Sugimoto and Kaburagi fight for the finish line and Sohoku fills the open slot in their racing roster.
Ride.11 - "Conclusion"
Sugimoto shifted and his back cog didn't spark. Was this the hint that he was bound to lose the race? Well, we'll get to some other things I saw in that moment, but the First-Years' Welcome Race was concluded pretty quickly to give us some character development on the new guy, some awkward Onoda time and a big happy surprise to me in following the old guard a little bit at university. Squee! Arakita and Kinjou riding together! I'm still smiling.
The big revelation in watching Sugimoto almost win was just how much Imaizumi wanted him to win. We've seen him care about the team overall and how he wants his own effort to count, but his cheering for Sugimoto was a new thing for his friends to see.
I can see it as an extension of his own effort in the time and coaching he spent on Sugimoto, so it would have been a win for himself too. Or he pridefully wanted the trust he put into Sugimoto to save his face. Both of these are wrong, however, because of how he hugged Sugimoto and let his disappointed face tell him the bad news. That's cycling. It's cruel, sometimes. You put in all that effort into training and you do all the right things to persevere until the line and you still lose.
Sugimoto's reaction, that familiar brave face and tone of voice, also could be seen as a superficial defense mechanism. And if we had only seen his story from the narrative we got from the first season, that would be a valid interpretation. The introduction of his younger brother, who sees him as a superhero of optimism, let us see Sugimoto's brave face as how he shows resolve. When we saw his face crumble into tears, we knew it wasn't a defense mechanism. He was trying to protect the disappointed feelings of his friends, but we saw that he shared those same disappointed feelings. He loves them all like he loves his younger brother. Damn you Yowamushi Pedal, for turning a joke character into such a great guy.
Well, we knew that was bound to happen because of how Teshima and Aoyagi turned out.
The Team SS guys had their own bonding moment, proving Imaizumi wrong about how these two race. Imaizumi claimed, probably correctly, that Team SS only put guys on their roster based on race results, not on compatibility or role playing. This is kind of a stupid way to do things, but if all they do is race criteriums, maybe it works for them. However, Danchiku and Kaburagi showed their strength and friendship by being able to stay on that club team by racing for each other.
Danchiku tells you to face forward! Smack! Seriously, that's the whole theme of this show: To go fast, face forward.
It was a Pyrrhic victory on both sides of the winner and loser. Kaburagi won, but Sugimoto denied him Danchiku getting a spot on the racing team. Sugimoto, by the strength of his racing, but poor bike throw instincts, could have won a place by his efforts at the training camp, but he wanted to honor his gamble with Teshima into being let into a race he wasn't supposed to be at.
It really was a gamble on Sugimoto's part, because if he didn't participate at the First-Years' Welcome Race as a 2nd Year, he wouldn't have had a place anyway, because Kaburagi and Danchiku would have placed 1 and 2 to secure their spots. The wins and losses added up to Kaburagi gaining that last spot as a talented 1st Year, just as Teshima planned anyway. Hey, that guy is pretty smart!
Still, I appreciated those agonizing moments when Sugimoto fought so hard for the line that he didn't even know he lost. That was some good emotional storytelling.
You know that feeling where the guy you admire for being a sports hero doesn't end up being that great as a person? Well, what if that person is the NATIONAL CHAMPION OF JAPAN but is still a socially awkward nerd? Well, yeah, you'd get embarrassed by your classmates right?
Kaburagi learned that Onoda isn't awkward when he spins those pedals and smiles on a climb.
This was my favorite part of the episode! Kaburagi had seen pictures and seen the race results of the big race, but Onoda the person is just a little shy guy. Until you put him on a bike and give him an order from the Captain. Go as hard as you can up that hill! Yeah, Kaburagi, you just saw what only a handful of people in all of Japan have seen.
Kaburagi went as hard as he could to pass and make a gap, or so he thought, but Onoda actually never left his wheel. Maybe Onoda has a bit of an inkling of how Makishima felt trying to talk to him.
Are there guys like that at the Inter-High? Sure, Kaburagi. Maybe one or two more. They're monsters too...
Speaking of good senpais, Sugimoto is one too. We saw that Kaburagi is a stand-up guy who will apologize and thank people for their efforts. He did so with Sugimoto for making him dig deep. Sugimoto played the good senpai by transferring his dream of supporting Imaizumi by patting him on the back. Pats on the back in this show are a big deal. They're bigger than patting lolis on the head in cute-girls-do-cute-things anime. Yeah, I said it.
And speaking of other good senpai, yatta!
I had no idea we would be following some of the older guys through their university days. Even better, it was Arakita paired with Kinjou!
Ha! Kinjou asked what the Mad Mutterer was muttering about! Oh man, this is too good.
We learned that Shinkai and Fukutomi are at another university that Kinjou and Arakita will have to race against.
Arakita mentioned that he and Kinjou make a strange pair. Kinjou just said, maybe not as strange as he thinks. From a cycling standpoint, Kinjou the Sohoku ace just picked up the Hakone assistant. I think they'll make a great cycling duo.
Ha! Arakita still hasn't given Fukutomi his Bianchi back. I guess he owns it for real now.
From a narrative standpoint, including these two as a peanut gallery will make explaining the different course for the Inter-High Race easier. Teshima and Aoyagi have no experience racing the Inter-High, so they can't really match up to the exposition that Kinjou, Tadokoro and Makishima used to give us from within the race. Having Kinjou with a clipboard in a follow van and Arakita perhaps in a similar role for Hakone would be a simple solution.
Plus, we get to keep seeing their great humor in the omake!
This week we got to see the tactics of a racing finale, shifting without sparks, messing up a bike throw, and the bikes brands of Trek, Bianchi, Specialized S-Works, Felt, Colnago and BMC. A word on Sugimoto's shifting: if he really shifted into a smaller cog on a Colnago with his index finger instead of his thumb, somebody put Shimano components on that Italian bike. That's blasphemy! Campagnolo belongs on Colnago. Period.
Sugimoto did have good tactics for a power sprint if he has no kick. Fabian Cancellara has won many Spring Classics this way when he's famously known for his time-trialing ability. It's just too bad that Sugimoto threw his bike too early. Kaburagi himself said that if the finish line was 5 meters closer, he would have lost. I suppose it came down to a lack of experience on Sugimoto's part for competing in a race finish. A long sprint like his should have been finished with just powering through the line. Good form on the bike throw, though. It was an extremely long one where rested his chest on the saddle.
Also, too bad for Sugimoto, that Kaburagi had Danchiku to give him one last bit of a leadout. Sadatoki burned himself out closing the gap to the top of the hill before the final descent.
Yeah! Jokes about Kinjou's glasses continue on! I'm absolutely over the moon that these two are going to make recurring appearances in the second half of the season.