Make that the International Okhotsk Cycling 2009. Including myself, there were three non-Japanese among the 982 participants. Good thing we participated, or they would have had to change all of the signage.
Over the weekend, I rode 212km (132mi for those in the dark ages) over 2-days with 981 other people, by bicycle, along the Sea of Okhotsk from Oumu to Shari. It was good. Kind of weird, but good.
There are some definite advantages to riding with such a large group. When you ride alone, you usually don’t have a cheering crowd and different refreshments in each town you pass through, nor brass bands and cheerleaders performing for you when you depart.
When you’re alone, though, you can go as fast as you want. You can stop whenever you want. You don’t have to listen to Mr. Sato from Sapporo’s misaligned derailleur grind along for kilometer after kilometer. You don’t have to wake up at 4 AM if you don’t want to.
The race entry fee and the fee for the town cycling club trip to the race and back was 24,000 yen ($260). For that, I got:
A ride and bike transport to Oumu, luggage transport from the start to the finish, a place to stay for two nights, two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, and quite a few cans of beer. Fresh milk, cheese, and sports drink jelly in Okoppe, more sports drinks and snacks in Mombetsu, ice cream in Kamiyubetsu, hard candy and dried scallops and barley tea in Yubetsu, bananas and juice in Saroma, bread, tea and juice in Abashiri, and potatoes and butter in Koshimizu. I even won a gift box of various kinds of sugars in the drawing at the end of the race.
Overall, not bad. A good way to meet other cyclists, drink beer, experience the different towns along the coast, and generally have a good time with other people. I also got to show off my weird bike and all my cycling gear, including the cool Alaska “gold rush” license plate jersey my parents got me. Check out this picture: (don’t I look cool?!)