There are times when I wonder if a keen interest in road race (especially grand tour) cycling isn’t a major component of enjoying Yowamushi Pedal. It’s obviously not a prerequisite given how popular the series has become – I’ve been seeing it advertised at pachinko parlors and host clubs now – given that very few people follow cycling as a competitive sport. The answer, I suppose, is that there’s plenty here with the strong cast and sharp humor to keep folks hooked in anyway, but Watanabe-sensei’s love for the minutiae of the sport definitely shines through in episodes like this one.
I don’t know if we can call Midousuji a good guy now, but he’s clearly been supplanted as the chief adversary by Machimiya-kun and Kureminami Tech. Machimiya is creepy in a totally different way from Midousuji, who’s like a Chimera Ant – Machimiya strikes you as a guy who sits in his van and takes pictures of kids on the playground. He made a highly skeevy introduction by hitting on Miki (and maybe worse) and if he didn’t manage to cop a feel then, he certainly did so with Kinjou and Fuku-chan.
Are we to make anything of Machimiya’s talk of “stars”, and his ability to suck out the lucky ones from anyone he touches? Well, this isn’t Majimoji Rurumo and I’ll assume this really amounts to a good job psyching out his opponents – it seems to work on Kinjou in fact (though Sakamichi is too blissfully sincere to be snared) and indeed, Machimiya shows himself to be a master manipulator when he takes charge of the peloton later. But make no mistake – the BS he pulled at the start line was horrendously bad sportsmanship if nothing else, as bush league as it gets (though I suppose it doesn’t compare to yanking someone off their bike when they pass you).
Once the race begins, the strategy component Watanabe loves so dearly really kicks in. Kinjou’s orders are the same as day two – regroup the team as quickly as possible – and in this case, Sohoku and Hakogaku have a shared goal, and their trailers cooperate to draft each other up to the leaders. This is indeed quite normal in tour racing, and especially given that the third leader, Kyoto Fushimi, has already lost a third of their team it makes even more sense for Hakone and Chiba to team up. Was Ishigaki a part of that group the Sohoku and Hakogaku riders formed to catch up? I didn’t see him there – though if he was able to hang on to the pack, there’s really nothing they could do to stop him. At best Midousuji would have one lieutenant while Fukutomi and Kinjou would have their full teams, so this alliance is a win-win for both teams.
The headline, here, though, is the even bigger alliance Machimiya forms with the main peloton. They’re fifteen minutes behind, a huge number – but he is right that the larger a group, the more speed they can generate over long distances. Is it realistic for them to catch up on this day of racing? If the day is long and hard enough, I would guess it might be possible – the psychological pressure of a huge pack of riders (depicted here as a giant snake, swallowing up the breakaways) getting closer and closer can wear on a breakaway group.
While the inter-high is a three-day race, in many ways it seems to behave like a very long single-stage of the Tour de France. While the winners of the first and second days get to keep their advantage in the next day’s start times, they’re almost like groups that have broken away from the peloton on one of those long days. The Peloton will slowly start to reel them in – sometimes from much father back than 15 minutes – and on a flat stage, usually catch them. But this is a stage with mountains, and at that point the wheat will be separated from the chaff. And I suppose that’s what Machimiya – whose team was good enough for a podium finish in the last inter-high – is planning on. Use the peloton to catch the leaders on the flats, then leave the bulk of them behind on the climbs.