The front of the First Year Welcome Race features a dramatic fight for the lead between Kaburagi and Danchiku of Team SS and the Sugimoto brothers.
Ride.10 - "The Sugimoto Brothers' Bond"
This episode was quintessential Yowamushi Pedal. Dramatic back and forth for the lead, lots of foreshadowing from the peanut gallery talking about the riders we're focusing on, and timely revelations from the flashbacks accompanying the spectators' commentary. Spectators in this show is a catch-all phrase which can include the teammates themselves in the middle of the race. We saw this convention time and again during the three stages of the Inter-High Race. This time around, it's almost an exact duplicate of the Big 3 in the van following the action and even talking to the riders on the road.
We got that flashback of Kaburagi apologizing to Onoda for calling him "mamachari boy."
Imaizumi is always looking for an advantage. He told Onoda he should get something out of Kaburagi to make him owe him one. That's just how alpha males roll.
As expected, Sugimoto was able to follow the Team SS Kilometer Zero attack. Everyone in the van was surprised to see him with the leaders, except Imaizumi.
This was great character development for Sugimoto. He had always been a throwaway gag character, but now that he matters to the overall plot on who gets to fill that last slot on the roster, we get to see who he is.
Teshima and Aoyagi mattered for a little bit in the first season because they were necessary for dramatic tension against the Big Three 2.0 during the training camp selection, but their stories were tossed away as soon as the next arc involved the other schools in the Inter-High Race.
The question is who will get tossed aside again? There's only one slot, but there appears to be two duos competing for the roster. I don't think it's too far-fetched to see Teshima step aside.
Sugimoto also made a great foil for Imaizumi to showcase his version of Sohoku Team Spirit. Naruko and Onoda's appreciation for his developing sense of broness is the stuff that gives this show its goofy loveable heart.
Just seeing Sugimoto make serious facial expressions instead of the usual comic relief ones shows how important he became to the New Generation arc.
Sugimoto's ambition is to be Imaizumi's last leadout man. Probably the real goal is to get Imaizumi to yell out his first name Teru...
Sugimoto is a diesel engine, so he can't accelerate fast for attacks, but he can use the terrain to cause hesitations and create a gap he can build on. Most breakaway artists among the pros use these tactics.
The Team SS guys are kind of funny. Danchiku has a split personality once he's warmed up and left the nervousness of the pre-race jitters behind. Then he growls! Kaburagi is always brash and confident. He's like Naruko the Younger.
Team SS is a local club that competes in amateur races. Having middle school kids in that environment proves they were fast enough to ride with the local criterium dudes. SS stands for "Speed Shot," as if that means anything. There's a local club where I live called "Adobo Velo." They're Filipino. Names for clubs mean nothing and nobody should be impressed by Speed Shot.
Onoda is so Onoda. Kaburagi showed his brashness and said he's going to win the Inter-High. Onoda doesn't care about that. He just wants to ride with friends, like he's said since the 5th episode of the first season. The only new wrinkle is that he added, "as hard as we can." Kaburagi got a big dose of Sohoku team spirit from everyone's reaction to what the NATIONAL CHAMPION OF JAPAN, just said. Maybe people should just remember that about Onoda and figure that how he goes about things might actually matter in a bike race.
Onoda even worried that Teshima would replace him! Come on now.
Gah! Don't stop in the middle of the road, Sugimoto! It took three years, but we finally got the worst thing I hated about Over Drive showing up in Yowamushi Pedal.
Oh goody, more foreshadowing about Sugimoto needing an ally for his diesel engine. Whoever could be coming to help him out? It's a big huge mystery! Actually, it's just a big huge guy!
The best thing about Sugimoto's character development has been the introduction of his little brother Sadatoki. As big as he is, his big brother is still bigger in his own eyes.
Ask-me-anything Sugimoto who's "an experienced rider, after all" has always had his confident know-it-all attitude considered as a throwaway gag. Here, we see it as his defining feature. It's something that his little brother respects and almost worships. If we don't dismiss Sadatoki's hero worship as the semi-delusional view of a younger brother, we might have to consider that there is actual depth to Sugimoto's grit. I like how a gag character's hook has turned into something that might be his key to victory.
Geez, was Sadatoki ever so small? Sugimoto looks like he was a great big brother.
Now that Sugimoto actually worked on his form following Imaizumi's instructions, the Sugimoto Synchro is going to be formidable.
Teshima brought up that image of catching one thin strand on the last day to secure victory. If making miracles out of never giving up until you grab that last strand is the spirit of Sohoku, Sugimoto definitely has that spirit. Teshima has seen that miracle making too many times already with the NATIONAL CHAMPION OF JAPAN sitting in the backseat who just wants to ride with his friends as hard as they can.
This week, we lots of Colnago and Campagnolo gear from the Sugimoto brothers. Danchiku growls on his Specialized S-Works and Kaburagi rocks his Felt. We saw Sugimoto make the breakaway move by attacking on a slight uphill and fooling the others into letting him slip away. Kaburagi showed some road captain skills by listening to his instincts and changing tactics mid-race. A lot of road racing depends on timing and luck, but experience plays a role too in figuring out which moves to cover and which to let go because you know you'll catch back up soon enough.
Next time, we'll see who wins and who will make the cut for the team roster. Last year, it was the training camp that decided who made the final roster, so I wouldn't be surprised if Teshima threw us a head fake. The NATIONAL CHAMPION OF JAPAN didn't even finish the Welcome Race, so how important is it, really?