I have to start todays post a little confused… Ok, so I have only been here in Niseko for 1.5 days, but I am left to ponder something that is worthy of a good ponder. So, we have the following:

  • Perfect smooth roads
  • Embarrassingly low traffic volumes
  • Excellent weather and temperatures (today was 26 degs)
  • Epic variety in terms of terrains and roads – Not to mention more routes than I can shake my Evo at…

So… Given all of this, why isn’t the place overrun with cyclists and those mofos that like to swim before they ride and run afterwards?

It essentially turns out that this place appears to be a hidden nugget of riding gold, a proclamation I am making early to be sure, but it doesn’t take long to work out this area is a winner if you like to train your body to endure suffering – Coming with the bonus of great scenery and a really laid back culture. Rad. Sure, I respect its as cold as a motherfucker in winter, but I didn’t have to worry about that today!

I delayed proceedings by sleeping in like a lazy nomad… One of the nuances (or nuisances?) of being an unsigned pro rider is that you fall into a lifestyle of taking your sweet time with everything (especially ride prep), which frustrates people that live in the real world. So, after an epic feed of pancakes we finally got on the road around 10am (I can hear Clarso spitting out his cornflakes at that as he drops a C-Bomb).

What’s the best way to prepare for a hillclimb race tomorrow? Get in a 4 hour and 120km tour of Niseko, that’s what! Here is what today looked like on a Google Map:

Looks like a lasso...

Looks like a lasso…

It did occur to me today (and could be the answer to my above question) that if you were a white devil coming here to ride without a guide that it would be tricky… Sure you could deploy the set up I used in Italy, but the road signs here are very different and mostly in Japanese, so I could see excellent potential for getting lost unless you had someone in the know. Speaking of which, get some Ironhawk in your diet:

I have a different definition of "pre-race warm up"

I have a different definition of “pre-race warm up”

The first half of the ride was on beautiful rural roads around Niseko… Seems Potato farming is big and even famous around these parts, which I will come back to later on. In the mean time, here is a taster of what I am talking about road wise:

Cars appear to have been banned...

Cars appear to have been banned…

At times I kept thinking I was in NZ, except it was even quieter… At one stage I even wondered if we were suddenly in an episode of ‘The Living Dead’, as it felt eerily deserted. No, didn’t get any zombie action, just miles of quiet roads. Didn’t see any Ninja’s either today, which is starting to become an annoyance.

Of course we should have taken it easy today… chilled and rested… But fuck, I didn’t come here to be wrapped in super soft Japanese cotton wool and sit around playing Hello Kitty games on my iPad. Ironhawk decided that we needed to hit Nakayama pass. I didn’t really listen to him about its length, just that it was an easy gradient. Indeed it was and I set flight riding tempo on the front.

It kept going… I kept going… I felt really good. We had a tail wind… It kept going… I kept going… This was great! We were rolling and hitting it. Not full all out gas, but a solid tempo. Unfortunately for me I only seemed to have about 16km’s worth of this effort in me today, a bummer when the climb was around 20km’s long… With the Hawk unleashed to go up the road, I was free to do what I do best when dropped:

Stil not tired of awesome views while suffering...

Still not tired of awesome views while suffering…

Proving that he is indeed the son of Clarso, the hawk even had time to ride back down and ride the last part of the climb with me, which allowed us to bust out into another impromptu Rapha porn photo shoot moment:

Fully unzipped... ahhhhh...

Fully unzipped… ahhhhh…

It was time to smash a coke and some weird fried potato BALLS before getting stuck into a 20km downhill on the run for home. Here we are flying in formation at 60kph as we head to the tunnel of doom, courtesy of bike cam:

Like a couple of Proton torpedoes

Like a couple of Proton torpedoes

I must admit I was starting to feel a bit second hand as we hit the 100km mark… My brain saying to me every now and then “Aren’t we racing tomorrow? Is this normal? shouldn’t you be at home waxing something?”, but adventures shouldn’t be waylaid for races that don’t play to your strengths FFS! (yes, I may eat those words tomorrow big time).

Heading back we ran smack into the Potato festival! That’s right, its time to celebrate the Potato (apparently they have fucking good ones here) and this is done by smashing the shit out of big drums in a mesmerising sequence that had the hawk and I staring on in awe:

We will rock you... For the potatoes

We will rock you… For the potatoes

After we had finished paying homage to the vege that gives us so much (I prayed for Salt & Vinegar kettlefries), we conveniently ran straight into the race rego office and bike checking area! Not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth we registered, grabbed race packs and then oddly had to have our bikes checked and weighed! Why UCI rules need to apply to an amateur race I am not sure, but we went along with it (they also weighed the bikes with all the kit on it, so somewhat redundant as a check), but of course everyone was exceedingly polite. Here is my main man checking the Evo:

"Fuck, your bike is very rad Mr James" (actual quote)

“Fuck, your bike is very rad Mr James” (actual quote)

I was glad to get home and then it was time to get sorted and get some food of course… Tourist tip – If you come here, then you need to hit this Cafe, excellent decor, service and the food was killer, love going to places like this, bike friendly to:

Confit of Chicken anyone?

Confit of Chicken anyone?

Community service announcement – Alley Cat, Panther and Per… I would strongly recommend that you put the Ironman they have here at the end of August on your list. Sure, I don’t condone your behaviour with all the swimming and running, but I suspect you guys would love this place.

Right… I am off to get my head and body around a hillclimb race tomorrow, which should be VERY interesting!

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