Yes, I grew a ridiculous moustache to amuse/annoy my friends for the occasion of the Toyohashi Team Pisto race last weekend in Toyohashi, Aichi prefecture. But-- would it be a moustache of sweet victory? Or a moustache of bitter defeat?
The Toyohashi Team Pisto is a race for three-person teams competing for points in keirin, sprints, elimination races, four kilometer speed-races, and team sprints. The team with the most points at the end of the day takes home the coveted Toyohashi Team Pisto Cup, and keeps it until next year's race.
Here's our team. Team captain Mikuni-san, Ito-san and myself. The name of our team was "David/Ito/Mikuni392". I can't understand the significance of this name, other than to say that apparently there was a Japanese comedian named David Ito, and that the numbers 392 have something to do with the kanji (chinese characters) of the names. Whatever. All I know is that whenever this team name was announced over the PA everyone laughed but me.
Ito-san and I were competing in keirin, sprints and team sprint, while Mikuni-san was doing keirin, elimination race and team sprint. Let the mayhem begin!
But first, on the way to Toyohashi the team VC Spendor race transport (mini-van) stopped off at some historic landmarks. This is Kakegawa-jo, an Edo-period castle in Shizuoka prefecture. VC Splendor team captain Numano-san turned out to be a real castle-nerd, so he explained all the details. Thanks, Numano-san!
The view from the top level of Kakegawa-jo.
Inside the castle is all gorgeous untreated wood.
Tomo at a nearby Meiji period geisha house. Apparently it was in regular operation until fairly recently. It was completely original and unrestored inside.
When we got to Toyohashi, we met up with most of the rest of the Kanto contingent for some food and many, many drinks. It's very important to drink heavily while you plan the next day's race strategy.
Good times. Second from right is Hamada-san, fresh from taking three medals (two silvers, one bronze) at the Master's Track World Championships in Portugal. Omedetto! To her right is Wada-san, a Toyohashi pro keirin rider. He wasn't racing with us, since pros don't bother with pesky amateurs, just along for moral support.
The next morning was a bit cold, but by race time it had warmed up into a really nice day. We quickly learned we had underestimated the strength of the locals during the first event of the day, the keirin. We found that these guys were quite serious. All Kanto riders except Mikuni-san were eliminated in the first heats, and Mikuni-san was out in the next round. None of us made it to the final.
Sprints were next. Ito-san and I had no trouble with qualifying. I got through my preliminaries and semi-finals without too much drama, and soon found myself in the final ride-off.
I was up against Urata-san, who looked to be a pretty serious opponent-- HUGE legs. He's a member of Team Cheblo (who ended up taking the teams prize), whose members compete in Jitsu-Gyodan-level competition-- it's a kind of semi-pro racing license. I'd watched him storm through his first rounds and was suitably impressed. And a little intimidated...
For our first of three rides, I was on the front. I didn't really know what to expect from him, so I just rode my standard race, which is kind of to gradually lift the pace, keeping the opponent behind with little short accelerations before making a final push on the home straight. There was a headwind on the back straight, which complicated my plans: I've found that I'm a bit of a "long sprinter", that is, it's to my advantage to make the race faster sooner, and make it hard for the other guy. But the headwind on the back would play against any rider leading hard there, and with a tail wind on the home straight it would be easier for a rider to come around. This was a 400 meter track as well, so the straights were looooooong.
So I led it out, and tried not to expend too much energy early on. Tried to bait him to the front with no success, and coming onto the home straight he came around, I still had some gas left in the tank but he just got me by less than half a wheel. Missed it, but it was fun and I was closer to Urata-san than I thought I'd be.
2nd ride, we have video courtesy of Tomo:
This time maybe I over-thought it a little. I was pretty stuck as to what I should try, so last lap I surprised him by taking the front. But then on the back straight I sat up right when normally I would go, and he was back on the front. He gave me a little look at this point like, "Huh?". Maybe it was a mistake. I let him tow me around, jumped coming out of the last corner, but at the line it was too close to call.
As we rolled by his friends they cheered, so I thought he had taken it. I asked him, "You?" He said, "Me". So he'd won it in two rides from me, but the last ride had to have been by a tire width, no more. VERY close. So I was disappointed, but I could feel good about a strong second place in the tournament. I congratulated Urata-san and went down to the roller roller room to cool down in preparation for the team sprint.
But when I came back up track-side, there was a commotion. The officials judged that I had been the winner of the second ride-- I was back in it! Urata-san appeared as surprised as I. We lined up for the final ride:
The video is a little unclear (I think Tomo was excited!), but here I decided to just keep it simple, ride a progressive, paced sprint (sometimes called a razor), heeding the back straight headwind, and jump really hard out of the last turn, hoping that Urata-san was tired.
It worked! I rode the final back straight even slower than on the first ride, really conserving for my jump, and at the line I had him by about half a bike. YATA! I did it! Victory for Team David/Ito/Mikuni392 and the Kanto contingent!
After a break it was time for the last race of the day, Team Sprint:
We did pretty well. Maybe a slight hesitation on Mikuni-san's exchange, but very smooth over-all. We did our best and we were all in serious pain afterwards. 5th place, which is pretty good given the serious competition. In addition to Team Cheblo, there were some pretty bad-ass young guys going for it. With my win in the sprints, Ito-san's third in his sprint tournament and our 5th place in the team sprint, Team D/I/M392 ended the day in 8th place in the teams competition. Not too shabby! Ganbarimashita, dudes!
The Kanto Wrecking Crew. Koide-san (bottom row, second from left) also got a cagey win in the elimination race and (I think) a second place in his 4 kilo speed race, while I believe Hamada-san was also third in her elimination (against men, I should add). We successfully upheld the honor of Kanto region!
My haul. The bags of rice were given to riders who had travelled a long distance to Toyohashi. We have three because our friends donated theirs to us. Thanks buddies!
What a great weekend! Maybe the most fun I've had on a bike all season, hell, maybe ever. And the moustache? Obviously it had turned out to be a moustache of most glorious victory! I'm keeping it. Well, at least for another week- last race of the year next weekend...