Cyclocross in minus temperatures is a lung-searing experience. The Rapha Supercross Nobeyama is hosted each year on a working farm and horse ranch deep in the Yatsugatake mountains. It makes for a technical course with breathtaking views and unpredictable weather at an altitude of 1,345m.
The course weaves its way through woods, stables, an ATV track and all kinds of obstacles that would ordinarily be found on a farm, but not necessarily at a UCI cyclocross race.
The chaos of the first lap. The groups were still closely packed and any sudden change in ground conditions caused an immediate fluctuation in pace as riders had to quickly adjust to the fastest way forward.
There were more than 100 riders in the Men’s Elite class, ripping their way through the mud.
There’s always a family atmosphere at Supercross. The elite UCI-categorised race is growing every year, but the children’s events are still equally important and the community is amongst the strongest in the racing calendar; it’s even been known that couples have met at this race to later get married.
Anthony Clark was focused ahead of the Men’s Elite race. He finished just outside the podium in 4th. His team mate from Squid bikes, US rider Samantha Runnels, took victory in the Elite Women’s race on day one.
The backdrop of the Yatsugatake Mountains are integral to the race. They are also home to Daisuke Yano, Rapha’s Head of Japan, who started this race eight years ago. He not only managed the event but raced against some of the world’s best in the UCI Men’s Elite race.
Across the long stretches of thick, heavy mud, riders’ styles varied from thigh-burning pedal churning to running until the ground conditions improved.
The UCI Women’s Elite podium was dominated by three riders over the two days of racing. Runnels, Miho Imai and April McDonough battled hard in a field of 35 women, the highest turnout in Japan to date.
Cyclocross has been steadily growing in Japan and fans from across the country travel to this remote mountainous location — the country’s highest town. With 15 international racers from five different countries, it’s the biggest race in the country.
The sun may have been shining this year, but the freezing temperatures were still bitterly cold, making the effort that much more demanding. Mihoko Kitayama placed in the top 10 of the Women’s C3 and C2 race race pushing herself to her limits.
As two days of racing went by, the ice ruts and thawing soil soon became thick, heavy mud that weighed down bikes and resulted in more than a few broken derailleurs.
Taisho, the owner of Takizawa farm and influential member of the local community, has been a key part of Nobeyama Supercross’ success since day one, bringing the town together for the past eight years.
This story first appeared at rapha.cc — you can find it here.