Utsukushigahara HC

AlanW

Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
1,214
436
103
Tokyo
#1
First time at Utsukushigahara for me, so I took Friday off work to go and have a look at the course. The start runs through some narrow streets and takes a 90 degree right turn after a few hundred metres, then the climbing really begins.
Naomi-san and I climbed at a steady pace, although the first 3k still pushed my heart rate well into the "racing zone".
Another right turn at a t-junction brought us to the start of the long, steady gradient, and we soon passed the Cafe Pirata cycling themed cafe, with the Tour de France flag proudly displayed. We stopped for a few words with the owner and told him we'd be back later!

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We made stead progress to the top of the hill. The course is 21.6 km (by the offical guide) which is the longest HC race I have done to date. At last we popped out of the forest and on to the Utsukushigahara plain itself. We met some of the local residents:
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Then on to the rolling section approaching the summit. There were a couple of fairly big downhills (for a hillclimb, at least) where we lost some hard-won elevation before the final push to the summit.

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It turned out lucky that we rode the course on Friday, because race day (Sunday) dawned cloudy and wet, with rain that gradually got heavier and heavier as we ascended into the clouds.

I got up early (4:30 am :eek:) in time to get a light breakfast and, more importantly, a decent warm-up. I found a little road near the start area that offered a fairly steep, sustained hill, so after gently spinning along the flat road between our accommodation and the starting area, zoomed up and down this road a few times.

Then it was time to race!

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I was in the third row of the grid - I spotted Andy Wood on the right side of the first row and recognised a few familiar faces from other races this year.
Exactly on time at 7:30 we rolled, funnelled through the narrow streets. All the group got safely around the tight right turn and the race was really on.
Within 1 km I caught Andy but we were obviously evenly matched and neither pulled ahead. Meanwhile a bunch of really fast riders were ahead, then a few strung out in front of us, and more behind. Andy and I worked together, gradually reeling in some riders ahead. I was happy that my HR was responding well to the climb, sitting around 175. A couple of the riders we passed were able to stick with us so we climbed in a small group of four. As we approached the flatter section at the top, I wondered if I would be able to stay with Andy, as he's a big, strong rider. However, he is also an excellent shield against the wind and about the only guy at the race that I can get a decent draft off :D So our group stayed together through the fast undulating section, we all made it safely around the curves towards the end and then it was just a final effort to get to the finish line. I was aware that I just had to stay on Andy's wheel (as I'd started slightly later) but where is the fun in that?! So I pushed extra hard and we crossed the line neck and neck!
Great race and thanks Andy for pushing me hard!

Link to Andy's report.
Just behind us Naomi-san was racing hard too and took 6th place in the Ladies category (that included contenders for the next Olympics!)

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