Lagazzettadellabici's Blog

A Hero Is Born: Miyake Jima “Earth Ride” by James Machin

Posted in Uncategorized by lagazzettadellabici on June 21, 2010

More from James on the EARTH RIDE I posted about this morning.

The day before the Tour Du Japon kicked off all of the riders were asked if they would participate in an “Earth Ride” around Miyake Jima with the locals and other riders who had come across just for this event. The Earth Ride is a global initiative to encourage people all around the world to help fight climate change by riding a bike. It’s about taking responsibility and actively making steps towards a low-carbon future.

As this truly effects her future I thought it would be a great activity to do together while also educating her about the importance of looking after the planet.

The original plan was to ride the 1st Quarter of the race and then turn back, totalling about 16km of undulating terrain with the wind against us on the return leg.

We were issued our breathing masks, as the volcano on Miyake Jima is still very active and sometimes the sulphur gas levels get to the point where they can become lethal.

We headed out along the coastal road taking in the stunning alien terrain left by the last lava flow back in 1983. Tsukino ascended one very gruelling climbs and over taking some of the adult riders to reach the first check point and to our surprise a lunch box and got her race number stamped.

As soon as she found out it was a stamp rally she asked if we could ride to the next checkpoint.
With the mission in mind she set off in search for the next check point 14 km away.

Climbing up the side of the volcano I was able to explain in detail what had happened to all the trees and showing her the roof of a temple poking above the soil, she suddenly understood that the rest was underground as the lava swallowed it up and those weren’t young saplings but the tops of the trees poking out of the lava field.

Reaching the top of the climb we stopped to get an amazing view of where the lava field had once dropped directly in to the Pacific Ocean but we were told by the support car following us that the sulfuric acid levels in that area where very high and we should move half a kilometer down the road where a coastal wind made it safe.

Tsukino prudently suggested we just kept going to the checkpoint, where she rested and got some sugar into her system. The one thing she loves about riding is that she knows if she wants chocolate or sweet drinks the answer will always be “YES”.

Reaching the half way mark I started to get a little worried as the sky was turning grey and the wind was now directly head on. The road followed a beautiful cliff edge that over looked the stunning vista of the Pacific Ocean being whipped to a frenzy by the strong winds, I decided not to stick around at this check point giving Tsukino only enough time to get her race number stamped and her bottle filled.

The climb up from the coast 27km into the ride really wore Tsukino down rising from 11m from sea level up to 144m in just 2 km. Getting off and walking for a few meters before getting back on again and trying again all the time getting wet from the stop start rain showers.

Summiting she was greeted with a splendid view and a fast downhill that was already wet and slippery. She descended cautiously at around 30kph (Yes that is cautious riding for Tsukino) and breaking well in advance for the corners and she was a little disappointed when she was faced with another climb.

At this moment the heavens opened and the rain came down so hard and fast it actually hurt, we quickly took shelter under a tree soaked to the bone in a matter of seconds. Again leaving the decision to Tsukino (I was just along for the ride) she headed out again to push her bike up the climb.

Already this valiant 7 year old girl had ridden 30km, over some serious climbs that dismounted many a rider, she had cried when she realized that some of the climbs were just too tough for her to ride out and here she was deciding that as she was wet through she might as well keeping going in the rain.

Half way up the climb the wind unleashed it fury straight through the canyon we were walking up and I thought it best if I push hers and my bikes up. The wind was so strong that my bike actually lifted off the ground into the air and I had to drop her bike to keep it under control.

This is where I pulled the plug, it was just too dangerous and having already achieved so much in one ride I was so proud of her and now it was a matter of keeping her safe and getting her back to the finish.

I waved the support vehicle over and piled both our bikes in the back while Tsukino was wrapped in up in warm towels to soak up all the water in her sodden clothes. She was so disappointed that she was forced to retire just 4km from the finish and everyone was telling her that she had accomplished so much.

As if the gods were listening and rewarding the brave the rain suddenly stopped and the wind calmed a little. With fire in her eyes she told the support car driver that she wanted to continue riding and she jumped out ready to complete the last 4km.

The sun tore through the clouds warming us up and drying the roads while the winds softened and we continued the climb on bike over taking another 2 riders who had taken shelter from the elements.

Tsukino being a racer took this as a challenge that she would not be the last rider back and increased the pace dropping back along the coastline taking a quick look at the High School that bore the full force of the lava flow many years ago.

With one more climb she reached the top with a helping hand from me catching another rider just before the finishing line.

Upon entering the Hall to receive her final stamp and award for completing the ride she received standing ovation from all the riders that had taken part.

Riding 32km at 17.3kph, total ascent of 968m in 02:17:51.


The complete story of her ride will be in the Nikan Sports Paper on June 23rd as viewed by a sports journalist who was riding in the support car that followed us around the Island. He said he was deeply moved by the heroism displayed by this young 7 year old girl and is an inspiration in a sport that is plagued by bad press and in an age where children would rather sit at home and play video games.

My greatest sporting hero is a 7 year old girl!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: