Article Tour De Kumano; JBCF E2. Stage 2

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#1
Tour De Kumano; JBCF E2. Stage 2

Another early start and time for a massage to get the blood in to the muscles, I wasn’t too happy about the prospect of a Japanese style breakfast either. But upon sitting down and being presented with the usual cold salted salmon etc, I was surprised at how appealing it looked and then how delicious it tasted.

It’s amazing how the mind will override things in order to get exactly what it needs to replenish and repair itself and it was nice not to have to force feed myself today.

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Warming up over looking the terrain would be racing over.
We were still in a jovial mood and taking great delight in putting pressure to perform on our junior rider and he was jokingly told that he would be fired if he didn’t put in a performance today – things got even better for me when I also found out that I had leaped in the national ranking and series ranking to the top 20 in the Elite Tour.

That morning during warming up we tweaked my gears to get them shifting smoothly, however we soon realized the effort was futile as the chain had actually twisted and with the Pro team mechanic at hand the bike was soon up on the maintenance stand having the chain replaced and a closer inspection to make sure it was in perfect working order.

The mechanic switched out the old Dura Ace chain for a KMC 10SL, lighter than the original and in gold!

NICE!

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Pro Conti BLING!
Today was the day of my favorite stage of the Tour de Kumano, yes I know coming from a non-climber that’s a very strange thing to say but the course is perfection, with the neutral zone being a procession through the town and then out through all the little villages, hamlets and farms all lined with locals both young and old waving flags and cheering us on.

Then as we loop back around towards Senmaida Toge the roads move in to deep forest as the gradient slowly increases and then one swift left turn and you are looking up at Senmaida Toge.

We were told by the race organizers that they had abandoned the 5 minute time out rule, but they would now start each group 30 seconds apart. Again a few of us made eye contact, the unspoken acknowledgement that we would work together to bridge to the E1 riders and get as many people between us and the stragglers that would try to suck wheel all the way to the line.
 
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FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#2
For me I had no delusions about the KOM points today, this was a day the climbers would shine but the plan was to stay as close to the front as possible so that I could cross the summit either at the back of the 1st group, or in the 1st chasing group as I had last year, I didn’t want to get caught in no man’s land and waste energy trying to bridge to a group.

Today we were also faced with some very long tunnels and I had opted for clear lenses in my glasses, perching them on the end of your nose is just asking for trouble and it also prevents you from seeing the most important part of the rider in front of you, his back wheel and by switching out the lenses it was one less thing to worry about.

After the short procession we had to pull over to the side of the road and wait for the circus to swing round, police cars, bikes, neutral support given by Shimano and Mavic the VIP cars, COM’s and then finally the Commissaire and the out riders.

We swung out on to the course and were brought to a halt ready for the starter’s gun, no rolling start today. The gun barks and the E1 riders are off, “30 Seconds”, “15 Seconds” , “10 Seconds” … “BANG” and we are off.

The pace at the front is relatively fast but my old team mate who I raced the UCI 2.2 Tour of Cameroon with is eager to make some moves from the start and he attacks. The peloton, me included is happy to let him go so early on in the race and when he sits up and looks back it’s obvious he was looking for a few riders to go with him and he’s not happy, re absorbed by the peloton I ask him what’s up and he declares in French “Ce n'est pas la course !”, “This is not racing!”.

Oh but it is my friend and you’ll see soon enough.
 

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#3
As the gradient starts to increase we start to push harder, eager to drop some of the 140+ strong peloton and on the first serious climb we start to pass E1 riders that can’t keep the pace. That’s good, as it means they may be going to fast.

The course starts to level out and we enter the first of the long tunnels, I’m at the front sitting pretty and you can hear the yells and crashes behind. All the lead riders are comfortable in the dark and most are wearing clear lenses or no glasses, smart move.

We accelerate in the tunnel and usual tactic that causes mayhem behind us and as we exit we ramp up the pace again, we can see a large clump of riders ahead and this could either be the main peloton or a large chasing group, it’s enough incentive to put fire in our legs and we chase.

We exit another tunnel and we are faced with a fantastic winding down hill on narrow roads. If you think you’re a good at descending try it with about 100+ riders all trying to overtake you.

We swing through a long right turn that narrows as you exit, I’m on the inside line and there are 3 or 4 riders down right by the barrier and I check to see if my team mate is amongst the carnage, he’s not and I breathe a sigh of relief. The air is suddenly knocked from me as an image of my team mate flashes past me in an instant; he’s at the side of the road with his arm in the air calling for support, NO!

Is he out, did he puncture is he injured, Damn!

I turn my thoughts away from my stricken team mate and focus on racing, we rise over the top of yet another of the big rollers and we are right on the heels of E1. We give one big push and we are there with them thankfully just before the hard work begins.

We reach the turnaround point and loop back around retracing our path on the opposite side of the road. We get a good idea of the carnage our pace has caused on both E1 and E2 and there are clumps of riders all strung out, many with vacant stares of spent me.
I scan each group looking for my team mates but I don’t see anyone and it’s not long before we pull off from the main road and in to the narrow lanes that will take us to the KOM.
 
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FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#4
It’s pointless jostling for position on these narrow sections as you are just asking for trouble, those of us that have raced here before know where to leap frog up the peloton and we bide our time. A few spurts of power here, a few there and I’m in the top 20 or so riders. The road is getting steeper and the pace increases. The climbers taken to the front ready to attack as the road opens out on to open roads of Senmaida Toge.

My climbing style is to go at my pace, I don’t look at the other riders and I just get on with it. I know I’m not a fly weight but I know I have excellent LT and I get passed by a lot of riders in the first kilometers of the climbs, see you soon boys.

The road twists round and I start to reel in riders that previously passed me as well as riders from the front, I’m feeling good and I increase my tempo, careful not to take me in to the red zone. All of a sudden a Champion System Jersey comes past me and I’m amazed to see my team mate whom early was at the side of the road. He’s pretty banged up so I up the tempo and stay with him as he may need assistance once we are over the KOM.

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Half way up the KOM - Senmaida Toge

I’m boarder line on my LT but the presence of my team mate gives me that edge and we clear the summit right on the coat tails of the lead group, but they are quick and put in a huge surge over the summit causing the imaginary elastic that has held us altogether to finally snap.

There are only 4 riders in front of me and on this hair rising descent I don’t even entertain the idea of looking behind to see if there are any others. The decent is like that of Wada Toge very narrow, incredibly twisty and steep in sections.

Every corner has a warning sign indicating the flow of the road and as we swing through the 1st there is a rider on the floor, one of the leading group that pushed their luck a little to far. We round another and there is a bike down but no rider, obviously they went over the barrier and down the embankment.

The riders in my group keep the pace high, each taking the perfect racing line. A squeal of brakes behind me, the clatter of a bike and I know one of the guys behind has left us.

One last hairpin and the road opens up, the group I’m in compacts again and we can see there are about 9 of us. My team mate, 2 others and myself quickly set about increasing the pace and setting a grueling pace on the front, a perfect pace line. No hand signals, no elbow flicks we know the score and the chase is on. As each rider reached the front they peeled off and rejoined the back, it must have been a joy to watch as these 9 riders became as one, rocketing past bystanders at over 55km/h

We had no idea how far ahead the lead group was, or how big it was. But one thing we all had was a fighting spirit, a group of riders that had no intention of giving up, all prepared to leave it out there regardless.

As the group rotated again the familiar colours of our team jersey came past, hang on! Amazingly and out of nowhere our junior rider had joined us. I pulled over to the side of the pace line and took stock of the group. Champion System now had 3 riders in the chasing group and this could play heavily on the dynamics of the group, they could suddenly decide that they had no interest in working their arses off to potentially put one of us on the podium.
 
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FarEast

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#5
My team mate Matsudo also sensed this and we moved to the front and upped the pace again. Shouting encouragement to our junior to get on the back and ride like hell when it was his turn on the front. By taking the initiative we had declared that if they wanted a shot at the podium they would need to work for it and before long riders started coming through and taking pulls at the front.

As we cleared the top of the many rolling hills a cry went up from the front, we had just spotted our quarry and as the adrenalin surged, so did the pace.

But the road was running out.

We flew under the 5km to go mark and the lead group showed no sign of slowing. Riders in our group made valiant efforts and one rider called out to a friend to take his wheel.

Bad move buddy!

I was on the wheel like a shot as the two attacked and I took with me my two team mates, who in turn pulled the rest of the chasing group. As the rider tired I attacked head down 90% and the gap started to close.

3km to go and we could now hear them, it was so close but we had put so much energy into chasing them but I wasn’t going down without a fight and with all my effort I attacked again, 100m, 60m, 40m….

The road started to climb and I was fading, I spotted the 2km marker and I knew I had to catch the group or all was lost. 20m and as we went under the 2km to go marker I slotted on to the back of the lead group.

I was done, my legs were spent.

The speed increased as we approached the “Flamme Rouge” I got my second wind, my inner monologue telling me that I had worked so hard to be here that just rolling through at the back wasn’t good enough. My legs suddenly felt great and the excitement of the moment.

I knew my only chance was to attack on the downhill before the road kicked back up for the grueling 500m hill climb finish. We had to make a sharp left and I was on the outside amazingly leaving me with a clear line down the hill.

Here we go, shifting down I put all my energy in to getting as much speed as I could and in the short decent I hit 70km/h. Rocketing up the climb I jumped a huge amount of places but it wasn’t enough to catapult me to the front.

I crossed the line, legs blown, lungs heaving but incredibly happy with the effort the chasing group had put in. My close friends on other teams were amazed to see me and mentioned that they had no idea I was there until I blasted past them on the decent.
 

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#6
I looked around for me team mate Matsudo, who finally came through looking despondent. It turns out that in the last 1km our junior rider had crashed and hard. He had used all his energies in the chase and had momentarily lost concentration colliding with Matsudo and then going down hard.

Again it was a waiting game to see where I had placed and to find out just how big the lead group was.

I had taken 15th with my team mate coming in 54th, very pleased with the result. Especially after the 15km chase to the front group and then attacking again to increase my placing. The happiness was short lived by Matsudo and I, as our junior rider was in the medical tent having his kit cut from him. The race doctor was very concerned about him and they had wired him up to a heart monitor.

In the end the doctor cleared him saying it was a combination of sheer exhaustion and shock and that he needed to report back in an hour. He and his bike were pretty banged up and it was uncertain if he would be able to start the final stage tomorrow.

Distance: 45km
Time: 1:10:21
Average Speed: 38.0km/h
Max Speed: 71.4 km/h
Average Wattage: 318w (normal power)
Max Wattage: 1258w

Placing: 15th
 

FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#8
he was pretty banged up - road rash all down his left side and it looks like he suffered a concussion as his helmet was cracked in several places.
 

Gunjira

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Oct 2, 2009
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#13
Awesome, best read recently. Thanks for the write up. Good to see you and matsudo going places. The junior included, aren't there a bit too many crashes? What's the main reason?
 
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FarEast

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May 25, 2009
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#15
Awesome, best read recently. Thanks for the write up. Good to see you and matsudo going places. The junior included, aren't there a bit too many crashes? What's the main reason?
I've raced UCI 2.2 and 2.1 Gunjira and there are just as many crashes :D Most crashes are in the final 1km mark, its the most dangerous as everyone is knackered and everyone one wants the top slot on the podium. People take risks and crashes happen, just normal day at the races.
 

GSAstuto

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Oct 11, 2009
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#16
I agree with James - aggressive racing will always include a few spills. The larger the bunch entering and exiting corners, sprints, etc will necessitate some 'thinning'. Part of the game. Personally I think my crash percentage in crits was over 25% (1 out of 4). As a lighter guy in the company of 'bulls' I can definitely feel for the guys getting hammered on the inside and trying to make a mad dash for the premes.