yahiko 1820.jpg

Mt. Ogami Dake on Friday. Tempo pace. The “easy” approach. Keep something in the tank for the weekend.

Saturday’s Yahiko attack is postponed to Sunday due to rain. Good for me really. A chance to rest up.

Sunday morning

4:30 am. It’s wet again. But the forecast looks okay.

50 km on the coast. Out to Mt. Yahiko. No Nishihiro san today. A bit lonely. But I enjoy the tail wind.

A warm up

One climb of Mt. Yahiko from the “easy” Nozomi approach.

Strip the weight off at the bottom. Two lights. 1 bottle. Two bananas. 4 soy joy bars.

30 minutes at 150 to 160 HR. Bring the climbing muscles into play.

Descend the steep side. Meet the guys at the bottom. The guys! There are about 30 of us today! Lots of young guys. A few dads and kids too. This is what cycling is all about!

7:00 am

Riders set off in intervals. The aim is to reach the summit at 7:30. What’s your target time? I’m aiming for around 19:00 to get my PB.

Set off second to last in a group of 4. “Watanabe san, pull me up the hill!”

Tazaki san will give us a 1:30 start. His carrot up the road. Gone are the days when we used to start together!

3,2,1 Go!

Nothing like starting the “lap” function to give you a boost!

Full gas. Pass Numa san and his friend. Try to get the HR up. Get up to speed quickly.

This climb is a constant 10 / 11 percent grade. So it’s easy to get into the zone. And hold it.

Look back to see Watanabe san closing. He comes up the inside. “Onegaishimasu” (“please”) is all I need to say.

Lock onto his wheel

We are different riders completely. He’s lightly built. A pure climber. His body rolls over the bike as he puts everything into the road. He moves around the road too. But I like following his wheel.

At times I feel like we are not going fast enough. I pull past him. He slots in behind. But it’s not long before he comes around again.

A few weeks ago I sucked his wheel all the way to the top. I followed his attacks. And jumped him at the end.

“Sorry about that” I said. Now once is cheeky. Twice would be rude.

This time I work a little more. But not much more. He does two out of the saddle accelerations. But I can follow.

This is his home turf. He knows the climb. When to shift. When to dig.

For a non-cyclist, a gear shift sounds just like that, “a gear shift”. But for a cyclist we take much more. We instinctively know if it’s up or down. The way it clicks in too. Is it the right choice? Is he keeping momentum? Better still, accelerating?

You have to shift quickly. Shadow the moves. Keep it tight.

As we come out of the hairpins I come to the front. Test the water. Push a little harder. I gap him. He comes back. “Sumimasen” (“sorry about that”).

Hill climb psychology

Just a word. One word exchanged.

Now the steep section. I can follow him here. This is satisfaction for me.

We are approaching the finish. I wait for his acceleration. He won’t want to be caught out like last time.

Clunk. Clunk. Here it comes! It’s a good one!

I’ve been working on seated sprints. Hands close to the stem. Push. Pull. Push. Pull. 187 HR max effort. But he’s gone. Just the time now…


18:20. A new PB! Thank you Watanabe san!

  • Yahiko Dairo 18:20, 81 cadence, 175/187 HR

Next Sunday I’ll race this course in the Niigata Hillclimb Race. Can’t wait!

Friday’s training: Road (55 km, 900 m climbing)

Saturday: rest day

Sunday’s training: Road (125 km, 1,300 m climbing)


Four climbs of Ishikawa Pass today:

  • climb 1 tempo
  • climb 2 intervals (30 s hard / 60 s easy) x 9
  • climb 3 intervals (500 m hard / 500 m easy) x 4
  • climb 4 SFR 50×21

Thursday's training: Road (52 km, 1000 m climbing)

getting shorter.jpg

On the road at 430. It's dark. The days are getting shorter.

Asaren before the rain.

  • Komura Pass. Mt. Ogami Dake. Sakurazaka Pass. 55 clicks. 1000 m up.

On the way home, clouds rolling in off the Japan Sea suggest rain is on the way.

The heavy rain comes late morning.

It eases off in the afternoon.

Riding home from work. The skies threaten again.

Best to stay close to home. A chance for some SFR hill climb repeats.

  • R73 Shindou climb x 7 (50×21, 50×19, 50×18, 50×17, 50×15, 50×21, 50x? standing)

The heavens open on climb no.7. Race the rain home....

Wednesday's training: Road (100 km, 1,600 m climbing)


The shortest training ride I've ever done?

Working in Takayanagi today. Foul weather. But I've got the bike in the car.

After work the sun is coming out. A 30 minute window.


20 mins up. 10 mins down.

It's hard on the legs without a warm up. The legs are the limiting factor today.

The cardio plays second fiddle. 170 HR on the steeper drags. 175 HR to finish.

This is silly training for a 39 year old. Need to ease myself into it!

Asaren tomorrow?

Tuesday's training: Road (11 km, 400 m climbing)


The day after a 185 km ride. It's raining out.

A rest day? A recovery ride? The usual loop? Ogami Dake!?

Why not! You can never beat Ogami Dake anway! Twisting. Turning. 11, 12, 13 percent...

The final concrete section. Slippery when wet. Stand up and you'll slip. Sit down and you'll pull a wheelie!

The view from the top is always worth it.

Monday's training: Road (68 km, 1,200 m climbing)


A long ride with Team Fins today. I ask "can we do along ride on Sunday?". Each time Hayakawa san plots a course to have me home in Kashiwazaki nice and early.

Itsumo arrigatou jyonnobi!

Up at 4am. On the road at 4:10. 3 full pockets. 2 frozen water bottles.

Along the coast to Izumozaki. Waiting for sunrise. Just me and the sea breeze.

Here comes the sun.

Turn inland. R352 to Nagaoka. Over the pass. The temperature drops a few degrees as I leave the sea behind.

5:50 in Nagaoka for the 6:00 rendezvous. 55 km on the clock.

"Only" 4 riders today. We head for the hills. Oguni ~ Takayanagi ~ Ishiguro ~ Ukawa ~ Nota ~ Yasuda ~ Sochi ~ Kariwa ~ Ishiji.

This is my backyard. I know these roads like the back of my hand. I focus on seated climbing. Hands near the stem. Push and pull. Happy to catch Kenta san on the first big climb out of Oguni.

Rolling through Takayanagi. I've ridden these roads hundreds (thousands?!) of times. Stop at the spring in Ukawa. There are dozens of springs around Kashiwazaki. Nothing beats ice cold water in summer. I plot my rides around them.

Downhill from here. Through and off to Ishiji. We part ways here. A u-turn for me. 23 km back down the coast. A warm down.

By the last 10km I'm ready to get off. This is perfect timing. Long rides like this make you strong. Rides like this have been really important this year.

But it's important to know when to stop...

Sunday's training: Road (185 km, 1,200 m climbing)

strange breed.jpg

Ahhhh. First crash this year.

A beautiful ride on Thursday. The jyonnobi rollercoater.

A crash 10ks from home.

My fault. The gears have been out of synch recently. Playing with the gears. Watching the cassette. Straight into a rice field!

Cyclists are a strange breed.

First you check your kit. No holes! Great! Shoes? No scuffs! Cool!

Next check the bike. Handlebars are straight. Derrailleur looks okay. Rideable!

Last check the body. The usual road rash on the left leg. Always crash on your left - derrailleur up! Some road rash on the chest too. The price of an open jersey.

Lots of blood on the left arm. A deep hole in the elbow. That will need stitches.

I'm covered in mud too. Half laughing, half crying!

Home for a shower. The joy of washing road rash!

To the hospital. X-rays. Stitches. In and out in 30 minutes. Quicker than a haircut!

Some liquid pain killers last night. Recovery ride today.

Rest tomorrow. Long ride on Sunday.

Thursday's training: Road (85 km, 1,100 m climbing)

Friday's training: Road (60 km, 800 m climbing)


Asaren with Nishihiro san today. Same loop as Monday.

Legs feel tired. I try to use a lighter gear. 95~100 cadence target.

This is fine with the wind on your back. But the return leg on the coast is a headwind. Forced to grind it more.

On the two climbs I wait till the last opportunity. Seated effort. Heavy gear. Push and pull. Shorter. Faster.

It felt slower than yesterday. But 36.7 kmph av is good. Home before 7am.

Wednesday's training: Road: (85 km, 300 m climbing)


Ogami Dake today. Another hot one. 2 drinks from each spring. Fallen leaves suggest autumn is around the corner. Enjoy summer while it lasts!

A slow puncture on Sakurazaka Pass. I get some air at Bar Suzuoto. Attchan! ARRIGATOU! Will the sealant hold it?

A race home against air loss. Nakayama Pass at 60 to 70 kmph is more nervous than usual.

Fat gatorskins protect the rim. Just about make it home...

Tuesday's training: Road (80 km, 1,500 m climbing)


Asaren with Nishihiro san this morning. Tired legs from Saturday. Wet on the ground. We choose a flattish loop.

It's only 24 degrees at 5am. But the humidity is so high. I'm glad of 2 frozen bottles.

Nishihiro san has no computer today. He doesn't know he's pulling me on the flat at 40 kmph. He doesn't know he's dragging me up the Ishiji climb at 35 kmph. I'll launch from behind. Crest the top at 38 kmph.

We are making good time. Through and off. 37 kmph average.

On the power station climb I grind it up slowly. Drop one gear. Another. Another. Finally out of the saddle. Max effort. 182 HR over the top.

80 km before 7am.

Later I have a chance to ride out into the mountains. 37 degrees now. Bar Suzuoto for an ice cold grapefruit juice.

Great to see Atsushi and his family working the fields...

Sunday: rest day

Monday's training: Road (135 km)


The Jyonnobi Marathon on Saturday. 10 laps. 115 km of up and down. 3000 m climbing.

This event gets bigger every year. A strong field. The best riders in Niigata and beyond. The power of facebook.

This is grassroots racing. 1,000 yen on the start line. A complimentary bidon. All the drink and food you need.

Heavy rain. A formal race would be cancelled. Jyonnobi Time don't cancel!

3,2,1 Go!

Not go really. The first lap is neutralised. I lead the riders around. Check the course. A chance to chat. Say thank you to riders who have come from far away.

I say hello to Team Ovest's Bandai san. All the way from Tokyo. I rode with him briefly at Shiori HC. A similar build to me. But more power.

2nd lap

Race time. I drop back. Slot in about 10th man. The pace picks up. Organised rotation.

It's going to be a fast race.

Up and over the first climb. I lead down the descent. Into the second climb.

Boom! Bandai san attacks from behind. Out of the saddle fighting to the top. Team Fins' Kenta san and Ito san follow before easing off.

My turn

I know how to do it. I need to catch Bandai san just before the top. Drop a gear. A seated effort. Squeeze a gap. The timing is perfect. Right before the top. I pass him. Out of the saddle now. Drop the gears. Clunk, clunk, clunk. Big ring over the top. The sounds of his gears are all I need...

He wants it! On my wheel! Here we go!

Up to speed. Aero tuck. This is where the damage is done. The gap will open here.

The bottom of the descent. One more hard effort to keep momentum. Signal him through. "Let's give it a go!"

The break

We have a good gap. Behind Fins' Tojo san is bridging. What is it they say? 2's company, but 3 have a better time? A good effort by him to get across. We start to rotate well.

3rd lap

Still lots of strong riders in the chase group. Fin's have 4 riders. In a real race they wouldn't chase. But this is training. And their Ace is still in the pack.

It's really raining now. Bandai san is strongest. His pulls are the most effective. We talk about who should lead on the climbs, flats and descents. A team effort. Working together.

A 3 man break away. I love being in the break. A max effort. The borderline between control and crazy. We are hammering it.

I count the laps 3, 4, 5. We can see the chase sometimes. Need to get out of sight...

6th lap

I can see the chase group on a long straight. Strung out. They're coming for us now. Here they come!

"Good job!" says Hayakawa san, "Let's stop for a pee!" The catch is made. No fireworks. No counterattacks. We drop the pace dramatically. Another half "neutral" lap.

Break time

We stop at the start/goal. Natural break. Fuel up. A chance for riders dropped to get back on. Thunder and lightning now.

7th lap

4 more laps. How's it going to play out? I don't think I have the legs to attack again.

Fin's Ace Adachi san sets the pace. He's flying this year. He can squeeze a gap with little effort. Into the climb he has a few metres.

Boom! Bandai san goes again! This guy's strong. There's a scramble. The steepest part of the course. I can't go. Even with a push from Ito san!

6 riders make the break. All the key players except Murayama san.

The second climb. Now Murayama san goes. I love watching him drop the hammer. He bridges at the top. I just ... can 't ... make it...


Here I am. 7 up the road. Solo. Trying to chase.

I'm going as hard as I can. Now is the chance. Once they get organised, they'll pull away quickly.

8th lap

I'm close. But not close enough. Trying to go faster than 7. They raise the pace.

With 90 kms in the legs, they won't all make it. My only hope now is to pass those that drop off the back.

This is training. So easy just to climb off. But I keep going. "Don't let them put a DNF next to your name!"

Keep going. It's not spectacular. Just grind it out. The Grinderman.

Sure enough. I pass 1... 2... 3...

10th lap

Always the hardest. Legs are gone now. Fight the rain. Fight the wind. Fight the climbs. Sprint for the line. Just for the hell of it.


1st Adachi san (Fins)
2nd Hayakawa san (Fins)
3rd Bandai san (Ovest)
4th Murayama san (Vitesse)
5th Andy (Jyonnobi Time)
6th Kenta san (Fins)

I'm happy with my performance. A 5 lap breakaway. I didn't have the legs to go again. But I put it all out on the road. ALL OUT JYONNOBI!

A big thank you to Enosan and all the support staff. And to all the riders who came from near and far for a great ride in the rain.

Next up Yahiko Hillclimb!

Thursday: rest day

Friday: rest day

Saturday's training: Road (135 km, 3,000 m climbing)


I checked out the じょんのび marathon course on Monday and Tuesday.

Easy on Monday. Pushed a little harder on Tuesday. It’s a tough course. 7 laps was plenty.

On Saturday more than 20 riders will take it on. The best in Niigata and beyond. High standards indeed!

Today I did my first long ride in a while. The first with Team Fins in a while too.

A 6am start in Nagaoka. I did 55 km solo before the group ride.

The pace is fast. 40 kmph plus to Teradomari.

Adachi san pips me in the first sprint on the flat.

I get out of the saddle for the second uphill sprint. Sit back down! Don’t have the legs today….

We keep good pace all the way to Takayanagi. 38 kmph av.

2 litres of water at the shop. Spin home….

Monday’s training: Road (70 km, 1,100 m climbing)

Tuesday’s training: Road (100 km, 1,400 m climbing)

Wednesday’s training: Road (175 km, 700 m climbing)

shiori 2014.jpg

Shiori Pass Hill Climb today. This one always sticks in my mind.

  • 2005. My first racing year. 1st in the age category. A sizzling 39:03.
  • 2006. Big aspirations. A flat after 1 km….
  • 2009. A summer of excess. When the road picked up… I got off and walked…
  • 2014???

Back on the start line. 9 years since my debut. Adam by my side. 6 years since we’ve raced together…

As a warm up I did the full climb. Nothing like a good warm up! I warn Adam of the strong winds above the hairpins. “Best to play the waiting game” I say. Is that a smile?

So here we are. 1 minute to go. This is the only hill climb where there is no fight for position. The first 3 to 4 kms are flat. Nobody wants to tow the peleton…

3,2,1 Go!

Adam is second man. I’m on his wheel. Nothing too hard. Almost like a rolling start. In the first flat section there is just one short sharp rise.

There he goes! Nothing’s changed! Out of the saddle. Who wants it? Cobain can’t stay on the leash for more than a minute!

Everybody is looking at everybody else. Or should that be, everyone is watching Tazaki san. I soft pedal. Adam looks back just once. He has the gap.

3 km till the climb picks up. It’s everyman for himself in a hill climb. More importantly, it’s every man for nobody else. Nobody wants to force the pace only to be dropped when the road picks up.

The road picks up.

Boom! Tazaki san comes from behind. What a motor! A scramble as riders try to grab his wheel. A steep collection of hairpins.

I’m not losing too much ground.

At the last steep hairpin, Miyazaki san comes past. Out of the saddle. His gears crunching horribly. Almost bringing him down. I think it’s game over for him… Shows what I know…

The road eases off.

Murayama san comes past. 55 years young. But he has the engine. A powerhouse. A diesel similar, yet bigger, than my own. I lock on to his wheel. Steadily we work our way back up. But I can’t match his power. On a steep climb like this, small changes in gradient are exaggerated even more. The field splinters.

180 HR. Gasping for air. I’m on the rivet.

A big guy on a steep climb.

The climb grabs hold of you. A stranglehold. A wrestle to the finish. I pass a few. A few pass me. I can’t go any harder.

The last 3 kilometres are the hardest. I have to dance up a few of the steep sections. It ain’t pretty. This ain’t no disco. And I’m no John Travolta…

The finish

Up front Adam is battling it out with Tazaki san and Miyazaki san. An excellent performance from him. “if you were on the rivet, I popped a friggin' rivet!” He rolls in 3rd behind two guys who are doing this crazy stuff on a weekly basis.

I cross over in 41 minutes. Nothing amazing. But satisfied. Always satisfied. 11th in the Champions Class.

More catching up with Adam as the typhoon sets in at the top. 6 years has gone by like nothing. And nothing has changed. How did we get here? Why do we do this? What do we get from this? We love it!

Next up the じょんのび marathon on Saturday. Another chance to burn up the roads of Niigata!


Marginal gains for Sunday's race?

I've been trying out a 27 cassette and some challenge strada tyres.

2 days taking in a variety of climbs.

Day 1 - Komura Pass, Ogami Dake.

Day 2 - Ishikawa Pass, Isonobe.

The cassette is an emergency option. The 27 will be useful on 10% plus sections. Allowing me to keep momentum for Sunday's 14 km hill climb.

However, the final 3 gears are big jumps 21, 24 and 27. Compared to 21, 23 and 25 on my regular cassette. This means you have to stay in gear more for subtle gradient changes. Avoid overspinning.

The tyres are slicker and lighter. Even better if it's raining.

I'm a bit concerned by a lump on the front valve area though. Need to get Enosan's opinion...

Two days of rest now. Race on Sunday!

Wednesday's training: Road (86 km, 1,500 m climbing)

Thursday's training: Road (86 km, 1,300 m climbing)

Friday: rest day

Saturday: rest day


The hottest day of the year today. I find myself on Shiori Pass. A steep 14 km climb. Exposed to the sun. Hot, hot, hot. 40 degrees plus.

My partner in crime? Adam Cobain. First time to meet in 6 years. He's back in Japan. An exciting new hotel / cycling project in Minakami, Gunma prefecture.

Adam has been in Australia for 6 years. He transformed himself from a grimpeur climber, to a crit racer and then a MTB stage racer. He's been back in Japan for a month. A month to rediscover his climbing legs.

We'll race the Shiori Pass Hillclimb on Sunday. Today is a course reccy.

We enjoy chatting on the ride up to the onsen start area.

Grab some water at the start line. The first 3 kms are easy. We take it easy.

The climb changes dramatically. A series of steep switchbacks. Adam 's terrain. Out of the saddle. Gapping me easily.

The road eases at the top. "What's your heart rate?". "183" "Me too".

I'll stay at 180~185 for the majority of the climb. This is the zone for me. On the limit. I can't really attack at this level of intensity. Respond to attacks either.

Adam shows his dancing prowess on some steep sections. But the heat is intense. He has a purple patch. "Go ahead Andy". But he can hold my wheel.

At the 10 km mark there are two short steep ramps. 17 percent. These are a hammer blow to me. Release for Adam. Off he goes....

Now it's hard to get the 80 cadence sweet spot. 50 to 60 at times. I've got a 25 on the back. Should I dust off the 27? Mmmm. Maybe give it a try this week.

A hard slog all the way to the top. I've been doing 45 min climbs of Ogami Dake to prepare for this. But this is a beast of a climb. Head feels like it's about to explode.... Goal!

Points before the race:

  • Good rest.
  • Hydration.
  • A 27 gear?
  • Draft the first 3 kms.
  • Take the outside line on steeper corners.

We enjoy chatting all the way back. So much to catch up on. See you Sunday mate!

Tuesday's training: Road (52 km, 950 m climbing)


An easy ride last Wednesday. Then 3 days off. Real days off. Resting like a pro.

Unfortunately Mark had to go into hospital for 3 days. Nothing serious. But a chance to really rest.

I spent 3 days in bed with him. Playing lego. Reading books. Feet up. Taking naps...

Asaren on Sunday. Feels great to be on the bike again. At 4:30 it's 20 degrees.

An Ogami TT (25:25). I felt okay. But I can go harder.

Another climb of Ogami Dake. From Yoshikawa village it's steep all the way.

Shiba Toge, still in the low 20s. Great views at the top.

Isonobe. 8 am now and it's 32 degrees. Feel good though. 170 HR keep.

Finally, head down. A TT back to Kashiwazaki.

After that effort an easy spin this morning. Just to get the blood flowing.

Shiori Toge reccy planned for tomorrow.

Wednesday's training: Road (40 km, 250 m climbing)

Thursday: rest day

Friday: rest day

Saturday: rest day

Sunday's training: Road (120 km, 2,300 m climbing)

Monday's training: Road (45 km)









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