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Old 04-10-22, 08:27 PM
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Bikes: Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer, Bike Friday Pocket Rocket

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The last training ride before the Fleche from Aichi to Tokyo on the coming weekend and what a ride it was!

BRM409 "Momotaro" by AJ Nishi-Tokyo last Saturday was a 200 km brevet from Machida to Saiko (one of the "Fuji Five Lakes") and back (on Strava). It explores the old "Kyu Koshu Kaido" in the mountains north of modern Rt20 between Uenohara and Tsuru. The return route was via Akiyama. The course itself had over 2,800 m of barometric elevation gain, before the ride home to Setagaya. That's even more than the hilly "Shiokatsuo" brevet in west Izu on March 26 that I timed out on in heavy rain during its second half. I had done the same course on October 16.

I rode to Machida the night before and staid at a ToyokoInn less than a km from the start. I set my alarm for 04:45 so I could attend a briefing at the start after 05:30 for the 06:00 start. One of my team mates, Mrs E. rode to the start from Tokyo, getting up at 01:00.

Our Fleche team captain for next week's ride was the ride organiser. The other 4 members of our team were participants and I rode with 2 of them for much of the ride.

There were 56 signed-up participants, only three of whom chose not to ride. It was really like back to pre-pandemic times, except for everyone wearing masks at the start and finish and at convenience stores. It was still cold at the start and I wore my windbreaker and my rain pants over my jersey and shorts. I took them off again before the first convenience store stop and didn't need them again for the rest of the day. If anything the day was on the warm side.

I left as one of the first starters but didn't mind letting people pass me, remembering how in October I started out too fast only to have to pay for it after the first 40 km when the first major climb started. I found myself in the company of Mr H., with whom I also rode about half of the Izu brevet. Sometimes one of us got ahead of the other but we always met again somewhere. Mrs E. was also around until about 80 km into the ride.

There were some groups of friends riding together. When one of them punctured, half a dozen of them attended. They were a very sociable lot, not too much into the competitive aspect.

The views of cherry blossoms, plum blossoms and Mt Fuji were gorgeous. Down near Tokyo the sakura was already thinning, but in the hills near Uenohara they were in full bloom and up near the Fuji Five Lakes it was still early for them.

The course this year avoided major roads as much as possible. The climb from Otsuki to Fujiyoshia avoided Rt139. Only near Kawaguchiko did it get a little busy. I was separated from Mr H. at Saruhashi but we met again at a convenience store in Kawaguchiko and rode together for a couple of km. At Saiko I met faster riders already coming my way as they had already rounded the lake. When I got to the untimed quiz point (QP1), I was about 20 minutes behind minimum pace, but as long as I made up that time by PC1 (control point 1, the first timed checkpoint) I'd be OK. Since there was over 600 m of elevation drop to PC1 I was confident I'd be OK.

Mr. H. caught up with me just as I was about to leave QP1 and I told him what local information to write down for proof of passage. It had been windy heading west but that meant we had a tailwind on the return to Kawaguchiko. That and the flat route meant we eliminated most
of the time deficit by the time we got to QP2, another untimed control. Then came the long descent and we made it to PC1 in Tsuru with 24 minutes ahead of minimum time. Mr H. and I arrived together, but Mrs E. who Mr H. thought was ahead of us had not been seen yet. Our organiser was there and we could chat a bit.

The final 60 km from there were still hilly. First came the 8 km climb to the tunnel above the Chuo Shinkansen test track. Earlier in the ride, not far from the maglev visitor center near Tsuru, I had actually heard the whooooshing sound of a maglev train passing on a bridge of the track.

The long descent after the tunnel was fun and welcome recovery time, but there were still several hundred more m of elevation gain in climb after climb after climb in Sagamihara. Once we got close to Machida, it was traffic lights. By that time I knew I was on the safe side with my time buffer and took it relatively easy. When I finally got to the 7-11 that served as the goal and bought a coffee, it was 19:17 so I had 13 minutes left on the clock. Mr H. and Mrs E. arrived together soon after me. Together we rode to the Cherubim bike shop, where the goal reception was and had our brevet cards verified.

Two hours later I got home with almost 234 km and 2,971 m of elevation gain for the day. That means my Century a Month is now at 116 consecutive months. Four more months to make it 10 years. But first I need to complete the 24h ride from Aichi to Tokyo with my team mates next Saturday/Sunday. After two hilly brevets I feel we are all reasonably well prepared for the effort but there is always the big unknown of sleep deprivation on a ride like that.
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