Growth of cyclo-cross in Asia reflected in Japan's Worlds performances
While Belgium may be the world's power in cyclo-cross, and the USA might be the biggest emerging market for the discipline, Japan is also a hotbed of 'cross and the top racers from that country took part in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Koksijde on Sunday.
Yu Takenouchi, the Japanese national champion and runner-up Keiichi Tsujiura took part in the elite men's race, but with few UCI points and a poor starting position on the grid, they could not hold off being lapped by winner Niels Albert from Belgium.
In the elite women's race, Ayako Toyooka and Sakiko Miyauchi put up a good fight, and were only overtaken by Marianne Vos on the final lap, finishing just behind 31st place.
The future of Japan's 'cross team is bright, as junior racer Toki Sawada put in an extraordinary performance to take 19th place, while Kota Yokoyama and Michimasa Nakai finished in 41st and 42nd, respectively.
Enjoy this gallery of the Japanese riders in Koksijde, courtesy of Sonoko Tanaka.