The Squid Squad Professional Cycling team kicked of their season in Australia and China and recently traveled back to Asia for a number of UCI cyclocross races in Japan. They were treated to favorable weather in Nobeyama and some Japanese cycling culture during there time in Tokyo.
Photos courtesy of Toshiki Sato; Words by Emily Kachorek
Nestled within the Yatsugatake Mountains, at 1,345 the Nobeyama cyclocross track is the highest elevation track in Japan. Muddy courses have been know to transform into sheets of ice over the course of a single race and blizzards a constant threat.
Perhaps it is in part the alpine-like conditions that make the track and event so famous, drawing racers and media from around the world year after year. Many National Champions have been crowned on this course.
Reminiscent of classic Belgian cross, the course winds through an active farm lined with both cyclocross fans and dairy cows.
Emily Kachorek is quick off the line both days, taking the holeshot.
In Japan, cyclocross races are a busy family affair.
Cyclocross is big in Japan. The UCI men’s field topped one hundred racers.
Using toe straps to attached spare wheels makes transporting extra equipment to the pit easier for the team mechanics.
Into a sea of fans and cameras, Sammi Runnels takes the win on Day 1 of the Rapha SuperCross Nobeyama.
Multi-time National Cyclocross Champion Tim Johnson is a regular to the Rapha SuperCross race. No longer competing for UCI titles, earlier in the week Tim lead a gravel ride that wound through the Yatsugatake Mountains and took a start in the masters race, proving he can still shred muddy cyclocross turns and hop barriers.
The weekend’s podium included athletes from Australia, the Czech Republic, Japan and America. Illustrating the race’s international popularity.
One week apart, the Rapha SuperCross UCI race and the semi-annual BIKELORE in Tokyo provide experiences on opposite ends of the cyclocross spectrum.
If the Rapha SuperCross is all about riding fast, taking chances and the top step of a professional UCI podium, BIKELORE caters to those that prefer their weekend cycling to include post race hot tubs filled with Sake and beer.
The team relay was a highlight of the weekend events. Four rider teams compete to see how many laps they can complete in the 90 minute team relay race. A timing chip on the riders ankles help keep track of laps completed under the hectic conditions.
While one rider was out on course, the remainder of the team relaxed in the staging area.
Fixed gear bikes of all sorts were pilled together for the start of the Tracklocross race. With it’s history rooted in car racing, Le Mans starts, require the riders to race on foot to find their bikes as soon as the gun goes off.
One gear, fixed, and no mechanical breaks. While knobby tires are optional, skidding to slow the bikes is necessary. Stemming from bike messenger culture and track racing, Tracklocross races are going global.
Winners of each race are awarded a custom t-shirt bearing the name of the race they won, which is then screen printed onsite over the course of the weekend. A stroll though the vendor stalls highlight the value of artisanal and handmade products in the cycling community.
Chris plays a game of Rock Paper Scissors with his competitors for the chance to win prizes during the podium presentation.
Over the course of the day, and with help from curious on lookers, Emily and Chris live painted a frame. The big reveal of the finished product came after dark, with the light race going on in the background and in front of a crowd of people.