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Arashiro makes Giro d'Italia debut

Yukiya Arashiro wants to keep his compatriots awake around midnight every day until the end of May, tuned in live on Japan's J-Sport channel, as he is eager to shine at the Giro d'Italia. The BBox Bouygues Telecom professional has become a famous sportsman in Japan after he and compatriot Fumiyuki Beppu last year became the first Japanese riders to complete the Tour de France.

"The Tour de France was a fantastic experience for me but I feel the same kind of excitement at the start of the Giro d'Italia," the rider from Okinawa told Cyclingnews in Amsterdam. "I love the Grands Tours. They are the most impressive cycling events. It's good for my head and my reputation."

Arashiro was satisfied with his ride in the prologue in Amsterdam. He completed the course in 108th position, 45 seconds down on stage winner Bradley Wiggins. "I rode ten seconds slower than I hoped but I'm happy, my condition is good," said Arashiro who got a taste of Italian cycling with Milan-San Remo, the Giro del Trentino and the Giro dell'Appenino prior to making his debut at the corsa rosa.

He's the fourth Japanese rider to line up at the Giro d'Italia. Masatoshi Ichikawa paved the way when he finished 50th overall with his Belgian Hitachi team in 1990. Daisuke Imanaka started the race with Polti in 1995 but abandoned during stage 14. The latest participant was Hidenori Nodera with Colpack in 2002. He finished 139th overall. Arashiro can't aim at being the first Japanese rider to complete the three weeks Italian race as he did in France last year, but he can still make history in three week's time.

"I hope I'll be the first Japanese to have completed both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia three weeks from now," he said. This is not his only goal, though. In his second year with Bbox Bouygues Telecom, he's now completely aware of the teamwork it requires. "If [Paris-Nice's stage 2 winner] William Bonnet has good legs, I'll help him to be well positioned for the sprints," he said. "I'll only play my own cards if I manage to enter a winning breakaway."

Bbox also has Thomas Voeckler, runner-up to Philippe Gilbert in last year's penultimate Giro d'Italia stage, in search of a stage win.

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