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Earle, Ben Dyball (Huon Salmon-Genesys) and Matt Clark on the final climb up Bunya
Japan stage winner ready for GC battle, Dyball unlikely to start
The tally of hilltop victories continues to amass for Nathan Earle who most-recently dominated the finish at the end of a punishing day around Izu's Japan Sports Centre at the Tour of Japan. There could be even more in store for the rider who finished ninth-overall when the second part of his Japanese schedule begins at the Tour de Kumano.
With a number of the same teams staying on for Kumano, Earle said that knowing who to watch during crucial moments of the race will give the Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers squad the advantage.
"Having a few of the same teams racing is good because we know them now, who is strong and who can climb," Earle told Cyclingnews. "It's only an advantage really. It's a short but tough tour so I think we will tackle it as we did in Tour of Japan."
Earle, who has become a bankable asset for the Huon Salmon-Genesys squad laboured through the 4,500m vertical metres of climbing around Izu before unleashing one of his near-unbeatable kicks to the line and in doing so demonstrated just how far he has come in the last 12 months.
"It's a crazy course and I still can't make sense of the race booklet map," said Earle jokingy. "It's just up, down, left and right all day.
"I was very confident I could take the win and took the risk of going from about 350m out on the steepest part [of the hill] and managed to hold them off but I'd have to say it was one of the longest 350's I've done," he added.
Dyball unlikely starter for Kumano
Earle's Tour of Japan-winning teammate Ben Dyball expected to be in the mix at the upcoming Tour de Kumano until the svelte climber was struck down with illness shortly after winning atop Fujisan and set a new record up the brutal ascent - a feat he says is yet to fully sink in. His participation in the race is yet to be determined.
"Ever since I was told that I would be doing the Tour of Japan I have been targeting the Mount Fuji stage," Dyball told Cyclingnews.
"Leading up to the tour I had been setting some of my best ever power figures so I knew that I was going well but to win the stage that I have been targeting for so long is definitely very special. Even now it is still a bit hard to comprehend what I have achieved. Breaking the record makes the win even harder to believe but it just confirms all of the hard work that I have put in.
"I've been a bit sick since the tour finished so at the moment I am just hoping that I am healthy enough to start Kumano and play a part in the tour. If all goes well I will be looking at the second road stage which appears to suit my characteristics the best," he added.
Team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston later confirmed to Cyclingnews that Dyball's inclusion for the four-day race was yet to be decided but hoped to take to the line tomorrow.
If Dyball fails to start the opening 700m prologue the team will still retain two possible candidates for the overall classification with Jai Crawford who is also 'fresh' off Japan. Crawford has years of experience racing the Asia circuit and will form a solid partnership with Earle for the more demanding stages.