June 27, 2007
Hmmm... I think I ended my last entry with, and I quote "I do know that I'm here to win so I guess I will keep taking some chances, and... learning more lessons."
I am now in-between my last race (Hiroshima) and my next (Kumamoto). I have been lamenting over my shameful defeat in Hiroshima for the past three days. I should have simply followed my instinct and raced with chance as previously suggested to myself. Taking the safe option surely makes more sense right? Yes, normally...
Japan has some really unbelievable Keirin riders. For 50 years they've slowly created and mastered their own unique race. It is barely recognisable [compared] to the UCI (International Cycling Union) Keirin. For this reason you see UCI World Champions such as Theo Bos, Mickael Bourgain Craig MacLean, Stefan Nimke and Teun Mulder not always winning over here against guys who never leave Japan.
There are a few top riders here in Japan whom have amassed some $8-10 Million US Dollars each in their careers. Although one would seem to think this is enough proof of their ability, they are still a little insecure when it comes to the public's perception of international success as a comparison.
One of these successful chaps is Shinichi Gokan. He is one of the top five big guns here who savour the opportunity to take on the Internationals, and possibly show Japan that he could be a World Champion if he left the spoils of the Japanese Keirin and focused on the International style and training needed.
After winning my race the first day in a difficult and messy Karate battle, I progressed to the semi-final the following day with Gokan. [Watch a video of this heat - Ben is the rider in red. Note: these Japanese race videos require Windows Media Player V.10, but definitely worth the effort, and turn up the volume; they're mad. Ed]
As I described in my last entry, I had been having a hard time trusting my following riders' (Makuri) ability to stay behind me and then in turn protect me after a long sprint. After talking with Gokan (in fact a pretty nice guy) I decided that this would not be a problem and that I would ride in front of him (Senko). In the semi final the top three progress to the final, so I was ok with playing it safe on the front for Gokan while he was taking up the rear and in turn assuring me a top three place for the final.
How to dismantle an atomic Bomb (step one): A rider of Gokans' class surely knows how to win by a little margin and protect a rider in front. In fact he also knows how to win by just a little more and bring two others around, removing my chances of [making] a Grand Final and meeting my International mates in the final. [Watch a video of this round - Ben is the "sitting duck" in orange. Ed]
I had total trust in the situation and forgot to ride my own race on the front. If that was the case I would have ridden a little higher and gone a little later and easily made the top three.
How to dismantle an atomic Bomb (step two): Before even rolling from the track Gokan had officially nominated his tactic for the next day. He would ride Makuri behind Polish International power house Damian Zielinski, separating him from his usual final berth Makuri: the crazy and unpredictable fast finishing Spaniard, Jose Antonio Escuredo. This is unheard of. The only weapon at the disposal of the International riders is hopefully meeting each other in a final and riding the combination of Senko Makuri together.
How to dismantle an atomic Bomb (step three): In two swift and cunning moves, Gokan had gone from the possibility of drag racing three Internationals to a cozy arm chair ride behind only one. The whole field was now riding with that only situation in mind, and this is what we had figured out would happen. Instead of a long hard sprint as Zielinski would normally do, he waited, so did the field and up the front, so did Jose. Now being stuck at the back following Zielinski it was too late for Gokan to do anything and as Zeilinski darted around the outside Gokan was left on the inside. Amazingly Zeilinkski timed it perfectly claiming his first victory in a Major Final here.
In my Final it was more of the same, A bit of wasted energy Karate fighting and another second place.
I'm still learning and adapting to the Japanese Keirin.
Next time: Not as much Karate fighting and no trusting.