At the start of the COP15 Cycling Tour of Japan's Anjo stage, I'm ready to roll. On this stage a Brompton was made available to me and it was a lovely ride through the rural landscape.
I don't think I'd been surrounded by so many hobby cyclists in my life. At least not since my racing days. The Japanese Cycling Association arranged the ride so most of the participants were members. Many needed a couple of hundred metres to figure out how to pop those shoes into their pedals, but their enthusiasm lacked nothing.
Anjo is a city of about 180,000 people and they have had a close relationship to Denmark for more than a century since a study trip was made to learn best practice about agricultural techniques. The city and region is known as Little Denmark, which is why it was an obvious choice for placing a stage there.
The press coverage continued during the ride, with a photographer tracking the ambassador's every pedal turn. On this stage we ended up in a little VIP group of cyclists while the hundreds of others rode a different route. It wasn't a hair-raising tempo - about 30 km/h on average - but my Brompton handled the pace like I was going downhill. Cool little ride.
The ride ended at Denpark - a Danish botanical gardens/agricultural research centre in Anjo. The bicycle parking was impressive, as was the replica Danish windmill. There were three distances to choose from. 20 km, 30 km and 50 km. Most people chose the 50 km ride, including many small kids on small bikes. Really impressive stuff. The group the ambassador and I were in rode about 40-odd km in all that day.
Here's the Danish ambassador to Japan Franz-Michael and yours truly, before the start of the stage.
Halfway through the day we stopped for lunch with the Mayor of Anjo and his Deputy Mayor. Delicious food and a good conversation about bicycle infrastructure based on Danish experience. Like most cities in Japan, Anjo has many citizens who use the bicycle daily, for transport, but implementation of safe, separated bicycle lanes is necessary if Japan wishes to take their fantastic bicycle culture to the next level.
We stopped at a park where families and children were gathered to hear the ambassador speak before heading off on the last leg to the event area in Denpark. All in all I think about 800 people joined the ride, which was just brilliant.
The members of the JCA at the final reception, wearing their yellow numbers. It was an impressive military exercise they put on, arranging the entire route and standing on street corners to wave the cyclists to the left or right. Well done them.
A little style over speed in Anjo. The girl on the left resembles most of the daily cyclists in Japan and provides a splash of style in a sea of lycra.