The episode opens with the last 50 meters of the race, and we see Sakamichi and Manami racing until the very end. Right before the opening credits start, we see both of their tires reaching the finish line. However, it’s not clear who crossed it first. After the opening credits, we see who crossed the finish line first.

And the winner is…

… Sakamichi!

We get to see Sakamichi and Manami talking to each other after their bikes cross the finish line, and we see that Manami has taken the loss much better this time. He’s disappointed, of course, but he’s not angry and bitter like he was after losing at the previous year’s Inter-High. After this, both of them collapse around the same time. Fortunately, their respective support crews are there to catch them.

At this point, the “cooling off” begins. We see the next two riders cross the finish line, and one of those riders is Imaizumi. After he crosses the finish line, he sees Onoda and comes to a stop on his bike. Onoda manages to get up and Imaizumi gives him a hug. Awww. This was a really sweet scene, and you can see how much Imaizumi has changed over the past year. These two characters have developed a camaraderie as teammates at this point, and the fact that these two ended up being the only riders left in the race from Sohoku probably helped cement that camaraderie.

We also get a scene between Manami and Arakita, and we see Arakita trying to cheer up Manami. For me, it was interesting to see the normally abrasive Arakita dialing that attitude back and sounding as if he genuinely cares about Manami and how he must be feeling after losing the race.

Teshima, who ended up having to forfeit the day’s mountain tag due to dropping out of the race, is happy about Sakamichi winning the Inter-High, and is grateful that he didn’t quit bicycle racing after all. But it’s not all seriousness at this point, though, when Issa pops in and drags Teshima out of the tent to go to the awards ceremony. We see all of the Sohoku riders who dropped out getting a ride to the ceremony, and it was rewarding to see Teshima being able to share his gratitude with Sakamichi in person.

We also get a scene of Izumida crossing the finish line. While he’s a little disappointed that Hakone Acadmey lost again, he isn’t angry and bitter about it. In fact, he thinks about how hard Manami worked over the past year and how he had never given Manami encouragement during that time. He vows to talk to Manami and thank him for all his work when he sees him at the tent. And we see just that at the awards ceremony when it’s time for the top three riders in the race to be acknowledged. I appreciated seeing Izumida telling Manami that getting second place at the Inter-High is an honor and that he should hold his head high.

But what I wasn’t expecting was seeing Izumida talking with Sakamichi. Izumida isn’t angry with him, and in fact, after acknowledging that the race could have gone either way, he thanks Sakamichi for a good race. Up to this point, we had seen Izumida and the others from Hakone out for revenge against Sohoku for their loss at the Inter-High last year, but it seems experiencing a second loss helped to humble Izumida quite a bit. Right at the end of their interaction, Izumida asks Sakamichi a question, and I wasn’t at all surprised by Sakamichi’s response. It’s just the kind of person Sakamichi is, after all.

There was one scene in here that puzzled me, though. We see one of the race staff entering a medical tent and commenting that they swore there was a racer lying in here before. We get a shot of Midousuji’s jersey, and then the rest of the episode takes place at the award ceremony. I was expecting to see Midousuji in the crowd, but we never see him after that scene in the medical tent. Since there was no payoff, I was left wondering why that scene was included. My only guess is that later in the series, this scene will be referenced, likely by Midousuji in a flashback.

Going into this episode, I really had no idea if Sakamichi or Manami was going to win the race. From a storytelling point of view, it really could have gone either direction. When all is said and done, though, I think Sakamichi winning was the better choice. This allowed the audience to see how Hakone Academy reacted to losing for a second year in a row. As a viewer, I thought the payoff here was worth it.

Sadly, there hasn’t been an announcement about another season of Yowamushi Pedal. If there ends up being another season, I hope we won’t have to wait four years for it.

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