As a cycling Brit, coming from a ‘tall and slim’ country like the UK, the term “coast to coast” can mean as little as 70 miles. I decided to better this with a rough vertical line up the Japanese map some 95 miles from Kobe to Amanohashidate. I planned to cycle, rest a day, and then take part in a 100km long ride around the beautiful tango peninsula.
I set off around 4:30am to tackle the steepest part, cycling over Rokko from Kitano. On the other side of Kobe is the most dangerous and scary stretch – Arima kaido, or road 428, leading up to Sanda. There’s no lane of any kind for 3-5 km or so, other than a modest space for cars, trucks and yours truly. Thankfully, I made it to the wider section unscathed and from then on, the traffic and national roads became just unpleasant rather than unbearably dangerous. One highlight – perhaps the best thing about this inter-city cycling lark – was cycling past numerous inviting-looking roadside cafes and choosing a great one to stop and recharge in. I got a warm welcome, hot tea, great food and a sympathetic audience for the ride.
Long ride day dawns
After a rest day in Amanohashidate, the actual long ride day dawned, literally, with a 6am start. I got to the course line on a mountain bike, albeit carbon and only 8kg, but still a mountain bike, inevitably one of around 20 among hundreds of race bike neighbours. Given that fact, plus the exertions mentioned and even, shock horror, no slick tyres, I wasn’t even expecting to finish the race, let alone gain any kind of respectable placement. But, as we set off, call it second wind, I attacked the hills, zoomed down the inclines and gave it everything. Helped considerably by the three aid stations, and the best selection of race snacks and drinks I’ve ever seen. A special mention has to go to the shio ame, salt candy, at the last stop, some 20 km from the goal. If you asked me before the race whether they would cut it, I would have laughed. But they really hit the spot.
The ride was fantastically organized and although not strictly a race, I finished in five hours, and came around 50th of 700 riders, shocked and delighted! This has given me the spark to continue competing in long rides.