It was his stage for the taking and Taiji Nishitani nailed it. Nippo – De Rosa’s Fortunato Baliani clinched his second Tour of Japan title, while the race’s sole ProTeam, Lampre-Merida, will leave Tokyo almost empty-handed.
Images: Sonoko Tanaka
Baliani’s winning margin of 1’11” underscored a dominant display by Australian and Japanese Continental teams, whose riders secured 17 of the top 20 places on the final general classification. Japan’s Ryota Nishizono, in his first ProContinental year with Champion System Pro Cycling team, was the best of the local riders, finishing 3’46” behind Baliani – surely reinforcing the decision by Champion System team manager Ed Beamon to recruit him.
With an annual budget of “about EUR700,000”, Team Nippo – De Rosa’s manager Andrea Tonti told Cycling iQ that “only money” stood between his team and a bid for ProContinental status. When asked how much additional funding would be needed, he stated simply “another one million”. Tokyo-based Nippo Corporation, founded in 1907 as a producer of asphalt, now the largest company of its kind in Japan, would be the obvious source of this additional funding, given its annual revenues of approximately JPY393,000,000,000 (USD3.85b). With its small annual production it appears doubtful that financial and equipment co-sponsor De Rosa, the bicycle brand with a devoted following in Japan – it’s biggest export market – would be able to put in more than it does currently.
Zooming back out, other questions need to be asked: will Lampre-Merida be back next year with a stronger team? Will they be invited back at all? 11th on individual general classification (Elia Favilli), 7th on overall team classification, and a KOM jersey, courtesy of Davide Viganò, would be considered a great effort for a Continental squad, but what should a ProTeam be expected to achieve? Assuming the Tour of Japan has sufficient budget to cover the participation of one ProTeam, surely Cannondale Pro Cycling, which counts a Japanese rider, Nariyuki Masuda, amongst its squad, as well as having the Asia-Pacific headquarters of its naming sponsor in Osaka, might offer better value for all? Not to mention the fact Lampre-Merida was only days away from flying in a poisonous story that could have permeated local media, let alone the specialist cycling press.
Regardless of which ProTeam/s arrive for the 17th Tour of Japan next year, results from AsiaTour races in recent years all point to a new paradigm which suggests it is no longer good enough to send a “good enough” team to 2.1 and hors catégorie races in Asia.
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
Bridgestone Anchor’s French duo, Thomas Lebas and Damien Monier before the race start. They would finish 4th and 3rd on GC, respectively.
The classification leaders: De Negri (Points), Baliani (GC), Arredondo (Best Young Rider), Viganò (KOM). All would conserve their placings, and keep their jerseys, by the day’s end.
Maximum elevation during today’s stage, 20 metres.
Baliani striking his now-famous pose mid-way through the race. Possibly one of the most entertaining characters in the peloton.
Already a veteran at 30, Utsunomiya Blitzen’s Makoto Nakamura
Champion System’s Mart Ojavee leads Ryota Nishizono. Note the aero Giro Air Attack helmet of teammate Adiq Othman, who finished 4th in the final sprint.
Team Nippo – De Rosa takes the lead in front of an estimated 125,000 spectators.
With the available kilometres fading, Floris Goesinnen (Drapac Cycling), Craig Lewis (Champion System Pro Cycling) and Eric Sheppard (OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling) have a crack.
Fortunato Baliani, signing off for another year.
STAGE 6 RESULTS
FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION