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Winter Racing

It’s early March in Hakuba with 50 cm of fresh powder on the ground. I should be stoked, but instead of putting on my avalanche beacon and snowboard gear, I am pumping up the tires on my mountain bike getting ready to race…in the snow.

Cycling in snow is not as difficult as you might think, especially when you’re riding on the groomed cross country ski trails of Hakuba’s Olympic XC ski course. The Snowfield Challenge triathlon in Hakuba is 15 kilometers of mountain biking followed by 10 kilometers of cross country skiing and five more running in snowshoes.

After all the fresh snow, I was sinking in pretty badly, and while I was pushing my bike up the first hill it was frustrating watching a few lightweights cruise over the top. I decided to try less air in my tires and, after a little experimentation, I was able to ride. Speed is always your friend when trying to keep a bike upright, and it was entertaining to watch people flying off course into the powder.

Although it had been a while, I used to ski a lot and was expecting good things, but the first climb set me straight. The Olympic course tests your fitness, and soon I was crawling up the hills. My legs were spent by the time I put on my snowshoes and halfway through, one of them breaks, giving me a good excuse to take it slow to the finish.

White season races are a great way to stay fit, especially if, like me, you’re getting older and it’s tougher to drop the five kilos you gain each winter. Race expectations differ. For beginners, victory may be finishing the race, but motivating yourself to work out is a lot easier if you’re preparing for an event. This year I’ve decided to enter some races to prepare for two tropical triathlons in Saipan this spring, the XTERRA Saipan and Tagaman, a week apart in April.

If you’re shooting for the 2006 Hakuba’s Snowfield Challenge in March, it’s time to start getting ready. Entering some cyclo-cross races (short 30 to 40-minute cross country MTB races) can help clear out the cobwebs. The Otaki Snowfield Challenge in early February is great two-person race featuring a couple of snowshoe stages with a downhill ski/snowboard stage in between. Another fun event is the Tri-modal Challenge in Hakuba in early April.

Instead of hibernating during the cold months, get out there and join a race. It’s a fun way to stay fit—and you’ll have more spring in your step after the snow melts.

WINTER RACING INFO
For a list of winter races check out This Month (Page 4) or visit the Race & Event Calendar on Outdoor Japan Online (www.outdoorjapan.com).

Snowfield Challenge in Otaki
Otaki, Nagano
Feb. 6, 2006
www.powersports.co.jp

Snowfield Challenge in Hakuba
Hakuba, Nagano
March 13, 2006
www.powersports.co.jp

Tri-modal Challenge
Hakuba, Nagano
Early April
www.evergreen-outdoors.com

Cyclo-cross in Japan
Various Locations
Visit the website for dates
http://homepage3.nifty.com/cyclocross/ (Japanese Only)

XTERRA Saipan
Saipan, CNMI
April 1, 2006
www.xterraplanet.com

Tagaman Saipan
Saipan, CNMI
April 8, 2006
www.tagaman.com

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