Article Tour De Kumano; JBCF E2. Prologue and Stage 1

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
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#1
Tour De Kumano; JBCF E2.

Prologue:

I woke up at 5am on Thursday feeling very positive, regardless of the poor week of sleep and the coughing fits that had started on Tuesday that could render me incapable of stopping the coughing cycle once they had started.

This was the tour De Kumano, probably the best road race on the JBCF calendar with teams from all over Japan as well as the world competing for glory. Champion System is the title sponsor for the UCI Pro Continental race so we would have not only the support of the local office but also the full force of the Pro Conti Team’s mechanic, soigneur and tactics from the DS’s as Pro tour as you can get.


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The drive down was uneventful and it was nice to ride with the team and only have to put one stint of driving in.

We soon arrived and decided to do some intervals to get the blood flowing through the legs in preparation for the 1st stage then an early night.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#2
Tour de Kumano Stage 1 – Shingu Criterium

Distance: 46.35km
Elevation Gain: 300m

We arrived early and set about locating the registration and information tent to check in and collect our numbers and IDRF chips. I was a little concerned when I was handed number 413, basically making me #13 in the E2 series. Not normally a concern but last year I suffered a puncture in the neutral zone in this stage and the neutral support bike forgot that he had to draft me back to the peloton and on stage 2, I suffered a broken derailleur cage on the final hill climb sprint finish causing the gears to slip, so I was a little apprehensive to say the least.

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Due to JBCF rules you can't pin it upside down

The course was a figure of 8 that we would ride 3 times with two laps containing a short sharp technical climb where the KOM was situated and the final lap bypassing the KOM in favour of long winding roads that brought you in to a double left turn and the 500m to the finishing line.

This year I decided to plant myself right in the middle of the road on the second line and thus prevent the possibility of punctures, no risks this time!

The JCF Commissaire got on the loud hailer and informed us that we would set off 15 seconds after the E1 riders, however we were forbidden to catch/pass or ride with the E1 riders. Any rider that did so would receive a 5 minute “Time Out”, I looked at a few fellow riders that had raced at higher levels and smirked and as the gun went off we surged to the front and sat on the wheel of the JCF commissaries car or the outrider’s wheel.

Needless to say by the time we cleared the neutral zone there was only a 60m gap between us and E1, the commissaire looked clearly perplexed and after a getting on the race radio for several seconds the red flag went back up where he told us that the previous rules no longer applied and it was “race on!”

As the Red flag came down and the green went up myself and several of the others shot off the front and jumped to the back of the E1 race before they could muster a response and distance themselves from us. I quickly located my team mate to let him know I was now in his pack and slowly worked my way to the front of the E1 race.

As the road wound its way up through the valley we had to pass through 2 long tunnels (nothing compared to Stage 2 ) and I was glad to have already experienced these last year as you can’t see a damn thing when you enter. Needless to say there is always a surge to the front where it’s safest and I was lucky enough to be where I was as sure enough as we entered the tunnels shouts started going up followed by the distinct clatter and crashing of cyclists being brought down.

God knows why year after year riders come to this event with dark glasses knowing that you can’t see bugger all when you enter these tunnels, you’re even warned about it in the Tour De Kumano “Road Book”. (A road book is the official manual of the race, listing distances, altitude, KOM, Intermediate Sprints and dangerous or areas of concern on the course as well as start times etc.)

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Stunning scenery in Kumano

We cleared the first tunnel and continued to ride through the wonderful roads that make this my favorite race in Japan. Again the surges came as we started the last climb on the outward leg of the course that then made a tight left turn directly after the final tunnel and into one of the small hamlets where we would be funneled in to tight twisting back roads down to the river and then climb back up to the tunnel we had just come through.

I cleared the hamlet in the lead group and there was an attack from the front to try and either break away or string out the peloton and make everyone work for the wheel in front of them especially as we would now be riding downhill, a joy on these twisting roads and as we passed back the opposite side we had come we could already see clumps of riders strung out who had lost contact with the peloton.

As we approached the KOM jostling started to occur as teams brought their climbers to the front, now if anyone knows the terrain where I live the will know I’m surrounded by little punch climbs, ones that if you can put down some serious wattage will see you clear in a very short time, basically sprints.

So I’m at the front thinking “Hell I’m here I might as well give it a shot!” with 1km to the KOM I’m in perfect position both in the line of riders and the road we swing through the first left corner followed by another and BANG! Someone clips my bike… we both stay up but he’s managed to take my chain off and it’s jammed…..

DON'T PANIC!
 
Likes: jdd

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
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538
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Yokohama
#3
I throw my hand up and quickly dive for the curb pick the bike up, yank the chain clear, shift to a climbing gear and back on the bike before the peloton has passed.

I rocket up the climb passing startled riders as I yell to get out of my way (something I’m rather famous for in the JCRC and the JCF) and I manage to just grab the coat tails of the peloton as it accelerates away.

But something’s wrong, not only are my gears slipping but the back of the peloton has broken off the main group! I look around and I see no familiar faces, so it’s down to me to bridge over to the lead group. I pull away and I’m joined by other riders – THANK SHIMANO! (see previous thread)

And we start to take pulls at the front, perfect formation really digging deep to bridge over before the climbing kicks in. We slowly and surely make ground on the leaders but they surge again as riders jostle for position. All of a sudden my team mate comes past at a rate, he’s been at the back recovering and he now indicates that we will bridge the gap.

I jump on his wheel and like all pro’s he made sure I was firmly on his wheel and able to keep pace, off we went and the stronger riders in the group came with us. After a 2km chase we final managed to get on the back of the lead group, this time I indicated we needed to push in to the throng to recover and avoid getting dropped again.

I had a big grin on my face for the next 3km, bridging such a gap is pure racing you get such an immense feeling of accomplishment and even more so when team play is involved. I’ve raced for teams before where you’re basically on your own, you’re part of a team but everyone has their own agendas so to be able to be part of a team that works its ass off for each other is amazing and really binds the team together.

We continued on at a grueling pace with short sharp attacks that didn’t stick but did enough damage to the back of the peloton to throw of stragglers whom continued to form ever larger chasing groups that could potentially catch us and cause problems for those vying for the podium.

I decided that I would sit in on the pack for the next KOM and had to throw and hold the shifter in its outer position to prevent it from slipping when applying pressure; we cleared the KOM and its very technical descent for the final lap of the course. Again we all started really putting the pressure on and there was absolutely no chance that any of the chasing groups would catch us now as the speed ramped up to 46 + km/h.

It’s a great feeling of relief to be in the front group as you know for sure these guys know exactly what they are doing and have every right to be there, these are the guys that put the hours of training in and race a full season, most will also race Cyclocross, so you know that nothing erratic is going to happen as the race draws to its conclusion, or so you believe.

We cleared the final tunnel safely and had the fast run down to the sole bridge on the course which had a nasty left then right just as you got on then left it again, totally safe at 30km/h but when you hit it at 60 km/h with a pack of 50 riders things can get messy quick.

Back on to the smooth asphalt and the moves immediately started. Riders up the left, riders up the right sudden surge in the centre. The peloton like a school of fish alive and fluid constantly changing and you needed all your wits about you not only to read the race but also to prevent yourself colliding with other riders, especially as the comfort zones around you decreased and pretty soon we were shoulder to shoulder, wheel to wheel.
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#4
5km to go and another surge up the right, I see my team mate go and I’m trapped in the middle, damn. Then that awful sound, first the shout then the clatter as riders fall. When you’ve raced long enough you can pretty much accurately gauge how many have gone down. You become desensitized and no longer have the knee jerk reaction to look around as that normally triggers a cascade effect of crashes.

Suddenly my team mate pops back up in front so I’m relieved he made it through ok.

3km to go and the road starts to narrow and riders are now thinking about exactly where they want to be for the first left 90 degree turn before the Goal Sprint. For me I want the outside as I know I can not only maintain a high rate of speed in the corner, but it will also catapult me further up the field as the riders filter through – it’s risky but a usual ploy of mine in criterium racing. It would also put me in the perfect place for the second 90 degree turn and the final 500m drag race for the line.

2km to go and it’s balls to the wall riders surging and I'm boxed in, the story of my life. So it’s time to get verbal with riders that are maintaining pace but unwilling to push closer to the front. Like Moses they part before me and I’m in exactly the spot I want to be.

We can see the flags marking the 1st corner, all of a sudden a rider on my right flies across in front of me – “What the Hell!” My brain screams as he clips my front wheel, without even thinking my left foot is out of the pedal and on the floor, bike braced against the impact, there is that long drawn out period where time freezes and I watch with impending doom his back wheel hit my front and then he’s clear. The rider on my right panics and hits the rider on his left and then ploughs back in to me.

WAHHHHAAAAA! (not actually what I was thinking but you get my drift)
 

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#5
I bounce over and hit the rider beside me who seemed to expect it and bumps me off I’m out of the pedal as we fly through the first corner and I feel a tug on the back wheel followed by the usual clatter of riders going down. The bike is all over the place but as I come out of the corner I’m free of riders and have some space.

I can’t believe I didn’t go down - hey stop thinking, you have a race to win!

Foot back in and I ramp up the pace and try to recover the lost places, second corner and I almost clip the curb as I surge on to the straight powering with everything I have, I can see two of the riders with the same race number prefix and there is only two ahead of me – more power as the finishing line looms and I’m through.

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The final 300m are a real bitch

I count the numbers and again only 3! I’m over the moon, not only did I survive a brutal crash in the final 1km but I managed to haul my ass to the line for a respectable 3rd.

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Not always in the bag!

We wait around the information desk with the chaperones and the official race results are posted 4th, 4th ……WTF?

It turns out one of the riders had been promoted the week before and they hadn’t been able to supply him with a new race number, basically in the sprint he was in stealth mode and I truly kick myself for not following my own basic rules “Sprint through the line, not to the line” you never expect this to happen and it’s not the other rider or the organizers fault and it certainly didn’t affect my mood or that of the teams.

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My team mate was over the moon to be able to finally repay me for the pace setting and lead out I gave him at Makuhari Criterium and the mood was jovial in the Champion System camp as talk turned to how we would race stage 2, the Queen stage whose main feature is Senmaida Toge, a steep climb out and over the valley with a technical descent similar to Yabitus Toge as you return.

Distance: 46.35km
Time: 1:08:10
Average Speed: 40.8 km/h
Max Speed: 65.2 km/h
Average Wattage: 332w (normal power)
Max Wattage: 1186w

Placing: 4th