This just came in the mail today. Yes, we get mail even on Sundays in Japan. I can’t be positive given that I can’t read Japanese, but I’m fairly certain that this certifies that last weekend I won the one-kilometer time trial race at the Kanagawa Prefectural Championships. That’s right, technically, I have the right to say, “I’m the Champ!”
This is by far the most exciting result I’ve ever had as a bike racer. And it was pretty unexpected. Somehow I managed to go nearly 2 seconds faster in this race than ever before. Divine Wind? Maybe. In any case, now I’m to represent Kanagawa Prefecture in the one-kilometer time trial at the 45th All-Japan Districts and Metropolis race in Yamaguchi prefecture in August. Damn! And I get to wear a special Kanagawa team skinsuit. Sweet! It will be my distinct honor to do my best to uphold the honor of my beloved Kanagawa-ken! Ganbarimasu!
We call it the kilo. It’s a pretty strange race. It’s just the rider and the clock, and a rather short distance to cover as fast as possible. No other riders to worry about, no tactics, really. Generally it takes a little bit over a minute. My time last weekend was 1 minute 10.957 seconds. It’s all relative, but it’s a “respectable” time, for a gentleman of my years, ahem. The world record, however, set in 2001 in La Paz, Bolivia by a Frenchman named Arnaud Tournant, is 58.875. To the uninitiated this 12 second difference might seem trifling, but to those who know, it is an eternity.
From the spectators point of view, the race can be pretty entertaining to watch, as riders often come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, sometimes to a tragicomic extent. Post-race vomiting is not unknown. This is a sprint race, so you have to start it with everything you’ve got, whip it up to speed and then hang on. But the last half of the race is always a losing battle against the lactic acid screaming through your thighs, increasingly labored (impossible) breathing, difficulty handling the bike and tunnel vision –some riders even report blackouts- and for some the end of the race more closely resembles a death-crawl than anything that can rightly be called a “sprint”.
I have certainly been there. When I watch others do it, my brow furrows with sympathy, I wring my hands, etc. Basically, this is not a race that the rider can “enjoy”. More like you get through it, and hope it turned out ok. It's kinda like the dentist visit of bike races, I guess. Only perverts can enjoy the kilo.
Now this is me. OK, this is not my best time, it's at Toride Keirin-Jo back in May. My time was 1:12.204, good enough for 7th place at that race: