Champion System Pro Cycling Team today advanced its position as the leading investor in Asian road cycling talent with the addition of reigning national champions Ryota Nishizono (Time Trial, Japan) and Chanjae Jang (Road Race, Korea). China’s Xu Gang, who also recently renewed his national champion status, returns for his second season in a team hedging on the Asian Century.
Ryota Nishizono (pictured above) is no stranger to Cycling iQ readers, having been our inside guide during the 2012 Tour of Japan. The affable Tokyo University student, then riding for Japanese UCI Continental team Bridgestone Anchor, finished 28th overall in that race, but went on to win his country’s national time trial championship the following month – interestingly, ahead of fellow countryman Junya Sano, who will also enter the Professional Continental ranks next year with Vini Fantini – and capped off the season by finishing GC runner-up at the Tour de Hokkaido in September.
With this announcement, Nishinozo joins Japanese riders Fumiyuku Beppu (ORICA-GreenEDGE), Miyazawa Takashi (Team Saxo – Tinkoff), Nariyuki Masuda (Cannondale Pro Cycling), Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) and Sano in the top two UCI divisions of professional road cycling; Japan’s place in the European peloton may be a relatively recent phenomena, but it is certainly neither fragile nor one-dimensional.
When Cycling iQ spoke with Chanjae shortly after a crash-laden fifth stage of the 2012 Tour de Korea, the then-yellow jersey spoke of his ambitions to lead the way for his peers:
“There are some very talented riders in Korea. When I get the yellow jersey, there is one thing I’d like to say. That is many of the talented Korean riders are only residing in Korea; they are not going worldwide. I want them to have the opportunity to practice their skills outside Korea. That is what I really want.
There are no top professional riders in Korea. I would like to be the first ProTour cyclist from Korea; so young riders in Korea would be inspired by this and maybe have dreams to become a rider like me one day. That kind of situation would make me the happiest; more than a single victory.”
Before signing to Champion System, the 23 year old was one of 35 Korean cyclists settled comfortably into the UCI Continental ranks; he is now one step closer than any of them to achieving the ProTour goal.
Finally, as much as Cycling iQ generally despises publishing press releases verbatim, I’ll make an exception for two reasons: 1) it’s getting late, and; 2) it’s an informative piece penned by my favourite PR man (and hardest-working-communications-guru-on-the-circuit) Sean Weide [Note: however, I will make the case that Will Clarke technically wasn't riding for Champion System when he won stage 2 of the 2012 Tour Down Under...].
Champion System Adds More National Champions
Hong Kong, SAR – The Champion System Pro Cycling Team will count five reigning national champions among its 2013 roster, including new signees Irish road champion Matt Brammeier, South Korean road champion Chan Jae Jang and Japanese time trial champion Ryota Nishizono.
WorldTour veteran Gregor Gazvoda will also become part of Asia’s first pro continental team, General Manager Ed Beamon announced Monday, while Chinese national road champion Gang Xu makes his return to the squad. Canadian road champion Ryan Roth, whose signing was previously announced, completes the roster of national champions.
“Having national champions representing five nations and three continents is a strong indication of how interesting and diverse the Champion System team is,” Beamon said. “We are especially proud to be broadening our Asian base. Having a South Korean and Japanese national champion on the team validates our commitment to finding the best talent in Asia and providing them the opportunity to fulfill their potential on a world stage.”
Brammeier is a three-time Irish national road champion (2010-2012) and two-time national time trial champion (2010 and 2011). The 27-year-old comes to Champion System from Omega Pharma-Quick Step. He was runner-up on Stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar this year. In 2011, he was runner-up on Stage 6 at the Tour of Austria. Signing with the team ends a frustrating few months and has him anxious to get rolling, he said.
“It’s going to be an exciting year and what I hope is a step forward in my career,” Brammeier said. “I have spent the past two seasons on some of the world’s biggest teams in mainly a supporting role. So I am quite confident I can play that role at a good level now. However, next year I want to make a step up and put some more pressure on myself, play my cards a little more and put some results on my palmares. I also want to pass on my experience helping some of the younger guys. and, of course, play a supporting role to our sprinters and climbers when and where I am needed.”
Gazvoda, 31, arrives from Ag2r-La Mondiale. The three-time Slovenian national time trial champion (2005, 2008 and 2010) was runner-up in that event this past season. In 2011, he was the overall winner of the Tour of Qinghai Lake and champion of the single day Tour of Vojvodina I.
“I am honored to join a team that is young, motivated and eager to progress,” Gazvoda said. “Cycling in Asia is developing very fast and I am proud to be a part of the first Asian professional cycling team and ready to give my best to help our team be more successful.”
Jae Jang, 23, won Stage 3 of the Tour de Korea this year, led the race for two days and was runner-up on Stage 2 of the Tour of Thailand. Also a past stage winner at the Tour de Seoul (2010), he arrives from the Terengganu Cycling Team. His father is head coach of the Korean national team.
“I look forward to being the part of the team and am also the first Korean to join on,” Jae Jang said. “I have heard that Europe and American racing are totally different styles, so I really want to experience that.”
Nishizono, 25, was runner-up at this year’s Tour de Hokkaido and comes to Champion System from the Bridgestone-Anchor team. He was the winner of Stage 1 and race leader for a day at the Tour de Hokkaido in 2011.
“I am very happy to be joining Champion System Team as an Asian rider,” Nishizono said. “The team gives me great opportunity to be a world-class cyclist and I feel the responsibility to show Asian riders have the potential to compete the highest level races. I would like to contribute largely to the team with my hill climbing ability and toughness in stage races.”
The re-signing of Xu, a four-time national road champion for China (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012), will be celebrated at Wednesday’s official team launch at Science Park Hong Kong. A press conference at 7 p.m. will be followed by a fun ride at 8 o’clock. Xu finished third on Stage 4 of the Tour of Japan and is a past stage winner at the Tour de Korea.
“I’d like to thank the team for giving me a platform to showcase myself and for helping me when I was having difficulty,” he said. “My teammates and the team staff helped me blend in very fast and become more mature. For 2013, I hope the team can offer me more support and help me get even closer to my dream.”
Champion System, a leading Hong Kong-based custom cycling clothing manufacturer with offices in New York, was the first cycling apparel company to both own and be title sponsor of an elite international team. In 2013, the team will race in the company’s new Razor Lite jersey.
“It’s the most technically advanced jersey we have ever made, featuring multi-panel construction and state-of-the-art fabrics,” Champion System Vice President of Sales and Marketing Charlie Issendorf said. “It’s now part of our custom line, so it’s available to all our customers.”
Champion System won five races in its inaugural season – two of them coming from Will Clarke (Stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under and the prologue of the Tour of Japan). Craig Lewis won Stage 2 of the Tour de Beauce and Clinton Avery won the BaseCamp International race presented by Verizon Wireless. Beamon said the team’s final race of the season exemplified how far the Asian riders came in their first season. At the Tour of Fuzhou in China, Champion System placed four riders in the top 15 to win the team classification, best Asian team and Greater China team honors.
“Our first year did not come without challenge,” Champion System Executive Manager Louis Shih said. “But we are happy and felt that our first effort in establishing a pro cycling culture in Asia is well rewarded. My congratulations to our team at Tour of Fuzhou. Their good result is a great way to end our first season.”
The latest signings add to those previously announced: Canadians Ryan Anderson and Roth, American Chad Beyer, German Fabian Schnaidt and Dutchman Bobbie Traksel. Non-Asian riders returning from the 2012 roster include Clinton Avery of New Zealand, Americans Chris Butler and Craig Lewis, Matthias Friedemann of Germany and Mart Ojavee of Estonia. Beamon said he expects to add additional Asian riders before the team’s roster is complete.