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2011年07月28日

Japan MTB National Championship Report by Mitsumi

Race Report

24th Japan National Mountain Bike Championships

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Venue: Fujimi Panorama Resort, Nagano
Weather: Sunny

Equipment
Bike: Niner AIR9 Carbon
Wheels: Stan's NoTubes ZTR CREST 29er
Tires: Stan's NoTubes Raven 29 x 2.2 (front & rear)
Eyewear: adidas evil eye
Pedals: TIME ATAC XS CARBON
Helmet: MET SINE THESIS
WEAR WAVE ONE
Result: 3rd

Winner Katayama Rie SPECIALIZED 1:21:59
2nd Place Nakagome Yukari Sy-Nak SPECIALIZED 1:23:59
3rd Place Yazawa Mitsumi 1:25:20

This year I’m in charge of a class of 6th graders so I don’t have much time to train, and I’ve only raced once this season at the Single Speed MTB Japan Open. This was my 8th or maybe 9th Japan National Championships to date. As the years go by, my attention becomes more focused on the national championships and my desire to win grows stronger. However, until about a month before the race I was in two minds as to whether or not I could take part. This year’s nationals were different from the ones in the past – my personal stance had changed from “riding to win” to “enjoying the ride.”

There were hardly any changes to the course itself but the section under the chairlift had become a steep climb. Since I hadn’t raced yet this year, my starting number was 14, which was something quite new to me. As the other riders were called to the start, I found myself third from the end of the list, lining up to standby in the third row from the front. There I could see the backs of the riders in the front row, where I would normally start. Somehow there were no nerves, just excitement about the race that was about to start.
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Starting at the back seemed slow; pushing the pedal just that little bit later as I watched the riders at the front fly-off the moment the starting pistol was fired. But the slow start helped me stay calm, enabling me to look around and pick my line – the far left at first … from far left to the center … advancing slowly up the field at my own pace. It was a strange feeling; the starting pace felt slower than ever before. Riding right behind Rie (Katayama), I was soon able to pass her without much trouble, but just before the single-track section I found myself being passed by a rider who had stepped up the pace to take the lead – it was Rie, of course.

I entered the single track behind her and, although I had not been nervous, I realized my body was stiff as I started to descend. Before I knew it I’d lost my balance and crashed! Argh!
I was soon back up on my feet but had already been passed by Yukari (Nakagome).

This year’s strategy was just to ride like mad. My weekly ride time of 3 or 4 hours just at the weekend made my decision to ride the nationals seem reckless; all I could do was ride with the strength I had. It was just a matter of giving all I’d got and seeing how far I could go.
The feeling at the start was great, but the 5-lap race had just started.

It was Rie followed by Yukari, myself and then Kanako(Kobayashi).

I managed to regain my composure and remained just behind Yukari. At the top of the climb up from the parking lot I made an attempt to get in front of her, but she was not going to let me do it that easily. I remained on Yukari’s tail as we headed downhill and into the climb under the chairlift. There was room to pass just before the course narrowed, and I went for it. I could hear the shouts of encouragement of the spectators at the steepest point as we passed the trees alongside. Among them, a friend from university I hadn’t met for ages and who just happened to be at Fujimi that day. The cheers of the spectators seemed to lift me, as my feet pushed hard on the pedals.
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The placing was irrelevant; I was just enjoying the moment I’d been given and felt as if that was the most important thing. Even so, being in second place is always better than being third!

The pace of the second lap didn’t change that much from the first, and the positions remained the same, too. I could hear the taiko drums on the steep climb – the same person that always plays for us – and the horns that sounded at various points around the course, seemingly pushing me from behind as I rode around the course! Any suffering was somehow soothed by the voices of encouragement with which I was showered.

Into the third lap, and midway up the climb from the parking lot I was passed by Yukari and dropped into third place, where I stayed for the remainder of the lap.

At the start of the 4th lap I managed to take my first bottle … but dropped the gel. The sun was scorching and I was particularly conscious of drinking lots of water. But until then, I’d failed in all my attempts to grab a bottle – managing to get by on water from the official feed.

On the 4th and 5th laps I could see the rider in front but my lack of stamina was conspicuous.

“Don’t give up!!”
“Mitsun[1], keep smiling!”
“Mitsun, are you enjoying yourself?”
It was as if they knew what I wanted. I was so happy to receive many such shouts of encouragement before finally crossing the finish line in 3rd place.
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I’ve finished in 3rd place many times before, and I’ve often finished 2nd, too; but for some reason I stepped on the podium this time invigorated and satisfied like never before.

I had been undecided about entering but I was so glad I had ridden the Japan National Championships. I had faced up to myself and not tried to run away; I had given all I had at the time, and enjoyed it all without wasting a single second.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who did so much to support me in participating in the national championships. To CYCLE GARAGE PAZ in Hokkaido, who despite not knowing whether or not I would be able to compete in races, provided bike support to enable me, as someone who loves bikes, to “convey that enjoyment to as many people as possible.”
My bike, Mikan-chan[2], the greatest, most compatible partner, which – in my first race on a NINER – proved to be a real strength to me: the niner Air9 Carbon just seemed to glide over the ruts and tree roots that litter the Fujimi course.

The stability in the downhill sections and ability to keep a low center of gravity enabled me to descend with more confidence than before – a bike that seems to transmit all the force on the pedals simply into forward motion.

Thanks also to Takagi Masaru of Yamame Kobo for the advice regarding the riding form and position on the bike, and for all the maintenance carried out with a friendly smile. “It’s best to relax when you ride” was the laid-back advice for which I’m truly grateful.

Yazawa Mitsumi

[1] Mitsumi’s nickname
[2] Directly translated as “Miss Tangerine,” what Mitsumi affectionately calls her bike
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