In the Mountains of Asuke for the Chris King Gourmet Century Japan

Japan is wonderful. In the cities like Nagoya, cars zip through intersections, merge with traffic, mamacharis cruise the sidewalks, baskets rattling with groceries and pedestrians swarm cross walks. Yet if you drive or ride a bicycle outside its network of infrastructure for 40km, you’re in the mountains. Many ranging around the 3,500′ height and all covered in a dense forest. These mystical beasts lie in slumber awaiting the rainy season to drench their loamy forest floors and fill their rivers.

The rainy season is at the end of June, so very few people want to throw events this month, at the risk of it being rained out, yet that didn’t stop Shinya and the Circles team from organizing the Chris King Gourmet Century. Now, if you’ve never heard of a Gourmet Century, the format is simple. Chris King works with local bike shops to plan a route in a select city, then they fly out Chris DiMinno, their lead chef to plan food stops along the way, with the event culminating in a feast after the ride. In some cases, like Japan, Chris was able to count on the talented caterers from Nagoya, who’d drive out to Asuke the day prior to prepare food.
Hairpin number one of like 100 that day.

Now, I’ve never attended a GC and to be honest, I never felt compelled to do so. Until I saw Japan on the docket last year. Suddenly…

Last week I landed in Nagoya and have been getting a sense for the cycling community here. This prepared me for what I’d experience in Asuke, while riding the 50 miles and 5,000′ course. What I saw was a lot of cyclists, all from various walks of life and all accepting of visitors, eager to show them their local riding.

Really feeling the grade

The day prior, we loaded up the Circles van with bikes and drove to Asuke. As soon as we unloaded, I pre-rode the course to gain a better sense of what photos I’d take where. Boy was I surprised. This wasn’t an easy ride and I felt it in my legs the next morning when I awoke to the sound of a stream outside our hotel window.

Leaving the hotel, I was surprised to see bikes already loaded up, ready to roll and coffee being served. Breakfast was at 7am and you could roll out whenever you wanted to. I found an eager group and hit the road early. A 10 mile, 2,500′ climb awaited us right out of the gate. Luckily my coffee hit me immediately!

Hi, Akira!

You can read the rest of the ride Reportage in the gallery and all I’ll say is if you get a chance to do this ride next year, do not pass up this opportunity. Asuke is beautiful, the roads are beautiful, the food is beautiful and the smiling faces of all the Circles staff and volunteers are beautiful.

Many, many thanks to everyone who made this ride possible and thanks to Circles for being such great hosts! If you’re thinking about coming to Japan. Go to Nagoya, see Circles and ride out to this ride. It’s amazing!