The Inter High is a yearly race where the cycling clubs of many high schools from around Japan compete to prove themselves the best. You can read more general information about the Inter High event on the Inter High page.
The 41st Inter-High was celebrated in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, with defending champions Hakone Academy on their home turf. 120 cyclists from different 20 schools participated in the event. It consisted of 3 stages that spanned over 3 days: August 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.
Hiroshima Kureminami Technical School
The starting point is located in Enoshima. This stage has two checkpoints and the Day 1 goal. Team Sohoku arrives at the starting point in Ride 71, but the Inter High does not actually begin until Ride 75. Even then, the first 2km of the course is just a parade. The real race starts at Shonan Bridge Park when a race official raises the flag.
The first 50 km of the race consists of flat roads, so this is where the sprinting competition is held.
Tadokoro holds Naruko back until the sprinters from rival schools have pulled ahead, saying that it will make a greater impact if they suddenly accelerate to pass the others. Izumida also decides to stay behind; his reason is that he is confident he will dominate this flat course. Tadokoro and Naruko continue passing the other sprinters, arguing as they go. At first the competitors think Tadokoro and Naruko will work together, but it becomes clear that the two Sohoku sprinters have no intentions to do so. Kinjou comments to Onoda that their rivalry will draw out their true strength.
The terrain then goes up to the Hakone mountain, where the climbers compete to reach the summit first.
In this section, Onoda Sakamichi gets caught in an accident that leaves him in 120th place, far from his teammates at the front. He accomplishes the incredible feat of passing 100 racers to get back to the rest of his team. He passes Midousuji Akira, who is leading the peloton, on his way to the front.
While Onoda is catching up, Toudou tries to convince Makishima to compete with him for the last time and break their tie. This is the last time Toudou and Makishima have the chance to compete together because they will graduate next year, but Arakita points out that Makishima must pull Sohoku on the mountainous terrain in Onoda's place.
Day 1 Goal
This is the last part of the day when each team's ace fights to be the first one to cross the finish line. Arakita tries to intimidate Imaizumi, but Imaizumi is determined to bring Kinjou to the goal line. In an unexpected turn of events, Midousuji arrives as they're about to cross the finish line, so it turns into a three-way battle involving Kinjou, Fukutomi, and Midousuji. The three reach the goal at the exact same time.
This is the longest of the three stages.
Sohoku gets split apart. Kinjou and Imaizumi have a head start because of their performance in the first day's race and Tadokoro remains at the starting line because of stomach pain. Onoda convinces a distraught Makishima to let him go back for Tadokoro. Naruko can't compete for the sprinter's checkpoint because he has to pull Makishima through the flats. While Sohoku solves their problems, Hakone Academy competes against Kyoto Fushimi.
Shinkai and Midousuji go head to head, and it appears that Shinkai will be the victor. However, as they reach the checkpoint, Midousuji boosts his bike forward by leaning far back. Thus, he is the victor and takes the green zekken.
Since Shinkai loses to Midousuji in the Sprint Checkpoint, Hakone Academy temporarily falls apart, allowing Midousuji to drop their sprinters and forge an insurmountable lead. He also takes the red zekken, with the Kyoto Fushimi foursome sweeping the top 4 over Toudou and Fukutomi, as Toudou must remain pulling for his ace and focus on keeping Kyoto Fushimi in check.
Day 2 Goal
Despite losing the Climbers Checkpoint, Hakone Academy and Sohoku are back to full-strength, with Sohoku's Tadokoro and Onoda managing to rejoin the group, while rotating the lead (thus pulling duties). Kyoto Fusihimi, however deploys 'Phase 49', where they use Mizuta Nobuyuki as a backup ace assistant to block Hakone Academy's ace assistant, Arakita. However, the role is actually assigned to Shinkai for the day. Since Arakita had been pulling Shinkai after he lost the Sprinter's Checkpoint, Shinkai was able to recover and pull Fukutomi for the final sprint. Also, Imaizumi recovers from a near-fall, forcing Midousuji to abandon all plans. On the tight turn into Lake Motousu, Ishigaki slips but is saved by Midousuji, and pulls him 250m before the sharp turn, launching Midousuji early. Midousuji is able to take the sharp turn at an insane angle to establish a four-second lead, but late in the race he chips a tooth, which illustrates that he has reached his limit and cannot maintain his speed. In shock, he can only watch helplessly as Kinjou and Fukutomi pass him, with Fukutomi outbraking Kinjou in the final downhill sprint finish.
The third and final day of Inter High takes place at Lake Motosu , as the riders pass through The Five Lakes of Mt. Fuji and Aokigahara Forest using National Route 139 for the first half of the stage. It finishes 2000m, halfway up Mt. Fuji, on the 5th parking lot of Fuji Azami Line.
After the first six riders take off, the remaining members of both Hakone Academy and Sohoku decide to ride co-operatively, forming an eight-man chain in order to reach their aces far ahead of them faster. The riders consist of Onoda, Naruko, Tadokoro, Makishima, Arakita, Toudou, Izumida, and Manami. This is something Onoda doesn't initially understand, but Makishima explains that there is an unspoken 'cease fire' agreement until they catch up to their aces. While Imaizumi, as a fourth-placed rider, struggles to keep up with Shinkai, Shinkai commends him for managing as they reach their aces first, Fukutomi and Kinjou, with Hakone Academy then breaking away to lead.
Further back, Machimiya of Hiroshima manipulates the rest of the pack to work together to swallow the riders in front of them, using their resentment towards Sohoku and Hakone Academy over the past two days. The first small group to be swallowed is Kumamoto Daiichi, with Fujiwara wanting to drop out due to injuries, the pack swallowed him first. However, they claim they intend to nurse him to recovery by letting him ride at the middle of the large pack, before Machmiya convinces Taura of the advantages of riding with a large pack rather than against it. The large pack is then able to catch up to the remaining of the Kyoto Fushimi riders, excluding Midousuji and Ishigaki, with the Sohoku-Hakone pack less than a minute ahead.
When the the large mass of riders closed in on Sohoku and Hakone Academy, Arakita decides to be swallowed by the main pack to conserve energy and hold them back, while sending Toudou and Izumida ahead. As for Sohoku, Onoda is swallowed by the pack, with Naruko unable to save him; Naruko goes on to pull the team so he won't be distracted or caught. Onoda is told by Taura that the pack is working to reach the front. In truth, Machimiya immediately drops the pack with his team, as it was all a ploy to lure the pack into a false sense of security and exhaust them. Hiroshima's team breaks away from the pack to chase towards the aces at the front.
Onoda desperately tries to convince Arakita to work together to stop Hiroshima's team. When the deal is finally made, Manami, who also was swallowed by the pack, arrives to help. Each pulls to catch up to Hiroshima, passing by their other team members.
20m lead race
A side-race begins between the three sprinters of Hiroshima (Machimiya, Ibitani and Higashimura) and the pack of Arakita, Onoda and Manami. The winner has to lead by at least 20m leading to the feed zone in a sprint zone, which on paper, puts Hiroshima at a huge advantage due to the all-sprinter trio. Despite falling behind by 1.5 flags (15 seconds), and bleeding from a headbutt, Arakita leads a huge fightback to eventually defeat the Hiroshima trio by 3 flags (30 seconds), with Machimiya conceding defeat.
Arakita pulls Onoda and Manami to the front, briefly giving Hakone Academy a 4-3-2 pack advantage over the other teams, until Sohoku and Hakone Academy become even in strength when the rest of their respective members quickly rejoin the group, all before they reach the feed zone. Hiroshima honors their promise to cease pursuit, which foils their plan to work with Kyoto Fushimi. However, Midousuji isn't bothered by this turn of events, as he doesn't believe he'll need their assistance.
Unlike the last sprint checkpoint, where only Hakone Academy and Kyoto Fushimi battled, Shinkai intends to carry Fukutomi right for the goal, a tactic Tadokoro picks up and follows. However, Arakita leads his team instead and carries on until he exhausts himself, dropping from the race less than 400m from the checkpoint, something which Midousuji had correctly predicted. Despite this, Hakone Academy sweeps the top 5 places.
Route 150/Fuji Azami Line
While Onoda is distraught that Arakita has to drop out, he's quickly reminded by everyone that it is just how it goes. Imaizumi and Naruko argue about who should pull Tadokoro in the remaining flat stretch before the climb to the end of the race, but they end up pulling together. However, Izumida speeds up and pulls a 500m gap over Sohoku before he drops out of the race, giving Sohoku a 6-4 man advantage. Shinkai then stretches it to 700m. Sohoku's third-years decide to call the first-years back because they will be pulled by the third-years before they drop out. While Imaizumi and Naruko both feel their incompetence in the race overall and want to drop out, Onoda finally experiences the combined power of the third-years, and he understands that it's a way of telling the first-years that it will be their turn if they get stronger. Kinjou decides not to drop anybody, as he still believes his 6-4 man advantage would hold firm in the flat course at Lake Yamanaka. Especially because Tadokoro pulls as much as he can before leaving them before the mountain climb anyway. Tadokoro promptly falls behind the moment Sohoku pulls even with Hakone Academy again, with Shinkai following suit soon after, as they climb to the finish together further afield.
Hakone Academy puts Toudou and Manami ahead to pull. Makishima intends to chase them with Kinjou, but Kinjou's left knee injury finally flares up, forcing him to drop back and retire. The first-years intend to carry him on, so he decides to change strategies before he retires. Therefore, Makishima briefly assumes the Ace spot. As a tribute, Hakone Academy aims to take the win by as big a margin as possible. Unbeknownst to them, Sohoku's strategy of 'no Ace' means the first-years and Makishima have a fair shot to assist or win the title, so long as one of them does beat Hakone Academy to the goal first, as Kinjou wanted at least one Sohoku jersey to take the goal. With his parting words and final orders given, he stops riding with just 20km from the finish.
According to Tooji, Kinjou's circumstance may be a blessing in disguise. The climb to the finish line is the steepest road to Mt. Fuji: Route 150, also known as Fuji Azami Line, and at the top of the Line, some 2000m, halfway up Mt. Fuji, is the finish line.
Meanwhile, Naruko unleashes his 'Sprint Climb' (which he later self-proclaimed it "Naruko Super-Flashy Climb") to pull the remaining Sohoku team with a speed that amazes Makishima, Imaizumi, and the spectators. He hadn't quite mastered the technique in the First-Year Welcome Race, but he performs it on a 20% super-slope, the exact kind of slopes he is poor at. It's still easier for Naruko to achieve than if Tadokoro did it due to their different body size. His riding style gains him instant fame, which he gladly accepts, even though Imaizumi thinks it dangerous to high five people while riding at high speeds, or glancing at the camera while not being aware of the road ahead. It soon impresses Onoda enough to say it is like a lap of honor for him. Imaizumi is worried Naruko will wear himself out, but Naruko leans right to the front of the bike, and uses his lower handlebars to unleash his "Armstrong Climb", a new move that finally makes Imaizumi jealous.
However, Naruko pulls the team as far as he could, hitting the barrier and getting tunnel-visioned (a sign of altitude sickness), until he can no longer see and grazes a side flag. He asks everyone to stay back, but asks Onoda to be his guide. As it turns out, Hakone Academy is only a left uphill turn away, and Naruko drops out of the race, unable to finish with Imaizumi and Onoda, and he finishes with a dramatic dismount and tumble to the grass, which leaves him with a gash on his head when he is in the medical tent. Ishigaki of Kyoto Fushimi also drops out from heat exhaustion, leaving Kyoto Fushimi with Midousuji as the sole rider.
Imaizumi then assumes the Ace spot, because under Kinjou's 'No Ace' strategy, Makishima knows that Toudou will assume the position as the Ace Climber. He and Makishima, as Ace Climber of Sohoku, will only wear themselves out to jockey for positions, and most likely not take the goal to keep each other in check. With that, Makishima becomes the assistant and tries to pull Imaizumi, but Fukutomi decides to jump ahead, and challenges Imaizumi to keep up, when he is surrounded by Hakone Academy riders and the cliff wall. Imaizumi hits the cliff wall, and jumps ahead to block Fukutomi, but 15km from the finish, Imaizumi decides to break away and attack, so Hakone Academy cannot deploy any tricks or feints.
Makishima and Toudou wear each other out, as Makishima won't allow Toudou ahead to assist Fukutomi. Their struggle lasts for for longer than intended or expected, Both are caught by Midousuji, who easily passes the tired Toudou and Makishima with no resistance, but Toudou sends Manami to chase Midousuji, and Onoda also goes as per Makishima's instructions. Manami then throws away his gloves and challenges Midousuji to a race to get to the Aces, rather than blocking him, because he wants a close race to "feel alive". Midousuji adjusts the race soon after, knowing Hakone Academy will have a 2-1 advantage should Manami catch up, so he baits Manami by stating the loser cannot pass the winner for the rest of the Inter High, handicapping Manami because the punishment would be applied to Fukutomi as well, but Manami accepts with 10km left of their race, as he likes a close fight.
When the news of Manami's position reaches the Hakone Academy members watching the Inter High, it surprises everyone but Kuroda, who thinks Manami is good at spotting opportunities to make moves rather than just picking changes in wind directions or taking advantage of the environment, and he knows that Manami deliberately held back in practice and their race for Hakone Academy's sixth Inter High member. Midousuji actually has found a worthy opponent in Manami, and claims he's the only person there he doesn't find 'gross'.
Further back, Onoda has to self-motivate to increase his cadence to catch up to Manami and Midousuji, but when he does, he is only on strict order to protect Imaizumi, so he tries hard to pull ahead of Midousuji, much to their surprise, and despite Midousuji being defended by Onoda, the race between him and Manami is back on. While the race does not involve Onoda, if they both lose to him, they will fight for second place, and the aces must remain in place.
Climber's Checkpoint (6km to finish)
- Imaizumi Shunsuke (0)
- Fukutomi Juichi (0:04)
- Midousuji Akira
- Manami Sangaku
- Makishima Yusuke (minutes)
- Toudou Jinpachi (minutes)
Onoda then decides to tail Midousuji after conceding he may not be able to block him for a long distance, but following so closely to Midousuji throws off his awareness of the road, and he slides off-course. While he maintains his balance and is uninjured, he loses more ground to Midousuji and Manami.
Race to Fukutomi
Midousuji wants to finish the race, so he declares the end of the race would be when one reaches Fukutomi. However, Onoda catches up, much to the boy's own amazement because he was riding hard with his eyes closed. This side-race ends in a 3-way tie when they pass Fukutomi, ensuring a fair fight between the three schools.
Onoda catches up to Imaizumi, but apologizes immediately for his inability to hold Midousuji back. Imaizumi calls him silly and tells him to stop apologizing for every time he fails an objective, as he has caught up to the front, which is more important and more difficult to do. Imaizumi is so impressed, he calls Onoda by his given name.
Imaizumi vs. Midousuji
Midousuji thinks Imaizumi is too busy catching up with Onoda, so he tries to pull ahead, but is quickly blocked by Imaizumi; they trade insults to each other, with Imaizumi noting he is becoming predictable. Imaizumi then tells Onoda to have a fair go at winning the race, as a 'launch-pad' tactic won't work on a climb and at such high altitude, thus fulfilling Kinjou's "No-Ace" policy.
Insulted, Midousuji then fervently consumes all of his energy bars and catches up. When he pulls ahead again, Imaizumi just shoulder-nudges him back, knowing he has very little strength. But Midousuji's antics became more and more childish, such as using Onoda as a shield to knock into Imaizumi, but with Imaizumi determined to take back the lead, he urges Onoda to fall back and get into the draft for long enough to get the lead back, and does so with 4.3km left in the race.
But with 3.6km to go, both Midousuji and Imaizumi unleash their 'final forms' and charge ahead, bumping each other as they head to the downhill section. Imaizumi then is on the inner line of a hairpin turn to get ahead, and while Midousuji's bike hits the gutter, he recovers to catch up. On the next sweeping right turn, Imaizumi uses his hips to block Midousuji getting in front for 500m until his frame cracks; because the break is minor and is not a terminal failure like brakes, chains or tires, he is able to continue. Midousuji, however, finally suffers from exhaustion as his left leg gives out, and he becomes consumed by the sight of Imaizumi's yellow behind in front of him, which reminds him of the sunset he saw when he rode back from hospital when he was young. Soon, Midousuji is unable to continue, and he violently collapses beside the road. Thus, all members of Kyoto Fushimi are out of the race.
Onoda vs. Manami
When Manami catches up with Imaizumi less than 3km from the race, it briefly gives Hakone Academy a 2-1 advantage, with Onoda seemingly trailing far behind. However, Imaizumi falls back, unable to continue at full strength with a damaged frame, and Onoda catches on to pass Fukutomi to try reaching Manami. While Imaizumi explains how simple their lack of strategy is, he smiles in relief that he has made the best decisions for the race.
Almost in the meantime that the news of Onoda vs. Manami filters through the race, Onoda manages to increase his cadence to break through Manami's 'wings' once, but when it was nearly 2km left of the race, Manami accelerated ahead with his 'wings', he breaks free and attempted to get to the 10th gear before the end of the race, as he has been given the green-light to ride freely by Toudou, a fact he admitted to Fukutomi when he and Makishima finally catches up to him and Imaizumi.
Manami attempted to climb on 10th gear before and lost speed, and it did momentarily, but he recomposed himself and successfully did so with 1km left of the race.
Onoda, however also found his second wind, and managed to catch Manami with 600m left, while taking awkwardly direct line to pull even with 500m left.
Day 3/Final Goal Results
- Onoda Sakamichi
- Manami Sangaku (<1s)
- Toudou Jinpachi (1.02)
- Fukutomi Juichi (1.23)
- Makishima Yusuke (1.41)
- Imaizumi Shunsuke (1.42)
Aoyagi found a vantage point to see the final 500m of the race when the announcers stopped broadcasting, so every spectator from Sohoku crossed the track to watch as both Onoda and Manami sprint for the finish, and despite trailing for most of the final 500m, Onoda won for half a wheel, officially dethroning Hakogaku's dominance of the races, but Fukutomi managed fourth, having made up some time and got up to fourth in the final 500m, leaving Hakogaku with second-third-fourth finish. Makishima, having to pull Imaizumi's damaged bike to the finish fell back to a fifth-sixth finish.
Onoda and Manami rides side-by-side, but they are too tired to even muster a hand shake. As they bumped each other final time before collapsing into the support team of their respective schools. Tadokoro thanked Teshima, Aoyagi, Miki and Sugimoto for supporting the team, and Onoda was later swamped by reporters wanting to interview him. While Naruko and Kinjou takes a ride to get to the podium from Lake Yamanaka's medical tent, which they make the ceremony with seconds to spare. When they step onto the winner's stage, they received a trophy and a bouquet of flowers, and Makishima cried on the podium, something Kinjou and Tadokoro never expected.
Manami becomes upset for losing the crown for the Hakogaku, but Fukutomi wants Manami to become gracious in defeat, and he will carry more burden to win back the title next year as Fukutomi, Shinkai and Toudou and Arakita are graduating. Izumida and Arakita stayed in the tent, while Midousuji slept for 18 hours straight.