With the office closed for Good Friday, I had a three-day weekend. It rained the first two days, but Sunday was warm and sunny. I headed up the Tamagawa, having to shout my way through a gaggle of middle school boys more interested in chatting and texting than they were in watching where they were riding. They overtook me again soon afterwards (“We’ll show that ojisan!”) only to immediately slow down and spread themselves across the path once again. It took more than one shouted warning to get through them a second time, with the leader in particular having his nose glued to his phone.
Almost immediately after that I passed under a bridge and then circled back to cross over to the Asakawa. After less than 1km I stopped for a break under some stunning yaezakura trees.
With the blossoms and the great weather, my biggest challenge over the next 20km was dodging joggers and pedestrians, as well as a few cyclists (though none as rude as the boys on the Tamagawa had been). I must have seen at least two dozen egrets wading in the river along the way, and occasionally I would hear one of them calling out. After nearly 3 hours and 45km of riding, I stopped under some more yaezakura trees to gulp down a couple of Nana’s world-famous onigiri before proceeding.
The next stop was Takaosan Guchi, the entrance to the cable car up Mt. Takao. Given the gorgeous weekend weather, I was expecting quite a crowd here. I was pleasantly surprised to find the place half-empty (by local standards). I did have to wait for a number of pedestrians on my way back to the main road.
From Takaosan Guchi it was onwards and upwards to Otarumi pass. I felt basically good but not very powerful. From the start I had no doubt I’d reach the top, but it was an open question how long I’d take to achieve the goal. I quickly dropped down Kuroko’s generous gears to conserve my energy, and was soon poking along in the lowest gear. I was breathing easily and my legs felt fine.
This continued on for some time, in light traffic. At one switchback a truck had pulled off in the layby and was to all appearances abandoned (although in truth the driver was probably just having a nap).
In the last kilometer, the going got tough — as it is wont to do. The slope increases to 10% as I round a bend and the magnets lie ahead. I got past the first one, feeling it in my thighs with every stroke of the pedals. “It’s just another 700 meters!” I told my thighs, willing myself forward. I made it to the second of the magnets before pulling over, and I nearly tumbled to a stop. I shakily dismounted and spent a good four minutes recovering my breath.
At last I mounted up again, waiting for a good break in traffic, and continued on my way. I passed the bus stop — just 300m to go! I rounded the last bend and saw the pedestrian overpass with “Otarumi Touge” written on the side, and then I was over and coasting down into Kanagawa Prefecture.
I pulled up quickly at the site of a former ramen shop, where Fujisan was visible through the trees on the left. Satisfied, I turned and slowly pedaled the few meters back to the top, where I took photos and shared them with Nana and friends.
About the video
I was musing while I rested at the top of the ride that I could easily lie and say I’d made it in one go. Unfortunately, there’s video — I had my GoPro on the whole time. On the other hand, I haven’t yet edited and posted the results to YouTube, so for now it’s just between us, OK?
I’d intended to put my windbreaker on before descending, but of course I forgot this little detail when the time came. I pulled onto the road just after a young, stronger rider passed, and I kept with him. Of course! — I was descending. At times — mostly on straights — I would gain on him as we both coasted. Kuroko excels at coasting downhill. In the switchbacks though he was more fearless than I and would win back whatever ground I had gained. In one switchback in particular I lost my nerve and came down hard on the brakes. But other than that I made very good time, and as the descent leveled out I put some power into it. The results paid off in the end as I set a PR for the descent at an average of 44km/h. (I was surprised at the PR, as I’m pretty sure I’ve done the descent in the past without touching the brakes.)
I stopped at a convenience store back in Takaosan to tank up on carbohydrates and inform Nana that all was fine and I was on my way home. The ride back downriver (both rivers) was uneventful, and mostly with the wind at my back.
At the last rest stop I checked the time. I’d told Nana on setting out I’d be home around 3, and it was already a few minutes past that. I quickly messaged I’d be home about 4:20, and assured her I was fine — just taking a bit longer than I expected. From there it was in traffic, with all that implies. I took my time spinning up the few remaining climbs in my lower gears, and finally coasted to a stop at 4:10.
I was hoping first of all to reach the top of Otarumi pass, and secondly to ride more than 100km. Both of those goals safely in the bag, my final goal was to keep the total ride time within reason. As I got closer to home I could see I was creeping up towards eight hours, and so it was my goal to bring it in at less than that. Finally, as I’d told Nana I’d be home by 4:20, it was a point of honor to not only meet but to beat that expectation.
As I coasted up to the foot of the tower I could see I’d done better than 114.5km. Ride around the block once or twice and bring it up to 115? At that point I’d met my distance goal, and just as I was considering whether to ride around the block, the one traffic light turned red. That decided me, and I went for my final goal of cutting the time short.
On a moving time of 6:02:17 (oh! so close!) I averaged 19.0km/h for the day.
With one ride I completed two Strava challenges — Gran Fondo (a ride of 100km or more) and April Cycling Challenge (200km for the month). In fact I’m now at 304km with half a month yet to go.
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