So, the first two riding days on the Dirty Japanese Alps had been completely extreme… The combined numbers do the talking here:

  • Distance – 310.4km’s
  • Ride time – 14 hours and 14 mins
  • Elevation climbed – 6,206 meters
  • Calories burned – 7,902

That’s usually not a bad week on the bike, let alone two days back to back. Add to this that on Ride day 2 I had a higher Training Stress Score than the recent Batam 6 bridges race (No one really knows what that means, but it sounds important) and you can probably imagine I was ready to sleep for 3 days. But, I could sleep on the plane… There was more epic shit to be had.

So, what did the Tour Hawk have in store for us on Ride day 3? Sleep in? Day in the Onsen with a measuring tape? Sitting around admiring our Evo’s in a Rapha kit reading PRO porn mags? Alas, none of those options seemed to bubble to the surface, instead it was simple:

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Whilst on paper today didn’t seem to be as hardcore as the previous two days, in the mountains nothing is ever that simple, especially if you’re rolling with a couple of Col horn dogs like these two:

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Keeping it dirty at the daily morning briefing session

The funnest part of breakfast is when the Welsh Assassin tries to pretend he’s like us… He will casually drop in a “Yeah, the legs are sore aren’t they boys“, or “Yeah, could be tough today“. Hawk and I aren’t buying it… We can smell his feeble attempts to pretend he’s human, when we both really know what’s going on:

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The morning diagnostic… Lock up your Strava segments Japan

Hawk referred to this as the mini loop… But, it didn’t appear to be mini on anything, especially the suffer factor:

"Gets a bit hilly at the end guys, but should be sweet"

“Gets a bit hilly at the end guys, but should be sweet”

Its hard to explain how the legs felt after the previous two days… Concrete blocks perhaps a starting point? Then add to it an overall fatigue, ravenous hunger and a sense of excitement mixed with trepidation and it goes 20% of the way to describing how it feels rolling out for day 3. Of course, this meant rolling out straight into the first climb of the day… Cue familiar pattern:

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The daily ‘warm up’

However, in need of some entertainment as well as a lesson on how to climb slowly whilst breathing like a beaver on LSD, the Grimpeurs decided to hang out with me on this little opener and save themselves for segment rape & pillage later on in the day:

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“Look Hawk, he’s like a commuter, he has a rain jacket in his pocket! Its cute!”

Tunnels may blow, but there are upsides, let me demonstrate with this artisnal shot… And lets ignore people trying to run us over at the exit of this one… All in a days work on a Dirty Tour of the Alps:

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Tunnel of love or horrors depending on how you felt

And what was on the main course for the day? It lies shrouded and hidden in the background… Waiting for us… Waiting to smash (me) or be smashed (by the little people). This pic quickly becoming one of my favourite from the trip. The combo of scenery, what was to come and the excellent Rapha staunch PORN posing from the boys a real winner:

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Thats it… work that camera you sexy climbing bitches

Did I mention yesterday the descents here are challenging? By challenging I mean fucking fast, usually wet and mixed road conditions… Not to mention steep and if you’re lucky, they throw in some tunnels here and there, with grates on them. Bring a spare set of brake pads is the #dirtytraveltip:

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So much for my descending prowess… Up or down the little people are going maaaad on it

If the Welsh Assassin has one weakness, its bladder size. When he was designed and manufactured by Skynet, they deemed such equipment superfluous… Very handy for us, not so handy for him… Especially when there is a Go PRO in the vicinity:

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Now is the best time to attack… Except I am too tired

Two shakes of a welsh cock and we were off again, onto the least satisfying part of the day… A whole shitload of tunnels, like maybe 10? Also, who builds tunnels that have a 7 to 8% uphill gradient? It was a foreboding of what was to come.

So, on to the second climb and I decided that I needed to get a handicap head start, which fitted in with the way I was riding… I didn’t get very far though. No, the Welsh Assassin had received orders from Skynet that there was a Strava segment that needed a vigorous fingerbanging and he was more than happy to oblige. The Go PRO barely able to catch a hammer dropping that would have made even Thor go “Fuuuuck, see that cunt?!”:

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Released to ruthlessly damage Strava segment leaderboards

Yip, that’s how a REAL athlete does it… Basically PRO conti. He ended up owning that shit by 5 minutes over the previous record for the 7.2km climb. #whothefuckdoesthat?! Not to be outdone, the Night “Anything Timmy can do I can do with a regular chain-set” Hawk also shanked me on the way up:

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“Sick of you taking up so much room in the Onsen and on the road Nomad”

Its worth noting that the Hawk has been riding this whole trip on a normal chain set, 39/53. How he has done that is beyond me, a serious feat of strength, respect it. From that point on it was a similar story line as you may have predicted – Solo, beautiful climb, unable to give it what it so badly deserved, followed by a wet slightly dodgy downhill to the inviting arms of a Coke:

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I’ve had about enough reflecting time as one human can take…

Whilst I inhaled yet another bowl of noodles with my face, the Welsh Assassin decided eating was cheating and instead went to check in with Skynet for his next set of orders:

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“Finally another machine that understands me… What are my orders?”

And then almost immediately we were on to the final climb of the day… Feeding his insatiable addiction, the Hawk decided that he wanted to hit Norikura hard from the back (some may call it a penchant, others call it a style). Also known as the ‘hard side’. Yay. I remembered descending it on ride day 2 thinking “Thank fuck we don’t have to ride up here, looks mega cunty”. Well, wishful thinking and as per usual, turns out I was right, what a win. But, you guessed it… It was scenic, SURPRISE! This was lower down before it got into some 16% walls and the arrival of weather armageddon:

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Not a single car all climb…

Given how long this climb was and how fucked I felt, I decided to deploy my only tactic left available, calling ahead to the Ranger to get him to hold the whippets up at the check point and stress them out so I could close the gap a bit. From the looks on the faces, it worked a treat… Note the folded arms while the Welsh Assassin thinks through his options – Top of the list being “I can out ride this shit van FFS“:

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“Don’t you know who I am? I don’t know how to say this, but I’m kind of a big deal on segments around here…”

I caught my breath, downed a gel, took some vid, had a piss on the side of the Ranger shed to say thanks and then signalled it was time to let us roll. So, with Checkpoint Changi cleared, the WA rode with me for a while. Whilst I breathed like a Buffalo giving birth to triplets simultaneously, he outlined to me 87% of the content from the history channel… And from what I can tell, without breathing. I nodded and said ‘urghh’ in response. No wonder he was the under-17 Welsh National Junior MTB champion. Eventually he tired of the Nomad blue collar pace, saying something to me in French before he danced away in a manner that would make Bertie Cuntador look like an amateur.

So, alone again… Plenty of thinking time on this trip… At this stage I was thinking about how cold it was and how there was probably an hour to go. The thing about these climbs or any Alpine passes, is that you need to ride at your own pace. This applies to the Grimpeurs as much as it applies to those of us that ride in survival mode. I expected the boys to smash the climbs, I just didn’t expect to be climbing so badly. As you can see, the further up we went… the freakier it became:

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7 degrees on its way to 3… Happy place… happy place…

Yeah… So, the hard side of Norikura. It was HARD. Forget the third day in a row of Col beat down, this is still a very tough climb. It went on and on and the hard part was that I knew there was still a long way to go. When it really started to rain heavily on me, correction, COLD rain, I had a flash back to my favourite quote of the day from the Hawk:

 “I’m not fucking doin it in the rain…”

And rain it did… So much so about 3 quarters of the way up even my Stages powermeter decided it was too hard and promptly shut down, possibly due to how little power I was putting out at that stage I suspect. I ploughed on to the summit, now with visibility at about 5 to 10 meters, which made it rather eerie. I was alone, frozen and couldn’t see a thing, with only the sound of my wheels cutting through the surface water to keep me company. It was awesome and insane all at the same time, this is why cycling is crazy beautiful.

I think at the summit it was about 3 degrees maybe? Loving the start to the summer tour… I was ridiculously cold, but its not often you’re at the peak of the highest road in Japan (aside from the day before of course), so to keep the final vestiges of journalistic integrity intact I had to stop and snap a few pics:

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As high as I have ever been in Japan

It took me 2 hours to climb this 17km beast in the end… Possibly due to a few photo stops and to rug up. I know the previous day had been cold, but this felt worse. I now had a 23km descent on wet roads back to the Dirty Alps HQ. Fuuuuuck… I had forgotten how it feels to not be able to feel your feet or have problems braking due to your hands being so cold. Still, the views were ok:

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Why the FUCK are we taking photos?! GET HOME!

And the road is something to behold:

Jap alps - Norikura DH

Awesome

I never warmed up, the whole 23km’s down I was shaking and could only think of one thing… Yes, this beautiful piece of equipment. It took a good half an hour in here before I could feel my feet again. This worked in beautifully with Hawk’s plan to get us to Fuji that arvo, his comment of “Yeah, we should be done by 1pm right cunts?” a strong contender for quote of the day:

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Step aside boys, the furry hot pant is about to OWN this Onsen

So, another day of having to dig VERY deep to get through it. I bet I will have people queuing up to go on holiday with me after this one. There is something satisfying in taking yourself way outside the limits of what you normally do or think you can achieve and the last 3 days were certainly a case study in that for me. Its been crazy hard, but at the same time incredible doing what we have completed… And there was still more to come. For those that want to come to the area and munt yourself on this ‘mini loop’, here is the Strava file:

http://app.strava.com/activities/159410859

For those that just like numbers from this lazy cut down day, indulge:

  • Distance – 74.6kms
  • Ride time – 4 hours 38 mins
  • Elapsed time – 5 hours 42 mins
  • Elevation gain – 2,377m

And finally – Here is why you always upload before the skinny people, OH YEAH:

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The shortest lived KOM’s in history…

So, I am still a day behind and in real time terms we tackled Mt Fuji today, so watch this space for that tale to come! Not to mention, a BIG BIRTHDAY!

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