WHOOP WHOOP! I’ve punched out of India and now its time for the GOOD stuff! Fuck, its been waaaay too long since we’ve had a mission briefing, but here we are. And its no ordinary mission briefing either! No, this has some real star power behind it and not just because its the first leg of the DN Northern Hemisphere Summer Tour (DNNHST? cunted). So, wassup? Here it is…
The Hawk tour of the Japanese Alps
Say whaaaaat? Yip, get up on it because this is actually happening. Never heard of the Japanese alps? Neither had I, and I must confess to thinking that the Hawk was taking the piss when the concept first wafted into my trip hungry nostrils. Yes, turns out there are some relatively serious climbs up in them there hills.
I am still mildly vague on our exact location, which is part of the excitement, but to set the scene, I know we land at Tokyo, road trip it to Nagano and we will be based out of Norikura initially, with our lodge halfway up the mountain. After that, we are in the good hands/claws of the tour Hawk. What’s that going to look like? Here is a little preview:
Doesn’t set the scene for you? Not mythical or awe inspiring enough? Not to worry… The Hawk tour machine was just getting started, in a short space of time he was cranking out the goodness, dropping this kind of vista into our Rapha clad laps:
Its not that straightforward though…. No… Not by a long way I’m afraid, this isn’t just some tourist jaunt to the land of sushi & sumo. What could complicate the majestic beauty of these ancient mountains and turn them from peaceful and soothing into a hellish battlefield of suffering, cramp and general torture worse than being made to sit through watching the Giro d’Italia Femminile? Two things, so please, allow me to elaborate:
1. The battle of the Grimpeurs
Not to be confused with Gimpers, which is a whole different sport… No, this is all about two climbing weapons taking to the Nippon Alps, each other and inadvertently the Nomad as collateral damage, as they wage lightweight war on one another up the climbs. Allow me to introduce the playas that will bring us story, pain and hopefully a few strava KOM’s as I watch them ride up the road with their 10kg’s lighter chassis – Dancing on pedals etc etc.
Rider Profile – The Nighhawk
The only man capable of making Rapha feel inadequate and unstylish, some may recall him from last years excellent Hawk Tour of Niseko. Abducted as a baby from Monaco and sent to Australia, he is much more at home in his natural habitat of either the mountains, or a Multiple Michelin Star restaurant that’s located within 100m of a marina:
- Strengths – Basically fluent in Japanese, looks like he was Model #1 for Rapha, pedalling style that is so smooth it makes you instantly wet and a unique ability to lose weight until his knees look alien. Potentially not bad at doing Ironman for a laugh
- Weaknesses – Taxi’s, Penchant for Protein BUILD powder, Winter
- Don’t say – “I think you’re gonna take Col du Sausages” or “Let’s attack early in Hanazono!”
- Do say – “Yeah bitch, I went sub 10 in my first Ironman… Kinda like a test event you know” or “Forget Rapha, it should be called Rypha”
- What to look for – He’s in good form, having shed the winter hawk cuddly layer, he’s been stalking the fine hills around Niseko drilling himself back into the form of July 2013, aided with new Sidi shoes and the ghost of Col du Sausages. Expect fireworks. This will be my view, for a little while:
Rider profile – The Welsh Assassin
Usually the Assassins creed is ‘One shot, one kill’, but why stop there when you can kill everything and everyone? Allow me to present exhibit A, we went for a relaxing tour of the alps a few years back and in spite of the combined efforts of a whole crack cycling team, we were merciless mowed down faster than even Jim Harper and his men… The Welsh version of James Bond devouring KOM wins like a chubby bearded guy in a tea cake shop:
- Strengths – The red mist, RRR, any climb… And I mean ANY climb, an acute ability to repeat the same climb or stretch of road 20+ times, organised and stowed away to levels that would make a Marine with an OCD blush
- Weaknesses – Total lack of benevolence on a bicycle, Bladder size (during races even), possibly prone to the odd MTB crash here and there
- Don’t say – “Ah, I think I’m wet in the dry area?” or “How about a spin up the Galibier?”
- Do say – “Have you been doing secret training again boyo?” or “Fuck, its so cool how it all matches and you can’t even tell you have an OCD”
- What to look for – There’s a nervous excitement coming from the Catherine ZJ cherry taker, he’s been hamstrung by travel and we’ve made sure he’s been well fed, so on paper he may struggle…. BUT, we also know we see the best from him under these circumstances, so I expect more of the horror of looking back on the Galibier and watch him chew up my 3 min lead faster than the English get punched out of the World Cup.
And have they been preparing? Have they fucking what… The cold war already simmering away on Strava in a game of oneupsmanship that even Reagan would be proud of:
But its not just these two that are the concern… No… If we were going to the north of France on to some flat and windswept roads I would be ok. But, that’s not the case. SEGWAY – Lets therefore introduce the second part of the recipe of doom without further rambling:
2. The course design
Well, I did make the remark to the Hawk that it would be good if it was epic… Unfortunate. What he has designed goes well beyond those parameters. In fact, I ran this past Christian Prudhomme and he looked at me alarmed and said “Fuck cunt, are you for real?” when he saw the route. It was in French of course, so didn’t sound as crass, but you get the idea.
Indeed, the hawk is attempting to ‘out Clarsen’ Monsieur Clarsen, with a wet fart noise opening 3 days. How does 13,600m sound? Well, I am not sure its even physically possible for me to be honest, we’re talking TDF stats here and essentially more climbing in 3 days than I managed in 8 days in France this time 2 years ago, so its going to be… hmmm… Interesting? May also need major rehab on return to the gHub. Here is the daily break down (pun sort of intended):
With the soul broken from day one, can I have some more please hawk? Yes… He provideth:
Nothing like a cheeky 4,000m for your second course. Time for a rest day? Zip it pussy (or unzip it pussy as they say in Toa Payoh):
Think that’s enough right? Well… No… Apparently not. Hawk has outlined in his plan that those are just the warm up days for the real main course. Yes, there is one more day that we only speak of in hushed tones as we bow gracefully in deference for being given the privilege of letting its name pass our unworthy lips:
No map, but how about this as an outline – The plan is to do the unthinkable… Climb ALL the roads on this iconic global landmark:
So then… Its gonna be BIG! I can’t wait to see how it rolls and I am pumped to be hitting the biggest climbs in Japan. However, it won’t be all torturous climbing hell as I try and stay with the Grimpeurs though (just 95%), no, the Tour Hawk/Guide has arranged some palatial Japanese Alps accom for us, take this little exert for example from one of our pensions:
“The mountain stream that passes through Norikura Highlands is called “Koonogawa” and flows right behind our pension, filling it with the soft sound of flowing water and purifying negative ions”
Good news – I am going to need the fuck out of those purifying negative ions as my spirit and body is crushed relentless from the climbing onslaught, strongly exacerbated by the two lightweight cycling samurais going head to head for the ultimate honour of Japanese KOM champion.
Who will prevail? Who will be the ultimate climbing champion? How many days in a row will we have matching kit? How many Rapha items of clothing will we collectively have between us? How many Japanese beers will be consumed before passing out (2.5)? So many pressing questions… The answers are coming right up!
Just another relaxing DN cycling holiday on the cards… It all kicks off tomorrow, so stay tuned!