His legs stretched out of the back of the Trek-Segafredo team car at the start of the final stage of the Tour de Pologne, Fumiyuki Beppu shrugged his shoulders and chuckled wryly when he was asked what his best moment of the 2017 season has been. It turns out that – so far – there hasn't really been one.
"It's not been my best year in terms of personal success, it's been quite average," Beppu admits. "I've mainly been focussed on working for my teammates. But I'd like to get some good results for me, not doing so is not good for the confidence.
"After this I'll do the [Cyclassics] Hamburg and some one-day races, and I'd like to go onto the World Championships. But at the moment there aren't so many spots for Japan in the World Championships and the UCI keep on changing the regulations for the number of places. In the Nations World Ranking, Japan is below 30th so there's not so many places for that."
As might be expected, Beppu is down to do the Japan Cup, and then will line up for some end-of-season criteriums in his home country. "There's a big one on about October 23rd or 24th this year, lots of spectators - last year there were 80,000 people there, and I've already won it twice," he said. Then after that comes the Saitama Criterium, a few weeks spent seeing relatives in Japan, then a return to Europe and his closest family, who live near Lyon, France. "Basically my life's in France, now," he says.
At 34, Beppu remains, nonetheless, the best ranked Japanese rider in the UCI Asia Tour Ranking, a much-valued domestique who turned pro way back in 2005. And with a contract for 2018, he has every intention, he tells Cyclingnews, of continuing with his career all the way to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
"This year I didn't do a Grand Tour, so it's a little bit of a pity. But I have been a professional for 13 years and I should keep pedalling and doing my job. I would like to keep going till Tokyo. Obviously it'll depend on my condition, but that's what I hope."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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