After becoming the first Japanese rider to have completed the Tour de France, crossing the line in Paris ahead of his compatriot Fumiyuki Beppu, Bbox Bouygues Telecom's Yukiya Arashiro is ready for his second season in the European peloton.
Currently training in Thailand with Korean team Geumsang Ginseng Asia with some of his former teammates at EQA Meitan-Hompo, including Shinichi Fukushima, Arashiro expressed his fondness for the country to Cyclingnews.
"I always enjoy coming back here because the climate is similar to the one of the island of Ishigaki where I was born, the terrain is suitable for long rides and I love Thai food."
2010 will be his second season with the French outfit, and while the squad is no longer a ProTour team it has a guaranteed start at the Tour de France. It's also the last year of the contract between the Vendée-based squad and the mobile phone operator. That means it will be a crucial season for Arashiro.
"Bbox is like an adorable family, so I'd like to continue with the same set-up," he said. "After my first experience, I hope for a second start at the Tour de France but more than that, I aim at a stage win in a Grand Tour. My ambition for 2010 is to simply win a race."
That would be a first for Arashiro who made the top 5 in a Tour de France stage at his first attempt. The 25-year-old has another wish: "I want to do the Tour de France again but I don't want to be the only Japanese on the start line. I hope that Beppu and Yukihiro Doi will be there too."
Beppu's future remains uncertain as he has signed contracts with two different teams but doesn't yet appear in RadioShack's roster, while his former team Skil-Shimano – with Doi – is far from certain to get a wild-card again.
Arashiro's provisional race program includes the Tour of Algarve, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Le Samyn, Paris-Nice, Gent-Wevelgem, the Three Days of De Panne, the Tour of the Basque country and a couple of French cup races in April.
His progression in professional cycling is likely to influence the future of Japanese cycling. His former team manager Akira Asada has high hopes to secure a title sponsor for a Pro Continental team in 2011 with the ultimate goal of having a Japanese squad riding the Tour de France. Arashiro and Beppu's participation to the Tour in 2009 had a huge media impact in the country of the rising sun.