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26 August – 1 September 2018
Matsumoto | Hakuba | Venus Line | Mt. Fuji
Traditional/Modern Japanese Hotel
Welcome to Japan
Japan is truly timeless, a place where ancient traditions are fused with modern life as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Join us in August 2018 for this exclusive tour designed specially for VeloClub members. Over 7 days, we will ride some of the best roads in the world and delve deep into the rich culture of the Central Alps and Mt. Fuji regions. Our journey will take us up pristine mountain passes with testing sections of gravel at more than 2200m, we will encounter villages tucked deep in the hills that are seemingly lost to time, skirt alpine lakes and if that were not enough, climb majestic Mt.Fuji, not once, but three times.
What lay in store for the lucky 20 that get to join us on this tour is a cycling experience that will live long in memory and the legs. With incredible support from the ConnectSport and RideJapan teams, the experts at riding Japan, along with the CyclingTips crew, there is no doubt that the scene is set for an amazing experience, both on and off the bike.
Welcome to Japan and welcome to the Alps. We will begin our tour deep in the Central Alps region in the legendary castle town of Matsumoto. This ancient town is a favourite for cyclists and is also the base for many pro riders. Adam from RideJapan knows the roads well and lived, trained and raced on these roads for several years. Matsumoto is a great base, and we will spend a few days exploring some of the best cycling roads in Japan. The group will be enjoying the stunning blend of traditional and cosmopolitan sights and tastes that the city offers its visitors. Our hotel for the next few days will highlight that blend of the traditional Japanese styling and the modern, with its beautiful facilities, natural onsen bath, tatami style rooms and not to forget the most incredible breakfasts that celebrates local ingredients.
58 km | 500 m
After a delicious breakfast we prepare for our first full day on the bike and what a course it is. By now, the group will have realised that they are surrounded on all sides by mountains, many of them above 3000m. While we will not climb that high today, perhaps to the relief of some, we will tackle the famous Utsukushigahara, a 1200m ascent that tops out at 2200m. It is a beast, and also home to one of Japan’s toughest hill-climb races where its grimpeur champions usually complete the course in about 1 hour. We head out of the city for Asama onsen and the start of the climb. The 5km ride should provide ample time to warm up the legs before the brutish 15% ramps that test the riders immediately. The first 3km of the 22km climb are not indicative of the remainder of the climb and Lake Mizuzu allows the riders a brief respite. Stunning views of the lake and the thick forest can be enjoyed as the road takes us beyond the cloud and treeline. Higher up, glimpses back down to Matsumoto as we head for the plateau at the summit.
It is a great climb for several reasons, but none more than after the regroup and our tyres meet the high alpine gravel that takes us to the actual summit itself at Ougatou. This section is a challenge for the roadie, but with a bit of bike handling, it provides a unique experience, especially at 2200m above the clouds and always brings a smile to the riders faces, even if a wry one. We love it!! After the gravel finishes we meet up with the famous Venus Line, a stretch of fabulous mountain road that crosses the high plateaus from Utsukushi to Yatsugatake. Super smooth roads, sinuous descents and majestic views greet us on the undulating course as the Venus line whips around the top of the mountain.
At the 50km point, we begin our descent proper, a testing section of tree-lined forest road that has one begging for disc brakes. It is descents like this that make riding in Japan a treat, with little traffic and perfectly banked corners this is alpine riding at its best. Lake Suwa, a natural alpine lake is famous in the area but also brings the downhill to a close. A disappointment for some, and on taking in the terrain will realise that some more climbing is needed. We spin around lakeside before the climbing starts again as we climb out of the crater and begin the journey back to Matsumoto.
One more challenge lay in the form of Takabochi Skyline road, an 8km climb that brings the riders back up to 1600m. Very different to the Utsukushi climb, as the cedar pines hide the snaking road into the distance, indeed a place to quieten the mind and enjoy the peaceful nature that abounds. This is what cycling in Japan is all about, total serenity.The views at the toge (Japanese for mountain pass) on a clear day allows a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, and the descent again will be enjoyed on the quiet, smooth mountain roads. We finish the day with 115km in the legs and some good climbing. The onsen will no doubt be a fine reward for everyone’s legs as will another amazing dinner as stories are shared and the day debriefed.
115 km | 3000 m
Today takes the riders on some very unique roads and we want to show you why Japan is one of the best places to ride a bike in the world. Today is all about local knowledge and the seemingly lost in time villages and roads that are synonymous with these ancient mountain areas. It took years to discover these roads before the days of Google Maps and GPS devices, and lots of trial and error. The surprising aspect of the course is just how few cars and people you will see and no doubt wonder why the roads are even there to begin with.
It is day of the paradox, because, not only are we on some incredibly quiet roads through the mountains, we need to remember that Japan is a country with a population five times that of Australia and one tenth the size. These regions are a sign of the times, the aging population and the shift of the youth to where the work is in the cities. It is timeless, thought-provoking and extremely peaceful and as we climb and descend on tiny roads through the deep forests.
“These courses take me back to when I was 12 years old, discovering the Adelaide Hills with a ripped page out of Dad’s UBD street directory. Those were simple times in Australia to be cyclist and I design my courses in Japan to hopefully remind our guests of how simple and relaxing riding a bike can be. No stress, no traffic, just brilliant cycling. You and the bike.”
After the ride the group can enjoy the afternoon exploring Matsumoto. A few activity options and a guide will be arranged to take those who wish through the 500year old Matsumoto Castle, explaining all the secrets of the Samurai warriors who built and fought there.
Dinner recommendations on request, but we leave it open so that the group can enjoy a night to explore the city and engage with local people, cook their own Shabu-Shabu or even try some yaki-niku at the local street side stalls. Japan is all about experiences and we hope that everyone has a great day, both on and off the bike.
102 km | 2200 m
Hakuba is a place that many will be familiar with. Not only one of the host locations for the 1998 Winter Olympics, it is made famous with the ever increasing Australian contingent who visit every year to ski. However, what many will not know is that it is also one of the most incredible places to ride a bike. Pristine alpine lakes, stunning green rice field roads and amazing climbs offer the cyclist some amazing experiences and ride options.
Our course today takes us on some amazing roads as we skirt the base of the western edge of the valley. This is Azumino and some of Japans top produce comes form this area. The snow melt provides pure mountain water which is great for farming, and along with pollution free air, wasabi, rice and of course sake are all grown here with great success. As we head up the valley our route maps us very closely to the Azumino Alps Century Ride, one of Japan’s leading Gran Fondo events, where more than 4000 riders tackle the 160km course every May.
It is gently undulating as we climb toward Hakuba, and after a little 5km pinch, we descend into Hakuba and the halfway point. A trip to Hakuba would not be complete without visiting their mighty Olympic ski-jump structure. We hope the group saved their legs, as our journey home takes us through some of small roads of Ikeda before we start our TTT. A 15km uninterrupted flat course that hopefully puts two groups against each other in a battle for supremacy. A bit of fun, but some bragging rights no doubt to the victorious team.The 150km day finishes with an easy roll through the rice fields and back along the river as we head home to our wonderful hotel and a great dinner to mark our final night in Matsumoto.
157 km | 1900 m
Welcome to Lake Kawaguchiko and Mt.Fuji. After arriving lakeside and getting ourselves checked in, we will head out for a ride that takes in some of the famous sights of Mt.Fuji and hopefully spot some monkeys along the way. We head first for the cobbled climb to the Chureito Pagoda, probably the most photographed images along with Mt.Fuji. It is an amazing view and the lightweight climbers will also enjoy the 20% rough cobbled climb. After a brief stop, we head for some amazingly quiet roads at the back of Lake Kawaguchiko. Monkey’s love this area and we ‘usually’ encounter many of them, and it is always a sight for our guests to see wild monkeys and hopefully snag a photo or two.
This is why cycling is a great way to see a country and you just can’t get to some of these places any other way. The views of Mt. Fuji along this road are some of the best, yet many will never get to see the lake stretching out in the foreground with mighty Mt. Fuji resplendent in the backdrop.What goes up must come down and we drop off the hill and head back to the lakes edge before hitting the onsen and resting the legs. A big ride lay ahead the following day!!
42 km | 970 m
Queen Stage Day. Three Peaks Fuji Day. It has been looming on the horizon and now, with the alarm clock going off earlier than one wishes, a battle lay ahead and one that will live long memory and the legs. One massive cycling odyssey awaits. We would like to think of this ride as the toughest single day cycling challenge in Japan and it is designed to be a near impossible test.
The asking is simple, the doing is far from that. The majestic and iconic Mt. Fuji is your battleground and the challenge is this:
Ride all three climbs of Mt.Fuji, the 23.4km Subaru Line, the 26.4km Skyline Road and if that was not enough, finish with the diabolical and infamous 11km Azami Line. A total of 5400m in vertical ascent across the 220km course. It can, and has been done and we will do it. We will finish our tour in Japan with a ride that few can claim ownership to. Japan is synonymous with the Samurai warrior, Three Peaks Fuji will require you to channel that inner warrior and conquer Mt.Fuji and what a way to end the tour and what a way to experience Mt.Fuji. We will finish the tour with a sensational final dinner to celebrate at our beautiful accommodation and toast to a great tour.
225 km | 5800 m
After a great tour we help you get back to Tokyo and say Sayonnara.