The Hills Are Alive:

Reflecting on the Alps Azumino Century Ride (Sakura Group)

Alps Azumino Century Ride 2018 event review
written by Andy (2018 AACR participant)

So 4.5 hours stuck in traffic while paying really expensive tolls does not lend itself to a great memory. A couple of hundred dollars each in flight from Seoul, rental car, hotel room, and extras around each corner adds up. I don’t remember any of it compared to the great memories of biking my best ride ever.

bridgestone tent at AACR Sakura Ride

Samurai Sports allowed me access to a cycling event I would never have found otherwise and would surely have experienced countless problems with had it not been for their support. The mysterious bike inspection process alone was worth having someone to help me! 

The Azumino Alps are aptly or “alply ” named. Having spent plenty of time in the Alps, the terrain is familiar. Snow-capped mountains lording over agricultural valleys of fallow rice patties was pure bucolic splendor. That alone was worth the experience.

The Samurai Sports folks were available when I got myself stuck. They helped me manage my time and handle cultural aspects.

cyclist during Alps Azumino Century Ride - Sakura Group

Frankly, the ride looked more like a photographers on a bike convention than a century ride. 100 miles of nothing but pretty with all of us stopping every dozen miles for another “must have” pic.

The course itself appeared to be designed by the best spin class coach ever.  A few tough climbs punctuated by gliding downhills and long straightaways made you feel tested but not beaten up. The afternoon heat was warm but nothing compared to many shorter such rides in hotter climes.

Surrounded by sweeping vistas, we cruised past the former Nagano Olympic sites which were a great piece of history to see in person.  The ride weaved its way through natural parks with tulips in full bloom as well as past mountain lakes filled with nature photographers and fishermen eager for a catch.

The course support was pure gold. Amazing healthy local food – I joked it was one of the better restaurants I had enjoyed in Japan. Soba noodles and taiyaki cakes filled with sweet red bean paste. Healthy, crisp veggies and rice balls with miso sauces.

Good carbs, locally sourced, and healthy – win, win, and a win! On a different ride in Japan, I was served tons of fried food, including whale croquettes. Not what you want on long rides! 

cyclist during Alps Azumino Century Ride - Sakura Group

The rest stations were thoughtfully staffed with very kind supporters who made me feel welcome despite my obvious “not from around here boy” appearance. I even got to peek in on a kendo training class at one lucky stop.

My only critique was the lack of enforced traffic control throughout the course, which was not closed. However, may be a western (or at least American) view as this appears to be common based on my limited experience with long ride events in Japan. Though medical staff seemed to be at each stop, I did not interact with them. No electrolyte beverages were served, just water – a small detail but something to take note of.

By the end of 6 hours of alpine riding, I was ready to don my lederhosen and head to the grassy mountains and start singing. Best ride ever.