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Part4 - Down to Ocean
From Toda Tohge it's a straight shot out to the western coast of Usami, passing through Shuzenji. Losing 800m of elevation in 12km, down to Shuzenji is bitingly cold. With silky smooth tarmac and constant radium corners, it was supposed to be one of the highlights. Quick breathing, rigid body and numbing hands. Brake modulation is lost and bikes exit the corner at a wrong places.
Speed is lost instead of carrying through. As we approach sea level at Shuzenji we can feel the temperature rising quickly and by the time we reach the bottom we've all forgotten about the painful descent.
Somehow Seiichi is late to reach the bottom. He limps down with a ripped jacket and bibs and a broken fender mount. His rear wheel locked and he ended up kissing tarmac. As he picks himself up his heart is broken.
With no major injury, our sympathy soon switches to "come on let's go the sun is setting" haste. The sun was really starting to get low on the horizon, again. Temperature isn't plummeting like the Nagano mountains but we still have a big downhill to the ocean past the Kameishi Tohge, and with traffic and a cork screw descent, it is not the one to go down in darkness.
The cause of hitting the pavement was an unusual one and confused Seiichi. He climbs into the van. Disappointment, but we are not about to waste time to get him back on a bike that needs major adjustments. Perhaps camaraderie is shown with kind words but sometimes, for the Japanese, a bit of silent punishment is more effective, especially for the next ride. So we leave him behind. Next time he'll be tougher.
The climb up to the Kameishi Toghe travels past the Shuzenji Cycle Sport Center where the Keirin School is located along with various courses for racing road and mountain bikes. Vincent has memories here and is given plenty of time to recollect as he struggles straight up past the velodromes.
Separating the oncoming traffic are banked corners, literally finishing on the beach. The Kameishi descent is a true pleasure and Vincent is looking again like a fish thrown back into fresh water. Such an emotional roller coaster.
Back down on the coastal highway 135 where we started and back to Ito station, it's the only true flat sector of the ride. We finally benefit from Yuji's strong condition as he moves up to the front and pulls us at 48km/h to our arrival. Tonkatsu, a fried port cutlet, is the reward as we watch the last victory of the great Mongolian Yokozuna*, Asashoryu, on the TV screen.
*Highest ranking Sumo wrestler
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"So I can’t complain about feeling crappy. Over five hours on the bike and no idea how much further to go. The bio battery is running low, I see the others ride away and I’m barely turning the pedals over. I hate to keep them waiting but I just can’t go any faster. Hooray onto the last climb. I was crawling along, thinking back to the day when I won the season opening race at the nearby cyclesports centre. I’d do anything for those legs of old. I rode off the front never ever looking back and beat the best of the time. First prize was a round trip to the Gold Coast Australia and there I came second in a race put on by the same organizer. Who won that day? Some young stud named Robbie."
- Vincent Flanagan
"We form a paceline as we head along the coast for the last clicks to the station. In those closing minutes the dark clouds which had hovered overhead all day finally snapped and let loose. Sweet rain mixed with sweat and I could only feel jubilation and euphoria mixed with fatigue."
- Vincent Flanagan