Now this is the Yowamushi Pedal race mode that I really enjoy. The absurdities are toned down and the focus is on the grind of the race the subtleties of strategy. And with something as complicated and grueling as a multi-day cycling grand tour, there’s more than enough grind and strategic subtlety to go around. I really believe the action side of Yowapeda ias at its best when it sticks closest to realism – when the puffer fish and Bambi legs are kept to a minimum.
It was this side of cycling that got me interested in the Tour de France long before there was a Yowamushi Pedal. While the individual duels on the mountains are undeniably gripping, it’s the complexities of an individual sport contested by teams that really fascinated me. A huge part of any cycling grand tour is control of the pack, the peloton – and as the winners of the sprint checkpoint, by custom control of the peloton falls to Hakone Gakuen. It may seem symbolic – the champions back in control and all that – control of the pack is a hugely important strategic advantage in cycling. You control the pace, and adapt it to your long-term strategy.
While up ahead it’s left to the Sohoku afterguard to buck of Kaburagi’s spirits (the upside to his being an idiot is that he’s easy to manipulate), HakoGaku is pushing the pace hard, trying to thin the herd. It’s a logical and straightforward strategy – drop as many teams off the pace as possible and eliminate potential future threats. Teshima has no choice but to match Izumida’s pace, and Hakone and Sohoku soon ride away from the peloton with relative ease.
The banter here is pretty interesting – although that whole exchange between Teshima and Izumida about cooking was pretty out there. These are two new captains, with largely new teams – they’re feeling out themselves and their own squads as much as their rival’s. Izumida is smart enough to understand that it’s Onoda who makes Sohoku go – his plucky humility, his unpredictable brilliance. The other Sohoku members know Onoda is a randomizing element that can shake up the expected and do exceptional things, and draw strength from it. And when you’re the stronger team on paper, you hate guys like that.
The first round in the duel of of the captains definitely goes to Izumida over the “ordinary” Teshima. All this charming banter has been a ruse to keep Sohoku distracted while Hakone gradually slows the pace, allowing the peloton to catch up. This is exactly how I’d probably play it, to be honest. Onoda is Sohoku’s greatest weapon, and his biggest weakness is his relative inexperience in large races. Getting Onoda lost in the confusion of the peloton (who’d love to claim the scalp of the guy with the #1 tag) is solid strategy, and despite Teshima’s warnings Onoda lets himself be swallowed up by the pack (and this isn’t the first time that’s happened, either). Now the onus is on Teshima to decide whether to split up his team further and try to send someone back to find Onoda and help him back to the front, or trust him to make it on his own.
I can’t help but notice something else – Kyoto Fushimi has been conspicuous by being totally inconspicuous. Midousuji is certainly the last guy in the world who normally blends in unnoticed, so this is clearly an intentional move on his part. After trying to take the last inter-high by the throat, it looks like Chimera-kun has decided to employ the opposite strategy – play possum, ignore the intermediate stage wins, and marshal his strength for a full-on blitz on the third day. It’s a style that seems to cut against the grain of who he is, though, so it may be a struggle for Midousuji to stick to his guns – or there may be something else up his sleeve that I’m not seeing.