Contribution by Miwako Sasaki
Five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault returned to the peloton, as a Tokyo rider for the second Meiji Jingu Gaien Criterium on Monday in Japan.
Hinault is visiting Japan with his wife Martine, from February 10 to 16. He followed an invitation by Sata Foundation, the organizer of the cyclo-sportive "Courir Pour La Paix"(Ride for the Peace). That event is held in Chailly, near Dijon in France. Hinault is a godfather of this event and he also participated in it last summer. The symbol of the ride is "Madonna of Nagasaki", a head of a wooden statue that miraculously survived the atomic bomb attack in the second world war in Nagasaki, Japan. It's also the symbol for the peace and humanism. Hinault came to Japan to see "Madonna of Nagasaki" and also to visit Hiroshima, site of another nuclear attack.
Hinault started his trip by visiting the capital, Tokyo, to participate in the Meiji Jingu Gaien Criterium. Initially he was slated to only start the Open Ride, an opening exhibition cycling event. But at his own request he also wanted to return to racing and try the Master's Criterium over a distance of twelve 12 kilometres. The 53 year-old former World Champion, however, did not have a rider's license, but managed to register with the Tokyo Cycling Federation for the race.
28 Japanese riders started with Hinault for the Master's Criterium in crisp, but sunny conditions. "I have been training two or three times a week now, but I'll ride this race to just enjoy it," Hinault made clear he had not much ambition to put the hurt on his competitors as he did when he was racing as a professional. Le Blaireau (the Badger, his nickname) finished the race in tenth place.
Before returning to Brittany, Hinault will also visit Kyoto on Friday. He will participate in another cycling event for his Japanese fans.