommodations, and if I do anything like this
again I'll make my own arrangements. 12,000 yen for two meals and
a futon in a room with 5 other guys was not my idea of a good deal.
The first night was only Y8,000 but was still too much for a run-down
ryokan where baachans barge in at midnight to add more people to
your room (I think it was a pair of surfers) then spend half an hour
arguing in the corridor about whether to move someone (me!?) so
they can accommodate the newcomers together. One of the trio of
eighty-or-so-old baachans was wearing an apron. *Only* an apron!
Don't think that didn't give me nightmares. If I hadn't been up all
night the night before, I doubt I could have slept at all. In the end,
the only result of all the commotion was that a pair of us got shifted
aside by half-a-tatami and another futon laid between us --which
nobody slept in! (Apparently, they eventually put the "surfers" in a
corner of the giant tatami room with some of the bicycles.)
But, I went for the adventure, and an adventure it was!
Thanks Phil, for sharing the experience with everyone.
It sounds like a really great 3 days of cycling.
A pace-line of about 40 guys, with a keirin-guy in the lead must have been a blast.
I've only experienced the "hills" in the middle section of Chiba twice, and while they aren't long, they certainly are steep enough to have a sting in the tail.
To both you and "jam" (and his friend, Bevan), "Well done! All of you!"
>jam: Everybody makes accommodation mistakes. With any luck, next year we can have a whole TCC troupe out there (and get Sora-san to find us all a really nice place to stay in)