Le The Tour de Ogawara is an annual cycling event put on by Misawa Outdoor Recreation consisting of a 53 kilometer route around Lake Ogawara, pictured below (the one that looks like one of these).
Now, let me preface this by saying I had every intention to capture the entire scope of this event, but due to extenuating circumstances, I fell a little short in that endeavor. You see, I missed the entire start of the Tour, arriving 10 minutes too late to an empty parking lot, and lot of quizzical looks from the event staff. Granted, part of that may have been due to the fact that I showed up on a 20” folding bike, wearing Crocs and a t-shirt, but I digress. They gave me the benefit of the doubt and pointed me in the right direction, which was a counter-clockwise route, starting from the base beach and wrapping around the north stretch of the lake.
There was no way I was going to catch up with anyone but the slowest of the bunch, or maybe someone that got a flat tire, which isn’t a terribly exciting thing to photograph. Cutting my losses, I decided that the next best opportunity would be to ride the other way around, meeting the riders as they approached the final leg of the course. Having completed the Tour de Ogawara the previous year myself, I was fairly familiar with the roads, and had a pretty good idea of where to get some shots of the participants as they rode by. Unfortunately, this involved riding the worst part of the entire Tour: the dreaded Route 8.
Aside from having the most hills out of all the other sections, Route 8 has almost no shoulder, frequent blind turns, and an absolutely ridiculous amount of traffic for a two-lane road. Coupled with the jungle-like growth that encroaches onto the roadway, it proves to be a very stressful road to traverse on a bicycle. My fondest memory from last year was being overtaken by a tractor-trailer on a climb, while another similarly sized truck was oncoming in the other direction. I was almost sure someone wasn’t going to survive, but surprisingly no vehicles collided with any of the cyclists or each other. Unfornately, Route 8 is unavoidable, and not only did I have to ride it one way to meet up with the other cyclists, once I did, I’d have to ride it back to the finish line.
I used all seven gears on my Dahon and eventually got to my perch atop one of the hills that would make a good vantage point for photos. I waited there for the cyclists to start rolling through; then, I waited some more. I waited for about half an hour, because I completely overestimated how long it would take them to get all the way around the lake to where I was. It wasn’t all for naught, however—I did get to see these sleepy kittens stumble out from their bed to greet me:
Finally, I spotted the first couple riders as they made their way up the hill towards the intersection at which I had been waiting.
Standing on the guardrail across the way as I was, I decided that I should probably cross the street so the photos wouldn’t be obstructed by traffic, and also because everyone would be looking up at the guy standing on the guardrail, which is not a very natural expression to photograph.
The next group was a little less than a minute behind the first, giving me just a little time to set up across the street. I was fairly pleased with my new vantage point, though only having the painstakingly slow speed of the point-and-shoot I was using, I didn’t get every shot that I wanted.
Although promoted as a non-competitive event, many of the participants were in it to win it, sporting their finest Lycra and Fred-cessories. There was plenty of carbon fiber, one titanium frame (courtesy of my friend Dan, top left) and aero everything, but even so, all types of bicycles were represented. I spotted some classic steel here and there, a good bunch of off-the-shelf aluminum bikes, and even a few mountain bikes, with and without road slicks. Most impressive, however, was the family riding their tandem with a child seat and trailer in tow.
Having decided I wasn’t going to wait for every participant to ride past my checkpoint, I began to head back toward the finish, periodically looking over my shoulder for more riders that were catching up. I was able to grab a few more shots on the way, capturing the enthusiasm of the riders as they pedaled by.
I made my way back to the beach to get some post-ride photos and talk with a few of the participants who I recognized, some who also rode the Tour last year. I also had to explain a few times that no, I did not actually ride around the lake with my folding bike and poor footwear, I was just there to get some pictures.
Free food, a t-shirt, and the camaraderie of fellow cyclists awaited everyone at the finish line, as more and more people trickled in. For some, this was the furthest they’ve ever ridden, and for others it was just another training ride, but it was good to see cyclists of all levels out there, enjoying themselves and riding their bikes.
For more photos, or to view the entire set (in color), please visit the following Flickr album: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/124104137@N07/sets/72157644840134604/
- Bicyclist Abroad