By Miwako Sasaki
The 10th Tour of Japan will be held starting next Sunday, May 14, and will finish a week later on May 21. The stages are almost the same as the last edition, except that Stage 5 will be a bit shorter, therefore the total distance also will be shorter (732.55 km for last edition). Only the first stage in Osaka and the final stage in Tokyo are flat, fit for the sprinters, and the remaining four stages are all hilly. The key stage is the climbing time trial that ascends the famous Mount Fuji, which is scheduled for next Friday. The riders must climb 11.4km, from 800m to 2000m.
Last year's Mount Fuji time trial winner Andrey Mizourov (Capec) will come to Japan again. The Kazakh will be the biggest favourite for the race, as he was second overall on general classification in the last edition. He was also the first Asian ToJ champion last year. Mizourov already won a stage in the Tour de Bretagne Cycliste (April 25-May 1) in France this year, and was also 5th overall on general classification.
Italian Universal Caffe-C.B. Immobiliare will come to Japan for the first time, with Latvian Raivis Belohvosciks. The ex-Lampre rider won KBC Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde in 2003, thanks to his excellent time trialing skills. The experienced Ukrainian Vladimir Duma will also come with him.
South Australia.com-AIS team will make its first appearance in the race too, after many successes by the Australian national team in the ToJ. All its riders are coming from the national track team, and they will take the initiative in the flat stages, like last year, when the two flat stages were dominated by Australians: Matthew Goss in Osaka and Nicholas Sanderson in Tokyo.
Not only foreign riders will be favourites for the Tour of Japan. Skil-Shimano also will try to win the race. The Japanese team merged with the Dutch team since last year, and four Japanese riders had their second season in Europe until early May. Japanese champion Hidenori Nodera was one of them, and he got a lot of experience there with his teammate, Tomoya Kano, Yukihiro Doi and Masahiro Shinagawa, who was the first Japanese rider in Paris-Roubaix this year. They will try to win the 10th edition of Tour of Japan, as the only Pro Continental Team of the race.
A final note: Belgian cyclo-cross team Fidea will also come to Japan, with world cyclo-cross champion Erwin Vervecken and Bart Wellens. Although there are no muddy roads in the Tour of Japan for them, everybody knows that an excellent cyclo-cross rider is also an excellent road rider. Will they be a dark horse for the Japanese race? Veel succes!
Stage 1 - May 14: Senboku Circuit, Sakai City (Osaka) , 140.8km
Stage 2 - May 15: Todaiji Temple - Nunome Dam Circuit, Nara, 146.2km
Rest day - May 16
Stage 3 - May 17: Iida Station - Shimohisakata Circuit - Matsuo Stadium, South-Shinshu, 155.3km
Rest day - May 18
Stage 4 - May 19: Mount Fuji ITT, 11.4km
Stage 5 - May 20: Japan Cycle Sports Center - Japan Cycle Sports Center, Izu 110.48km
Stage 6 - May 21: Hibiya city - Ooi Wharf Circuit, Tokyo, 148.9km
Total race distance: 713.08km
Cycling Team Capec (Mizourov, Dymovskikh, Chernyshov, Dmitriyev, Zaitsev, Medyannikov)
Team Konica Minolta (Augustyn, Kachelhoffer, Potgieter, M.Velits, P.Velits, Rabie)
South Australia.com-AIS (Lloyd, Hutchinson, Ford, Dawson, Finning)
Purapharm (Wong, Wu, Tang, Lam, Chan, Cheung)
Giant Asia Racing Team (McCann, Griffin, Peng, Erler, Lloyd, Lai)
Team Universal Caffe-C.B. Immobiliare (Di Nucci, De Nobile, Belohvosciks, Duma, Gilioli, Nikandrov)
Fidea Cycling Team (Vervecken, Wellens, Stybar, Van Santvliet, Pauwels, Verstraeten)
Skil-Shimano (Kano, Nodera, Hirose, Yamamoto, Shinagawa, Doi)
Team Vang Cycling (S.Fukishima, K.Fukushima, Inoue, Miyazawa, Mizutani, Shimizu)
Aisan Racing Team (Beppu, Tanaka, Shinbo, Hirose, Akita, Ayabe)
Miyata-Subaru (Mifune, Kakinuma, Suzuki, Tsusue, Takano, Nakamura)
Team Matrix-Powertag (Miura, Hashikawa, Nakagawa, Sano, Mukagawa, Nagano)
You Can Specialized Nissyo (K.Suzuki, Hirose, Muroi, Yamane, Y.Suzuki, Tanaka)
Team Bridgestone Anchor (Tashiro, Iijima, Hatanaka, Murayama, Naganuma, Fukuhara)
Narushima Frend (Nito, Obata, Yoshida, Sudou, Takanashi, Kimura)
Sumita Ravanello Pearl Izumi (Yoneyama, Iino, Eshita, Asano, Ayers, Taniguchi)