Stage wins in the OceaniaTour and AsiaTour have already been tucked away in Nathan Earle’s pocket for 2013, but the Tasmanian can now add a Tour of Japan stage to his palmarès, which gets more impressive, and international in its scope, with every year.
Images: Sonoko Tanaka
Following yesterday’s Mt Fuji triumph by teammate Ben Dyball, Earle (Huon Salmon – Genesys Wealth Advisers) built on the Australian legacy that began in the first Tour of Japan (1996) with Baden Burke. Australian riders have since won 21 stages at this race; 50% more than the next most-successful nation, Italy, can claim. However, Italian riders also have a special relationship with the Tour of Japan, having won three out of all 15 editions held.
Of course, we all know Team Nippo – De Rosa’s resident Italian Fortunato Baliani prevailed in 2012, with teammate Julián David Arredondo taking second overall; 22″ in arrears. With one stage remaining this year, and an even larger gap between Baliani and Arredondo – again first and second, respectively, on GC – it looks assured Baliani will increase his country’s percentage of Tour of Japan race wins from 20% to 25%.
“The leader never will be attacked. It’s the law!” exclaimed Nippo’s Team Manager Andrea Tonti, when asked on Thursday if Arredondo, who currently wears the white jersey of the Best Young Rider classification, would have permission to attack his teammate in the quest for his own GC ambitions. Indeed, Arredondo has been unfailingly supportive of Baliani since the 38-year old threw down his challenge to all-comers on Mt Fuji.
As their visibility grows, both Earle and Arredondo could be deemed flight risks but, in the case of the Colombian, Tonti certainly doesn’t fear what might happen should Arredondo feel constrained by his support role and look to spread his wings. “I am proud if (one of) my riders will go to a big team; I have a Continental team, it’s normal! A few years ago you can remember some of my riders (did this) – Rubiano Chavez (Androni Giacattoli), Luca Ascani (Farnese Vini), Junya Sano (Vini Fantini), Max Richeze (Lampre-Merida) – and next year I think there will be more.” When asked for an assessment of what Dyball achieved at Fujisan, Tonti simplied replied “we were all very surprised by his performance, because we didn’t know he was such a strong rider.”
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
“Finally, we have arrived in Tokyo. From Izu, we drove about 4 hours and arrived to our hotel around 7pm.
I did relatively well today; I kept my GC position. I’m usually not so good at sprinting but, after a 140km hilly stage, it’s a totally different story; it all depends on how much of your legs are left. My performance so far, being inside the top 10, is almost what my coach and I expected, relative to my training.
It’s evident Baliani is stronger than Arredondo in this Tour of Japan, so the hierarchy in Nippo is clear; supporting Baliani is natural for Arredondo now, but I don’t think it causes problems for him.
I was very surprised by Ben Dyball, and the Huon Genesys team, yesterday. I feel his type of talent – he’s like Chris Butler – probably means he will get stronger and stronger in the next few years. Apparently Jai Crawford was the leader in Iida (stage three), but his performance required an overhaul of team strategy. I think Australian riders do so well here simply because they have raced here for decades; they have more experience and information compared to other countries.
It’s a relief that Dyball (in 5th place on GC) is not optimal with his positioning. He has tremendous ability and is very strong on climbs but I found in both hilly stages, Iida and Izu, he wasted energy many times. He also lost time when sprinting against me today; the difference is only 20” now. Tomorrow, I will try to sprint as hard as possible and pray he cannot make up the gap.”
“Halfway around the last lap, I was pretty confident I was going to win. I’d have said to myself, I have to win, I have to win. But it’s quite intimidating riding with the stronger teams; with ProContinental and a ProTour team here. I just tried not to think about how many talented riders were here. Coming into the finish, I knew I felt good. When I got the gap I knew that I’d won.”
STAGE 5 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE