Day 6 Yubiso — Tokyo
Date: Friday, 22 May 2015, depart 6am
Major Climbs: Onuma Climb (723m), Tone Numata Bokyo Climb (723m) Road 62 Pass (980m), Ashio Pass (1116m)
An epic 260km ride into Tokyo.
Our final day’s ride had been one of much debate and discussion. We rerouted our initial plans to ride 277km and skipped one of the major climbs for a slightly more direct route. Nonetheless it was still a huge day on the bike. The day was a tale of two halves, the mountains of Minakami and the run into Tokyo. There’s not a lot more to be said other else than the fact that we were just focussed on getting it done. We wanted to get to Tokyo.
Following Adam, from Blue Monkey Lodge’s wheel we left early in the morning as we had a lot of ground to cover. Leaving Yubiso we rode together as a group up the early climbs around Minakami. The morning was cold and many of us wore jackets and gilets until we hit the bottom of the the climb up National Road 62. The first of the two big climbs of the day. The group didn’t stay together long and we quickly found our climbing partners to keep us company, whilst trying to find a steady pace. It was an unusual 11.5km climb with a lot of little flat, downhill sections giving you some reprieve after the short sharp kicks. The road went on like this for the entire climb.
The descent down the other side gave us a chance to rest before the start of the Ashio climb. To get here we had to ride through various villages on a busy road. The day was heating up and Adam drove the pace at the front at a steady but fast speed. There was no letting up and the guys at the back were suffering. Thankfully the support van had stocked up with plenty of waffles and sports energy drink/jelly, which was a new favourite amongst the group. We eventually reached Lake Kusagi, where the road flattened but we kept powering on until we reached the bottom of the Ashio climb, the second long climb of the day. We had ridden a fast 100km to get to the bottom of our final 7.5km climb and some of us were feeling the pinch with still another 160km to go to get to Tokyo. Thankfully the Ashio climb was not too steep, averaging 5% and riding it was actually more enjoyable than the previous hour to get to the climb. Taking it at our own speeds the ritual of finding a climbing partner, which happened on the lower slopes emerged once more, as we helped one another through hairpin heaven. Switchbacks were everywhere and as we reached the midway point of the mountain the forest started to drape over the road, sheltering us from the blazing sun above. Hairpin after hairpin we weaved around the shaded road holding a comfortable speed until we reached the top.
Regrouping at the top, Terence took the opportunity to hotwire his Di2 front derailleur from the small ring and into the big ring. His front mech stopped working at the end of Day 4 and he had spent the morning tackling the mountains without the use of his big ring. With a long descent and the final flat roads into Tokyo left, he road the last 150km in the big ring. If riding the 260km into Tokyo at the end of a long week of riding wasn't epic enough, doing it with no working front derailleur was truly monumental. Massive kudos to Terence aka Terephone, aka The Trendy Burglar, aka Terence The Tinkler, aka Terence Chin Photography "1-2-3, *snap*, very good very good". After a short break, we weaved down the other side of the mountain through tight switchbacks before the road opened up into the valley below. Making our way downhill at top speed we reached our lunch destination 50km further down the road pretty quickly.
Similar to Day 4, today’s lunch would be a relatively quick affair. We stopped outside a very big supermarket in Fujimicho. In Japan, sushi and hot meals are readily available to be purchased from all of the supermarkets. This one had quite a lot on offer including a huge selection of sushi and sashimi. Without fuss we chowed down on our sushi, noodles and other rice based dishes, before shifting our focus on the final 110km run into Tokyo.
Although the last 110km was relatively flat it presented a lot of other difficulties. We had already been out riding for 6 hours and 150km through the mountains. Fatigue, dehydration and getting to Tokyo before sunset remained a challenge. Continuing on we rode on and off busy trucking roads for the next 35km trying to make it to the river path which would lead us all the way into Tokyo. We were not on ideal roads for cycling. We reached the river where a path was meant to lead us uninterrupted down the final stretch into the city. This didn’t go to plan. Construction work on the path forced us back onto busy streets in the outskirts of Tokyo. Riding out of Tokyo on the first day was challenging on Day 1 while we were starting out feeling fresh. It was even harder and felt longer after having already ridden 200km. Reaching the edges of the city we rode on a few busy overpasses to get into the centre of Tokyo, partly from wanting to finish faster and partly from not knowing a better way, after being forced off our original route following the river. Coming off one of the overpasses a policeman stopped us and we played dumb pretending we didn't know what he was talking about, as you do when you're in a foreign country. We would not recommend riding into Toyko, it was probably the worst 50km of the trip and a brutal maze of stop start riding. Catch the train the final 50km.
It took us hours to get through the city and we were ecstatic to make it to the finish at Rapha Cycle Club Tokyo, just a stone's throw away from our hotel. We were warmly greeted at sunset by the folks at Rapha. We stayed a while enjoying a bite to eat, along with a few cold beers as we congratulated each other on both the epic final day and an awesome 6 days of riding. That night we went to a local Izakaya around the corner from the hotel. We ordered plates of tempura, sushi, karaage chicken and everything in between. The food was delicious and we were all in high spirits. Walking only a few blocks back to our hotel after dinner, we stopped at a 7-11 for ice-cream not once but twice. Why not?...we deserved an extra treat.