Fumiyuki Beppu, the first Japanese rider to make cycling's top tier, has announced he will retire at the end of the year at the age of 38 in a post on his personal website on Saturday.
Having raced at the World Championships as a junior, Beppu moved from Japan to France after graduating from high school, where he raced with the La Pomme Marseille team in 2003 and worked to overcome the odds against him amid the culture shock. He finished 13th in the U23 Paris-Roubaix but focussed mainly on amateur competitions to get results so he could get noticed.
"At that time, there were no Japanese professional riders, so I didn't know how to become a European professional rider, so I was climbing up invisible rungs of a ladder one by one," Beppu wrote. "It was around the time when the Internet was finally becoming widespread, and there wasn't as much information as it is now.
"It was astronomical odds for a Japanese rider to become a professional," he wrote. "It was a strange land, but with the support of my family and many people, I clenched my teeth and kept looking only in front of me.
"Life was not smooth sailing until I became a professional, and I was always standing on a cliff. I couldn't afford it, but I spent all my youth on my dreams and it was all I could do. It was a harsh situation, but it wasn't a pain at all, and I think it laid the foundation for what we are today. It was a very thrilling and irreplaceable time."
After a successful 2004 season where he won a stage at the Valle d'Aosta and the mountains classification, Beppu's dream was finally reality when he became the first Japanese WorldTour rider with the Discovery Channel team.
He stayed with the team for two more seasons before moving to Skil-Shimano for two years, then to RadioShack and Orica-GreenEdge before heading back to Trek-Segafredo where he raced from 2014 to 2019. He stepped down to the ProTeam level with Nippo-Delko in 2020 before joining EF-Nippo along with the sponsor this season.
Masatoshi Ichikawa was Japan's first Grand Tour finisher, racing the Giro d'Italia in 1990 and racing for the Division 1 Navigare-Blue Storm team in 1994. But Beppu was the country's first to sign to a WorldTeam and the to finish the Tour de France along with Yukiya Arashiro (now with Bahrain Victorious) in 2009. Other top professionals include Takashi Miyazawa (Tinkoff-Saxo 2012-2013), Nariyuki Masuda (Cannondale, 2013), and Mayuko Hagiwara and Eri Yonamine (Tibco) in the women's ranks.
After a fifth of a century living his dream and competing for contract renewals, Beppu decided to step back from racing and forge a new path after "Traveling through seven teams from the WorldTour and Pro Continental, the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España, and the five major monuments - Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Il Lombardia, etc., and riding the Beijing Olympics and the London Olympics as a representative of Japan.
"Europe was the main country, but I have visited more than 32 countries and have raced all over the world. In terms of mileage, I ran from the earth to the moon and spent a lot of time with my bicycle.
"In the future, I would like to make use of my experience to become a bridge between Japan and Europe. I intend to act as a cycling promoter that promotes, educates, and fosters cyclists. I will continue to ride my bicycle, although the speed will be different. I've lived as a racer so far, so if I don't have a more exciting and challenging way of life than ever before, I'll be gone."
Beppu said he had a non-cycling project already in the works and thanked his supporters for being there throughout his professional cycling journey.
"Even in a foreign country far away, I was always connected through text messages - when I was happy, when I was having a hard time, when I wanted to cry, I was always happy and sad. Having spent such time with you has made my competitive life happy. I am really grateful to everyone who supported me. The only regret is that I couldn't race in front of you at the end."
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