37-year old Fortunato Baliani invested forty minutes and twenty three seconds of his life and got 18 seconds back. Though other riders got better relative returns in today’s 11.4 kilometer mass-start hill climb up Fujisan, the wily Italian moved closer to the biggest prize.
Leaving nothing to chance, Baliani broke free with ten riders, including teammate and race leader Julián Arredondo Moreno (Team Nippo), moments into the stage. Critically, five teams - Bridgestone Anchor (Thomas Lebas, Blaise Sonnery, Miyataka Shimizu), Shimano Racing Team (Yoshimitsu Hiratsuka, Shotaro Iribe), Champion System Pro Cycling Team (Cameron Wurf, Chris Butler) – were able to deploy two or more riders into the break, whilst highly-placed Jaroslaw Dabrowski (Amore & Vita) and Yeung Ying Hon (Hong Kong National Team) left their teams behind.
As the leaders passed the halfway point, and the gradient began rising sharply to 22%, attacks fizzed and faltered. Butler, Baliani and Arredondo Morendo were able to dig deeper into their pain caves than their peers on the road and grimaced ahead. Two minutes later, the Nippo pair had opened up a 50 meter gap on Butler. Only four kilometers remained, but it wasn’t to be a hand-in-hand finish; the last two kilometers were reserved for a private party. After cautiously lifting one hand off the bars to see if a victory salute was plausible on the steep gradient, Baliani ended the stage with style.
INSIGHT FROM THE PELOTON
Ryota Nishizono (Bridgestone Anchor) | 60th in today’s stage; 36th on GC at 20’34″
“Thomas (Lebas) had to push himself as hard as he could to get the GC result. In additon to that, two other guys had to go up hard because our team classification was third place and the difference between us and Amore & Vita was only one minute. Miyataka and Blaise took part (in the break); Kenji, Hayato, and I were expected to finish without much damage to prepare for tomorrow’s stage. It was getting colder and colder as we got near to the summit but, as there was no downhill, the coldness didn’t bother us.
I went up slowly, so I didn’t see the situation myself. I collected the following stories from my teammates:
Blaise first attacked around the 6km point and a Hong Kong rider (Yeung Ying Hon) followed him. After that, Butler attacked hard but the counter-attack of Baliani and Moreno shut it all up. Around Uma-Gaeshi point (almost halfway) Butler attacked and only two Nippo guys followed him. Soon after that, (Nippo) counter-attacked. According to Thomas, Miyataka and Blaise, almost nothing could be done on the last half of the climb to co-operate together.
In my personal opinion, it is very difficult for Thomas to catch the two Nippo guys on GC. They have very good team strength and today’s result showed their (individual abilities are) very high. We have to make good use of Nippo’s move to get the third GC tomorrow; the time gap between Amore & Vita’s leader (Dabrowski) and Thomas is very small. In addition, Butler – a very good climber – is also dangerous considering the very hard course tomorrow.”
Andrea Tonti | Team Manager, Team Nippo (Riders 1st, 2nd, 11th, 37th, 43rd and 62nd on GC)
“Tomorrow’s race is hard and we want absolutely to win Tour of Japan. Baliani and Arredondo will race for Team Nippo winning. One or the other, it’s the same for us.”
[Note: Baliani's heart rate averaged 178bpm during the stage; average speed was 16.9kph]
Individual General Classification (Green jersey): Fortunato Baliani (Team Nippo)
Points Classification (Blue jersey): Maximiliano Richeze (Team Nippo)
King of the Mountains Classification (Red jersey): Fortunato Baliani (Team Nippo)
Teams General Classification: Team Nippo
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR