Day two of the Tour of Tokachi was a criterium in the middle of town. They closed off a block so at least the road was wider than the previous day’s course but one lap was just half a kilometre, which made the racing very interesting.

There were plenty of race volunteers putting Saftey First!

Kazuko was first off again but this time the ladies were racing together with the junior high school boys and girls. Some of the junior high school boys were looking quite strong and in the end there were two of them leading the charge with just the top lady rider looking like she was really suffering to just hang on to their wheels. Kazuko, on the other hand, pulled out as soon as she got lapped. I was taking photos and realised that all the lapped riders were still racing, so I went to find her to tell her this and found her with one of the junior high school girls who was in tears because she hadn’t realised she could keep racing. Kazuko wasn’t too fussed either way – I suspect she was content with her moment of glory from the day before – but she rejoined the race to encourage the teary young girl.

Cornering hard before she got lapped.

As it turned out, if she had kept going, she would have been on the podium for a second time and maybe got herself another carton of iced coffee. Still, it was a moral win.

After her race, it was the masters’ turn and I particularly liked this guy:

Is there a race on?

Not only was he the best-looking rider out there (note the smart running shoes) but he was totally in the zone riding his own race. Every time he went past at the same steady pace. He couldn’t care less about all those other whipper-snappers and their crazy heart rates, he was doing his own thing. Full respect to him.

Next came the fourth grade race and I gave Mr Kon strict advice to sit in and not do any work until there were about four laps to go and then to ride off the front to a solo victory. The plan was working perfectly although he may have lost count of the number of laps left and attacked a little early, I’m not sure but here is is leading with about four laps to go:

Trying to show a clean pair of heels.

Alas, he couldn’t keep it up and was reeled back into the bunch and finished near the back of the sprint. Then came the novelty racing:

Here come the unicycles!

The team of girls in the blue tops spent most of the morning warming up for the big event with a lot of stretching and running around the block but it was in fact the father, son and daughter on the left who proved strongest on the day.

My race was after the presentation ceremony for the morning races and I cannot let the occasion pass without reference to the Tour of Tokachi commentator and presentation MC. Here he is, complete with pink cowboy hat:

I am Tour of Tokachi.

Before every race, he’d count down the time until the start except instead of saying: “one minute to go”, he was saying: “one minute ago”. Kept making me think I’d missed my start. I noticed it varied, though. Sometimes it was gibberish: “one minute nagao”, but once he actually got it right and said ago. I thought maybe someone had had a word but it turned out to be pure luck as he went back to getting it wrong again. Also, during the presentations, he’d say: “[winner’s name] onstage!” and point with a flourish toward the podium. It took about 10 names before Kazuko realised he was saying on stage. She had been wondering what OC stood for. Anyway, Kaz got a second mention when we were given a prize for being the competitors who had come the furthest to race.

Hooray, I made it to the podium after all.

My race was immediately after the presentations but I’d already decided I wasn’t going to take it so seriously. The crash the day before had been a bit of a let-down and I thought I ought to just go out and enjoy myself and not care about where I came. Which was just as well, as thanks to the presentation above, I ended up having to start right at the back.

I don’t think the crit course suited me very much anyway: I’m not very good at cornering and I don’t accelerate well. A half-kilometre course with four corners means you are pretty much either cornering or accelerating all the time. Our race was 25 laps or 12.5km (or 100 corners, if you like). I spent the first four laps bridging gaps ahead of riders who couldn’t keep up with the pace. I managed to get up to the front group and could rest a bit but the whole race was ridden in single file and all that time I was last wheel in the front group. I noticed in one of the photos Kazuko took that we had got it down to a group of seven at one point but the group behind us managed to work their way back up to us. I wouldn’t have known. It was much too fast to look behind at all. I decided to follow the advice I’d given to Mr Kon and attack with four laps to go but I soon found passing people wasn’t all that easy. I’d get out of the saddle and sprint and just as I was starting to get a bit of speed up, it was time to go around a corner. There was never any space to get back in the line so I had to just keep going on my own and try to get in front of the lead cyclist. I got up to about level with the second and third riders before I ran out of steam and ended up at the back of the bunch again, which is where I finished. We averaged a bit over 40kmh for the race.I really enjoyed it. It was quite a buzz riding such a short course. I’d like to do something like that more often. I’ll have to work on my short sprints and cornering. In any case, I was happy not to crash.There were a few people who overcooked the corners and ended up on the ground. Luckily the organisers had some nice, soft cushions at every corner. I didn’t see Martin after the race to hear how he went but from the look of the results sheet he must have got lapped. I hope he didn’t crash, anyway.

Here I am just trying to keep up.

And here is Mr Kodaira in the second grade race.

And also, here is the video Mr Kodaira took of his race. It shows the nature of the course quite nicely. Also keep an eye on the guy on the Bianchi at about the 9m30s mark.

With all the racing done, we could have lunch and then go home. We wanted to go to the same butadon place as the day before but a busload of tourists were lining up ahead of us, so we went to another place, where I photographed the plastic food they had on display:

I’m a big fan of plastic food.

With lunch out of the way, it was time to go home. It was a great fun weekend of cycling and, in particular, thanks very much to Yutaka (aka Mr Kon) for lending me his bike and driving us there and back. And entering us in the races, booking us into the hotel and buying us sweets from local confectionary makers. Thanks a lot!

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6 Comment on “Tour of Tokachi: criterium

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