“Improve my time trialling”. Blended inconspicuously into the profile page of Huon Genesys’ Ben Dyball, this simple statement, summarising Dyball’s overarching 2013 objective, today manifested in the 24 year old’s biggest win in his relatively short cycling career. A record fell, and the unexpected way in which the stage unfolded seemed to shock everyone, including Dyball’s team.
Images: Sonoko Tanaka
2005 was a pivotal year for professional cycling. It was the year the UCI introduced the concept of the Continental Circuits – the division of the global cycling calendar into five distinct geographic regions – of which Asia would be a slice. Isolation and development were both possible outcomes; nobody could truly have known. The newly-formed UCI AsiaTour came alive in September 2005 with Iran’s Tour of Milad du Nour.
Several months earlier, in May 2005, another equally significant event occurred when the ninth edition of the Tour of Japan was run; the introduction of Mt Fuji. Despite a compact length of 11.4 kilometres, the average 9.97% gradient – with patches at 22% – and 1,137 meter elevation gain was a race game-changer; notwithstanding the fact that incorporating Mt Fuji into a pro cycling event was, in and of itself, a stroke of marketing brilliance guaranteed to attract interest from cycling fans and laypeople alike.
Possibly the most least written-about aspect of the Mount Fuji stage, and one of the elements that makes it so exquisitely sadistic, is the fact riders first warm up on trainers, ride a 2.1km neutral section, then come to a halt so they can begin the stage from a standing start:
Until Dyball’s incredible performance today, the previous record for this climb was held by Spain’s Sergio Pardilla Bellón, who recorded 40:21 on his way to winning to 2009 Tour of Japan. Fortunato Baliani came close to toppling that last year, but came up short by a mere two seconds.
Vini Fantini initially led the peloton before a select group spirited away from the peloton less than halfway into the stage. This group comprised Dyball and Nathan Earle (both of Huon Salmon – Genesys Wealth), Darren Lapthorne (Drapac), Baliani, Arredondo and Simone Compagnaro (all Team Nippo – De Rosa), Thomas Lebas and Damien Monier (Bridgestone Anchor).
After five kilometres, as expected, Arredondo and Baliani were off up the road – but unlike last year, they had Dyball for company. The former U23 Australian National Road Cycling Champion was at this stage 15″ in arrears, but he held this gap – much to the consternation of Baliani, who repeatedly turned to look back at his travelling companion – before eventually overtaking a struggling Arredondo.
With three kilometres remaining, Dyball had reduced the gap further to 10″, whilst Monier had also found the strength to move into third; a five second gap separating him and Arredondo. Inside the final kilometre, Dyball caught Baliani’s wheel and the Italian found himself in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar environment; he was the mouse, his heart beating an average 180bpm. With 500 metres between them and the finish line, Dyball finally pounced; though Baliani was able to rise from his saddle in response, the required power never came. Rounding the tight apex of the final right-hand corner, Dyball afforded himself a last check over his left shoulder before meeting his destiny. After punching his right fist skyward, his hand fell immediately back to stop his computer which, if fired simultaneously with the starter’s gun, would read 39:47.
FUJISAN HONOUR ROLL
2005: Andrey Mizourov (KAZ) 40:27
2006: John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) 40:56
2007: Francesco Masciarelli (ITA) 41:38
2008: Vincenzo Garofalo (ITA) 43:01
2009: Sergio Pardilla Bellón (ESP) 40:21
2010: Cristiano Salerno (ITA) 40:49*
2011: NO RACE
2012: Fortunato Baliani (ITA) 40:23
2013: Ben Dyball (AUS) 39:47
[*2010 marked the start of the Mt Fuji stage as a mass-start hill climb, where it had previously been an ITT.]
Individual General Classification (Green jersey): Fortunato Baliani (Team Nippo – De Rosa)
Points Classification (Blue jersey): Pierpaolo De Negri (Vini Fantini – Selle Italia)
King of the Mountains Classification (Red jersey): Davide Viganò (Lampre-Merida)
Best Young Rider Classification (White Jersey): Julián David Arredondo (Team Nippo – De Rosa)
Teams General Classification: Team Nippo – De Rosa
INSIGHT FROM THE PELOTON
“I have to admit I was a bit nervous before today’s queen stage. This time last year I awoke with fever. I was so relieved to wake up today and confirm that my body was normal. But I also felt different; even scrambled eggs, something so routine and consistent, tasted different.
A tense morning.
Preparation for an 11-kilometer hill climb is almost the same as for a time trial. The tension lifted as my focus shifted to processing each step. I began to relax as I felt my muscles releasing.
From the gun, the race was hard. My strategy was as follows:
1. Follow the front group, if possible, until halfway
2. After the halfway point, focus on my power output and watch out for the other GC guys
The numbers I followed were based on the benchmarks set while training. I followed them fairly well, but the last four kilometers were unbelievably hard.
I want to add more, but it is time to sleep – there is still another hard day in Shuzenji…”
STAGE 4 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR