Sunday, June 27, 2010

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.

This is Chris Hoy doing a kilo. He's the last guy to win an Olympic gold in the kilo. He's pretty good at it. Check it:

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:

Style points for the pink helmet cap, anyhow.

Look out, 45th All-Japan Districts and Metropolis Race, I'm a-comin'!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Serious keirin ad.

Not so serious keirin ad.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This is Dude. He comes around and hangs out, takes naps and eats the food that me and my girl give him. He's normally pretty relaxed. But if we try to pet him, he freaks out and tries to murder us. Otherwise his behavior is impeccable, so we still like him fine. I'm fairly sure Dude has never ridden the track.

Here's an unusual Sugino 75 track crank. The spider has no cut-outs and the bolt circle is really small, maybe 110 mm? This is my friend Yanoo-san's bike. He says this is the same model Takanobu Jumonji used in his bronze medal kilo ride at the 1996 Olympics. Apparently these are still available from Sugino but the chainrings are super expensive-- over $300 US each!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hardcore bike-nerd stuff: The joy of new handlebars- few people can understand. These ones are tiny, 38cm. Nitto 125 and 125AA. Joy.

This is a "senja-fudo" made by Tomita-san, better known as Tomity, a professional keirin racer. A SUPER friendly dude! Sadly, he is retiring and his last race is this weekend. Check out his blog:

Seibuen keirin-jo, Tokyo Championships 2009

This is my newest bike, surprisingly paid for with blood money earned by my old band ( Keep playing that rock n' roll music, kids!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toride keirin-jo, 2009

Pro's roller room, Kawasaki keirin-jo

My first track bike, a Panasonic

Keirin Grand Prix, 2009/2010

I'm an American living in the Tokyo area. Since I've come here I've discovered the amazing sport of track cycling. This blog will be mostly a random and inconsistent document of my experiences riding and racing in Japan, but may occasionally stray into other unknown random impressions of life in Japan.