By Miwako Sasaki
The 12th Tour of Japan will start Sunday, May 18 and run through May 25 over 879.8 kilometres. The UCI 2.2 event, part of the Asia Tour, features the same stages as last year, including a tough mountain time trial on Mount Fuji.
Sixteen teams will participate the race, including eight foreign teams. Skil-Shimano will be the only Professional Continental Team, but all of its racers will be Japanese. The Continental teams A- Style Somn from Cyprus and Stegcomputer-CKT-Cogeas from Switzerland may be unfamiliar to Japanese fans as those teams will be making their race debut. After dominating the race three times (1999, 2001 and 2002), the more familiar Polish Mroz-Action-Uniqa will be back to contest the race.
Tour de France stage winner Leon Van Bon (Trek-Marco Polo Cycling Team) is biggest name for this year's race. The Dutch racer recently won a final stage of Tour de Kumano in Japan last Sunday, and he is a favorite for the first stage of Tour of Japan, too. But for the general classification, the door is open for others, including Japanese racers, who excel at hill climbing.
Tour of Japan 2008
May 18 - Stage 1: Senboku Circuit, Sakai City (Osaka) , 140.8km
May 19 - Stage 2: Todaiji Temple - Nunome Dam Circuit, Nara, 146.2km
May 20 - Stage 3: Old Imai Paper Wholesale House - Mino Japanese, Paper Village Circuit, Mino, 164.7km
May 21 - Stage 4: Iida Station - Shimohisakata Circuit - Matsuo - Stadium, South-Shinshu, 155.3km
May 22 - Rest & transfer day
May 23 - Stage 5: Mount Fuji ITT, 11.4km
May 24 - Stage 6: Shuzenji Station - Japan Cycle Sports Center, Izu, 112.5km
May 25 - Stage 7: Hibiya city - Ooi Wharf Circuit, Tokyo, 148.9km
Teams for Tour of Japan: Skil-Shimano, A-Style Somn, Nippo-Endeka, Seoul Cycling, South Australia.com-AIS, Stegcomputer-CKT-Cogeas, Trek-Marco Polo Cycling Team, Mroz-Action-Uniqa, Meitan Hompo-GDR, Team Bridgestone Anchor, Aisan Racing Team, Matrix-Powertag, Pearlizumi-Sumita-Ravanello, Team Comrade-Giant, Narsima Frend, Team JBCF