This weekend’s Tour de Okinawa will see some of Asia’s highest profile riders go head-to-head with one of Australia’s largest squads in Drapac-Porsche. The event commences on Saturday with a criterium in Nago city, but it’s the following day’s 200 kilometre road race which is the big draw card as Japan’s longest one-day race.
Defending champion Yukiya Arashiro won’t contest this year’s race yet the Meitan Hompo team he won with in 2008 still enters the race as favourite. While Arashiro is absent last year’s runner-up Miyataka Shimizu will return with the team, now known as EQA-Meitan Hompo-Graphitedesign.
Meitan Hompo isn’t placing its hopes solely on Shimizu’s shoulders either. Its lineup also includes Takashi Miyazawa who claimed line-honours in both 2006 and 2007.
Miyazawa won’t be the only former champion starting this year’s race either, with the Hong Kong National Team entering Wong Kam Po in its line-up. Despite being 36 years-old Kam Po’s reputation will ensure he’s watched closely throughout the race, as a victory would take Kam Po’s win count to five in Okinawa.
Drapac-Porsche’s efforts at the Asian race will be lead by 23-year-old Dean Windsor. The squad, and indeed Windsor, are no stranger to racing in the region with the outfit making regular appearances in their northern neighbour’s races. Windsor has already contested the Tour de Taiwan and Tour de Hokkaido this year, claiming a stage podium finish at each and the rider from Bathurst will be hoping for a similar result this Sunday.