BIG post alert – Lots of pics and even more words today, so if you’re at work, best to cancel a few meetings, angle your screen so that nerd who narks can’t see it and settle in for a lengthy tale.
Day 3 on tour, but day 2 of riding in the Japanese Alps… I don’t even know where to start with this one… Its not often I struggle to compile the words, story and insights into a day on tour. But, today (well, yesterday now) was no ordinary day to be fair. The only way we determined we could possibly sum it up was:
The reason for calling it THE Special? Simple really… There was no other way to describe it that could do it justice (we were also so fucked after day 2 of riding that we could only use single words) Yes, there is the commonly used term of ‘Epic’, but this felt almost beyond that in a kind of “you had to be there” way.
I have had a few monumental days on the bike over the years, but today was definitely right up there in the top 3 for so many reasons… It had it all, but enough with the summarising and pre-sales faffery/bum licking, let’s get into the core of why this day will live in DN history as one of the greats.
Given day one was 150km’s+ and around 7 hours in the saddle, not to mention fuck knows how many meters climbed, it would be reasonable to expect a recovery spin or easy day to follow… But that’s not how the Hawk’s maniacal tour guide mind works. His philosophy is to always double down with another fisting after you’ve been pumped so hard that you have trouble walking – Today was therefore planned to be a big one. This time a loop as well, which suited me, there is something always cooler about a loop than an out and back and that’s part of what made today extreme. The map doesn’t even do it justice:
The first evidence of special? The Dominhawktrix had a treat for us – Right out the front gate was the first Whores Category climb of the day, and not just any old climb… No, it was Norikura – Better known for being the highest paved road in all of Japan! FAAAAART…. Yes, the Hawk had arranged a degustation of destruction for the start of day 2. The only upside? We were starting 7km’s up from the bottom, which turned out to be a good thing:
Given my appalling climbing efforts yesterday, I was determined to make amends… And I did! For 13 minutes, you can see the look of horror on the Assassin’s face that I am still on:
8 minutes later… The little people make their giant/Nomad killing move and its back to solitary confinement for the next hour and 40 minutes… Live by the Tea cake, DIE by the tea cake as they say:
So I settled into my awkward climbing pace, which seems to have reduced from 13.5kph in France two years ago to closer to 10kph now… One upside, the road was closed, which basically meant we were PRO climbing up here. May have also been a sign to NOT climb up there, but I had issues with the signage:
The odd upside to climbing grinding solo is how incredibly peaceful it is… Which brings me to an important point about all these climbs;
They are ALL not only stunning in the scenery department, but their peacefulness is beyond compare. No cars, basically no other cyclists and only occasionally do you see other people. Its totally weird how under-utilised these roads are… Its like being in Europe in terms of quality and challenge, just without the olive oil or a bowl of heavy cream. In fact, its SO quiet and so amazing that its almost a spiritual experience, which is saying something given I am perhaps the least spiritual person on the planet. Allow me to outline my point:
Exhibit 2 – A waterfall… Just really an excuse to stop when you’re fucked:
Exhibit 3 – Trees… Soothing peaceful trees and total silence:
I could see why this climb had been on Hawks Cols Tinder list for some time… It was amazing… It was also getting colder and colder as we went, slowly the snow crept in. The colder and colder also coincided with me getting slower and slower:
But wait, there’s more! Yes, I was now on a Giro stage, just going a shit load slower than what you saw on TV in May. I can start to see why they still had the road closed. Still, its not every day you get to roll through this type of action, so it only added to the occasion:
It was time to Rapha up… Say what you like about the gear and the cunts that have ruined it, it is still excellent shit when you’re facing snow and conditions that want to kill you. Also gave me an excellent excuse to do a Dirty photo shoot with the Evo and have a few deep breaths (fingered):
Ok, so I cracked… It took me 1 hour 50 mins to grind up the 21km’s of the highest road in Japan, a rather embarrassing 32 minutes slower than the Welsh Assassin. The Hawk got a little closer with only 6 minutes down. As you can see, its like turning up to a DH trip with a trail bike for me, the results predictable. He is NOT normal… Its like a metal endoskeleton wrapped in a Rapha outer layer sent back through time to terminate climbs and Strava segments… Just wait, I even have video evidence.
Combine the WA’s awesomeness with my horrendous climbing form and what’s the result you get? A Welsh popsicle is what! Yes, the boys had decided to wait for me at the summit in 3 degrees temperature, a hang over from the day before… I love them for it, but FUCK they were COLD. I felt shit and watching them shake as they tried to descend made me realise how fucking frozen the boys were. Its one thing to be slow in the group, its another to put them into the shit for it. The quicker we could get down the better:
There was only one thing to do – Call for an emergency Udon stop to refuel and get some semblance of warmth going… I think I inhaled mine in one go, with my face:
It was fucking hard to get warm…. Even harder to get back on the bikes. We then had more epic descending… And I mean BIG. I had forgotten how full on it is doing these massive descents on a road bike and whilst I HATE the look of road disc brakes completely, every time I come to big mountains the idea grows on me.
Into the valley and all of a sudden it was Team Time Trial time. I am not sure what we were thinking, but we started to pull turns and burn the fucking house down. I can’t talk, I was an instigator, I suspect it was the euphoria of being back with the team and also finally being able to contribute on something I can actually do! This valley hammer fest eventually brought us to a main player in adding to the day’s mystic and legend status:
The beautiful road
The Dirty productions video will probably do this road better justice, but a few minutes into riding it we all looked at each like we’d just seen a MILF with massive cans (of coke) and agreed that we were on a special piece of road. I am not sure how Hawk found this on a map, let alone got it into our Garmin’s, but it was simply stunning… It was almost like it was custom made for road cycling, and, just for us as it was deserted (which appears to be BAU around here):
More they cried!! Again again:
We even felt compelled to stop to have an impromptu Rapha porn shoot, As you do… Whilst the Welsh Assassin has mad Athletic Ability, points off on his modelling for no beard… Its a hard road to finding the perfect rider:
It did sneak in a cheeky climb at the end of its valley, which is the first time we witnessed the Hawk crack, it was indeed time to hit the coke’s (no connection to the previously mentioned MILF):
Thank fuck for coke. Whilst we sat around working out how the fuck we were going to get through another 70km’s or so, The Welsh Assassin decided he needed a bigger challenge, so went in search of someone to take our place:
Luckily for us Woody was enjoying his job as a sex toy in a Japanese mini mart too much to join us, probably a good thing from my perspective, being 3rd sounds a lot better than being 4th. A bit more valley TTT action, perhaps with more enthusiasm than was wise brought us to our next major date with destiny, but first, a bridge:
Climb 2: Nomugi Pass – It was remiss of me to not study the stage details from the road book with absolute precision. If I had, I would have realised that we had an 18km climb to come… yeah, SUPER wasn’t ready for that at all. Fuck… You know you’re in trouble when you start to jam your face with gels and other gas producing energy products and they have no effect. If this were to be a photo, it would look like this with the Pedal dancers cruising away from me in the first KM of 18:
I won’t go into the details about how I laboured up this 18km beast like a pregnant hippo… But to give you a feel for how it panned out:
- Welsh Assassin – 59.39 and 3rd on Strava
- Hawk – 1.10 and 12th on Strava
- Nomad – 1.25 and 19th on Strava
As you can see, the facial expression starts to outline how it’s feeling at this point:
It was such a massive contrast to the first climb, apart from my climbing ability that is. No time to recover, Hawk wanted to pad out his porn file, I’m talking beard and Rapha there… and perhaps even scenery… Or this could be a massive dirty photo bomb:
Another MASSIVE descent and then a crazy high speed valley run in the drizzle over rough roads that made us feel like we were a break away in some mental Belgian classics race (er, in Japan) ate up some KM’s, but I got that sinking feeling… My nostrils told me (not to mention common sense) that if we were smashing down a valley and our hotel was at the top of a climb, then there was something to come…
Climb 3 – Ok, so if I didn’t really know about climb 2, then I had no fucking idea there was a third instalment waiting for us. I was so flogged at this point I had no idea how I was going to get up another climb. We were over 6 hours in the saddle at this point and it was a race against losing day light… The only thing it had going for it? You guessed it… It was pretty:
I had said to the boys at the last town, “Fuck, I need some food I think, I don’t want to get a hunger knock if there’s a final big climb”… Fatal commentary. I have no idea how far up I was but finally I cracked (again) and had to climb off. Those that have been completely EMPTY before on a bike will know what I am talking about… It’s a whole body hunger. I wanted a whole roast chicken and all I had left was a lime power gel, damn you all to hell Banana that fell out of my pocket somewhere. Surrender:
I can’t describe what the last few Km’s were like once I got up this fucker of a climb… Pouring rain… Darkness starting to wrap itself around me like a clingy crazy girl and my stomach starting to eat itself to stay alive. Add to that a wet downhill that had the look about it like it wanted to take my front wheel out from under me and I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh, scream or cry. As the ride time clicked over 7 hours I had resigned myself to the fact it was never going to end. Garmin Maps supported this theory as well… It was like I was on a never-ending road of insanity.
After an eternity, the road levelled and I thought I could see the Nippon Alps HQ… I hammered through the rain and blasted the last kilometre, finally seeing the drive way I had craved for the last 2 hours. Arriving to find the Grimpuers camped in the lobby drinking mineral water and having some celery sticks, I was unable to communicate… Drenched, starved, broken, couldn’t feel my anatomy and with a bike that looked like it had just done a tour of Afghanistan in winter. I did the only thing you can do in that situation:
Eat a bag of chips, check your whatsapp messages and see how many likes your photos got on Instagram.
Eventually we looked at each other – The nods and handshakes that were exchanged confirmed what we all had on our minds: That was something unique and extraordinary… I am not sure who said it or when it was muttered, but it summed it all up in one word:
I had trouble working out if my tiny soul had been ripped from me, or enriched after such an experience… This was no ordinary ride. No, this was a ride to always be remembered, one that will grow in legend the more we reflect on it and talk about it. It felt like two days and normally would have been. It definitely wasn’t normal. We all agreed priority number 1 was to eat as much fried chicken as humanly possible… Mild chance we over ordered:
For those that love Strava files and want to have a rather massive day in the Japanese Alps, then here is the file to feed to your Garmin:
For those that love stats, here are some numbers for you:
- Distance – 153km’s
- Ride time – 7 hours 22 minutes
- Elapsed time – 9 hours
- Elevation gain – 3,506m
No other numbers matter in reality (fuck off power), its not about that on these trips… All I know is that it was a rare and extreme day and one that will always be looked back on with amazing memories thanks to the Japanese alps and the boys.
And yes, I know what you are thinking… and you’re right… It took a FUCKING long time to do this post, mostly in the car on the way down to Mount Fuji after another BIG day riding in the Alps, stay tuned for ride day 3!