Japanese event attracts big crowds, exciting racing
Two days of cyclo-cross kicked off Saturday, February 9th at the second annual CX Tokyo on the small, man-made island of Daiba’s Daiba Park. Race promoter Ryoji Abeki built off last year's successful event that drew close to 5,000 fans by adding a second day of racing for amateur categories, a larger expo area, and features such as a fly-over and a second section of beach.
The added features and invitees such as Americans Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson, Australian rider Lewis Rattray, and three Kona Cyclo-cross riders, Spencer Paxson, Barry Wicks, and Eric Tonkin, drew close to 13,000 spectators from the Tokyo area to the sandy venue.
In the elite men's event, Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) was able to escape on the last lap to take the win from the current Japanese Champion, Yu Takenouchi (Koruba/Speranohamu), and Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld's Tim Johnson for the win.
As he did the previous year, Takenouchi attacked from the gun with Powers, Johnson, Hikaru Kosaka (Utsunomiya-Blitzen Cyclocross Team), Paxson and Tonkin in tow, but after just a few laps, mistakes in the race’s two long sections of sand took their toll and Takenouchi, Powers, and Johnson separated themselves front the rest of the field.
Mistakes in the deep sand were costly during the 13-lap event and Johnson was the first of the three leaders to pay when he crashed in one of the tight, sandy corners at the halfway point of the race, losing touch with Powers and Takenouchi for the last time.
Takenouchi drew hope from the crowd of an upset over the American favorite Powers as he continued to ride cleanly through the technical course, maintaining a 10 to 15-second gap over the American until he started to tire with just three laps remaining. Takenouchi was forced to dismount and run sections of the sand he had previously ridden, and Powers capitalized by closing the gap to the leader, connecting with only two laps to go.
The two leaders rode wheel-to-wheel for the second-to-last lap, but Powers pounced as they took the bell and Takenouchi was unable to respond. Powers quickly opened up a five-second gap, made no mistakes in the sand, and crossed the finish line seven seconds ahead of Takenouchi. Johnson rolled in for third place ahead of Paxson and Tonkin.