By Miwako Sasaki
The 104th edition of Paris-Roubaix had a newcomer. Japanese rider Masahiro Shinagawa (Skil-Shimano) started the hell of the north Sunday, in what's believed to be the first appearance by a Japanese rider in the legendary race.
The 24 year-old was Japanese U23 champion in 2004 and turned professional last year with Shimano-Memory Corp. It was hardly his first experience of European racing, though; Shinagawa came to Belgium as a 15 year-old and rode many kermis races in Flanders for four years. He was 17th in the first stage of the Tour of Belgium last year.
As the first Japanese entrant in Paris-Roubaix, Shinagawa was interviewed by the international media before the start in Compiegne. It was a historic moment for Japanese cycling and Japanese fans will be hoping this won't be the last appearance by a Japanese rider in Paris-Roubaix.
Shinagawa's dream ended after just 20 km when he punctured in te first hour of racing. Although this young Japanese got a taste of the hell in the Voiture Balai, his experience of the queen of the classics just started yesterday. He will come back again, like many riders in the world who love Paris-Roubaix, and he will arrive in the velodrome in Roubaix someday.