Yukiya Arashiro became the first Japanese rider to make the top ten at the road race world championship by finishing ninth on Moorabool Street in Geelong on Sunday. With one lap to go, his compatriot Fumiyuki Beppu was also helping him out in the front group. This is the birth of a new cycling nation at world level and a great inspiration for the rest of Asia.
“I like circuits like this,” Arashiro commented on the finishing line. “When I watched it, it made me think I could do well. My luck was that when a big breakaway went, many teams have ridden behind and we have just had to follow. In the last climb, I was at the limit but I recovered for the final sprint, and I realised that there was a handful of great sprinters.
“I followed Oscar Freire and Matti Breschel. This is the first time Japan has made the top ten but there’s more to come. I think it’s very encouraging for next year. I’ll try to do better than ninth in the future.”
Beppu (30th) was also delighted with Japan’s showing in Melbourne. Yukihiro Doi was their third man and finished 72nd after playing his part in the team’s success.
“All three of us have done our best and Yukiya and myself were up there at the end”, Beppu said. “We also communicated well. I asked Yukiya how he was. He said he wanted to wait the sprint. He was pretty confident to get a good position. For me the last climb was too difficult, but I gave all I had for Yukiya to be well placed at the end.”
“This isn’t bad for Japanese riders, isn’t it?” Beppu continued. “We have improved a lot in the last five years. This race will give us good publicity all over the world. In the U23 race, the Hong Kong riders have also shown that Asians can ride their bikes pretty well.”
Japanese riders are in a higher demand in European and American teams now. A few hours before the start of the road race, Arashiro heard the news that Europcar would take over the sponsorship of the Bbox Bouygues Telecom team that gave him a start at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France this year. Just like his team captain Thomas Voeckler, he’ll stay faithful to the team that gave him a chance to turn professional, although he said that he had been approached by one of the world’s biggest teams in recent days.