First Road Racing Experience in Niseko, Hokkaido


What’s the Niseko HANAZONO hill climb?

The 11th running of the Niseko HANAZONO hill climb was held on August 7th. This is a road race time trial to Niseko Annupuri Goshiki Onsen (Niseko Town boundary, elevation 796m). The total length is 13.9km; the average gradient approximately 4.6 %. It’s one of the most popular hill climbing event in Hokkaido. In 2022 it was held for the first time after the covid restriction, with more than 400 people taking part the event as runners or spectators.

Time table of the race

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Registration: 12:00~16:00 at the headquarters
Place: Yukinkokan venue at the Asahigaoka ski resort in Kutchan town

The access from my place Asahikawa to Kutchan took 4 hours (231 km) by car. After the long drive, I did not train in order to rest my body. I stayed B&B called Tabitsumugi in front of the event venue, in which most of the guests that day were cyclists. We enjoyed sharing meals that each of us cooked or bought in the communal dining room. Moreover, we could enjoy fireworks at the night as there was a local festival accompanied with the race. It was a memorable experience. I made some friends and want to see them again at the next race.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Place: Headquarters

8:10~9:50 Registration

8:10-9:50 Application for baggage transportation to the finish line

10:00 Opening ceremony

10:30 Group 1 starts
10:31 Group 2 start
10:32 Group 3 starts

Just after the race started, I ran with the lead group and was drafted by the gruop. Once entering the uphill section, the group slowed down. I looked off at my friends coming up from behind. But just keep on climbing! Toward the end of the course, the gradient rises to nearly 10%. I started to feel more and more wobbly, and wanted to get on my feet. At 2 km from the finish line, many runners were overtaking me, pushing hard to catch up!

12:30 End of competition

14:00 – 16:00 Certificate of finish and results

My result was 50 minutes, placing 8th out of 27 female runners. Compared with the past competition records, most runners with this time were below the top 10. I was very lucky to get a top 10 finish. However, I was so excited and happy like a child.

14:00-15:00 Awards ceremony and closing ceremony

The top finishers were presented with specialties equal to their weight, namely potatoes from Kutchan! Although I could not see awards ceremony, you can see the unique way to present potatos in the following video.

What I learned from the first race

The weather was unstable in the mountains and it was cold even in summer. Popsicles were handed out at the finish line, and I bit into one while shivering from the cold. Unfortunately the weather was not so good, but I enjoyed the scenery on the way down the mountain. Cyclists rode through a strange landscape of alternating tranquil countryside and resort buildings in downtown Niseko. It was an extraordinary sight, and I had the sense that I was spending leisure time far removed from my daily life.

I am not a very social person and do not like going to crowded places. But the feeling I got from the cycling event was quite amazing. Even though there are a lot of people, everyone is alone on the bike and it is a one-on-one battle with themselves. Since we are always alone during the entire ride, we get a strange sense of relief from the crowds at the finish line. When I get tired of the crowds, I’m free to disperse. We descend the mountain as we feel like it. By the time I return home, I have forgotten most of their painful memories and say, “It was a good day.”

See you at a race somewhere in Hokkaido

Each of us cyclists enjoys riding a bike. Race is the place to share this feeling, maybe. Once we just jump into the fun, self-conscious worries about not liking crowds are blown away. And our world becomes a little bit expanded than before. If you get interested in this race, please check their website or Facebook account. I hope to see you at a race in Niseko next year!