An enthusiastic Fumiyuki Beppu will finally get his 2010 season under way this weekend when he lines up for RadioShack at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.
The Japanese rider spent January embroiled in contract negotiations with former squad Skil-Shimano, but was earlier this month cleared to make a move to the US's newest ProTour team. His deal with RadioShack is a return of sorts for Beppu, who spent three seasons as part of much the same formation at Discovery Channel.
"The training camp in Calpe[, Spain] this month was great. Everyone was very welcoming and I'm pleased to be here," Beppu told Cyclingnews on Wednesday.
The contract polemics meant Beppu missed any opportunity to start racing in early February, as he has done for the past two seasons. Despite the delay, he will line up for this third successive appearance at Omloop on Saturday and his second shot at Kuurne on Sunday.
"I kept going from last year and trained well over the winter," he said. "I like the spring Classics, they're tough races, but I've come from a mountain bike background which does help."
Beppu will form part of a strong RadioShack roster for the weekend's races. Despite doubts over Gert Steegmans recovery from a crash at the Volta ao Algarve, Sebastien Rosseler's stage win at the same race has seen him emerge as a possible contender.
Regardless of who is named as the team's protected rider, Beppu said he is ready to use his experience to support his teammates' ambitions. "I heard about Steegmans' crash this week. The Classics are long races and I will aim to be strong at the end to help riders like Rosseler wherever I can."
Kick-off on the cobbles, dreaming of a return to France
Although he has started Paris-Roubaix on two occasions (2007 and 2009), the considerable depth of RadioShack's Classics' roster means Beppu's Spring schedule is yet to be fully confirmed. However, after a making his Tour de France debut last year, the 26-year-old has revealed a passion for multi-day races.
"I'm not sure whether I will race Flanders and Roubaix. We have a lot of riders and the team will put forward the strongest team possible," he said.
"I like stage races. Last year I raced the Tour de France and was able to collect the prize for the most aggressive rider on the final stage into Paris, which shows I can be strong at the end of longer races."
With RadioShack firmly fixed on Lance Armstrong's goal of an eighth Tour de France title, Beppu will have to wait a while longer for a second trip around France. But, as one of only two Japanese riders to have finished the event, he is hopeful he will have the opportunity to pass an even bigger milestone at some stage in the future.
"The biggest goal of my career is a stage win at the Tour de France," he said. "But in terms of this year, it's new season and I'm at a new team so I'm just aiming to perform as strongly as I can."
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