tour of utsukushigahara 2012

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Today I raced the Tour of Utsukishigahara. 8 hours sleep in the car. The longest sleep in a long time!

This is my first hill climb of the year. Usually I break myself in at Kusatsu or Yatsugatake. Half a year gone already. Still there’s nowhere like Utsukushigahara to work yourself over.

Warm up on the rollers. Take time to raise the heart rate but it doesn't respond well. 140 HR at 60 kmph. The furthest I can push it is 163. I decide to try and finish it on the road. I force it up to 170 on the steep section.

By now the rain is really coming down. Falling down like sheets. Coming down like love. Falling at my feet. Just like spring rain

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I relish riding in the rain. Especially a hill climb. You can literally tick off the riders you will beat. Anyone in a rain coat. Anyone sheltering before the start…

I get a good spot at the front on the start line. Here we go. Into the steep section. The HR is slow to rise. I let the riders go. Don’t panic. Ride my race. By the end of the steep section I’m up to about 177HR.

Alan is beside me. We exchange a few words. “It eases off in a minute”. “Let’s work together through the flat section”.

Get through the steep bit. Rotate through the flat bit. Time to start picking off other riders. Now the only men harder than English men when it comes to riding in the rain are the Scottish. Alan and I paced each other all the way. Driving each other on.

I was riding constantly if not spectacular. Think Indurain more than Pantani. Clapton more than Hendrix

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HR above 170 all the way (although I’d hoped for 180) and cadence around 80 rpm. I found myself in the 27 gear more than I expected. But it’s important not to grind it on a long race like this.

I was also really impressed with the light weight GS Astuto wheels. In training I’d noticed the acceleration they offer. Today I was impressed with how they keep momentum as the terrain changes, making it easy to put in a constant effort. A great balance of weight and aerodynamics.

We picked up another guy on the way up. He was keen to work together. (perhaps worried about the final 4km of rolling road). We met another guy who was also strong (in the big ring!) so we became a 4. The two shared a drink. Now anyone who’s ridden a bike knows that doing the dirty on someone who gives you some water is akin to sleeping with their mother…

Finally into the last 4km roller coaster ride. Visibility is really poor by now and thankfully nobody takes any risks. I find myself slipping away up front on a descent.

1km to go. The road rises. I keep it in the big ring. Out of the saddle. The road descends again. A strong wind from the side. 500m to go. Slip back into the small ring. The water taker comes past. Mother*****! Although I don’t care really. Let him go.

Into the cones to the finish. I can sense someone coming through. A quick glance. Alan! Animal instinct takes over. Into the big ring with about 5 metres to go. Neck and neck. Throw the bikes to the line. Nearly hit the orange guy!

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Now it should have been a photo finish. But Alan crossed the start line 2 seconds behind me. So his chip was activated later. That’ll teach me to get a good starting position!

Later Alan’s wife Naomi told me “you were Alan’s target today!”. Well I’m glad I could provide the motivation. Next time Alan, you’ll be my target!

Naomi did another fantastic ride. She’s on the podium more than the podium girls at the TDF!

After the race Naomi, Alan and I tried to get back down via a rindo forest road loop. However in circumstances like my favorite scene in American Wererewolf in London we gave up and took the regular road back down.

My time was 2 minutes off my best. But I was happy with my first hill climb of the year. The effort I put in. And of course the great company.

(1h 11m 26s, 171/182 HR av/max, 82 cadence)

Next up Norikura!

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