Following visits to Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Korea and Iran, the 2012 UCI AsiaTour finally lands in Japan; one of Asia s true cycling culture centers. Having missed 2011 due to Japan s natural disasters, Tour of Japan is back for its 15th edition.
TOUR OF JAPAN BACKGROUNDER
First held in 1996, Tour of Japan is less a tour of Japan than a series of circuit races taking place in, or close to, major civic centers on the main island of Honshu. The race has followed a fairly consistent format over the years, though a couple of additions along the way, namely the iconic Mt Fuji hill climb (a feature of Tour of Japan since 2005) and a prologue (since 2010), have shifted the balance of power back towards all-rounders but not so significantly that sprinters are pushed out of the GC game. The first edition was won by then-35 year old Frenchman Jean-Philippe Duracka, whilst Shinichi Fukushima, now riding for Malaysia s Terengganu Cycling Team, is the only Japanese rider to have won, in 2004.
Japan can be very wet at this time of year though, historically, temperatures generally fall between 15-25 C in mid-spring. Humid and sticky conditions are also a feature of the southern part of Honshu island leading into summer. In any event, weather is such a mixed-bag at this time of year that four seasons in one day can be expected.
With a prologue that will be over in less than four minutes, two rest (transfer) days, 30 minute (estimated) hill climb up Mt Fuji, and three out of four stages that are flat, Tour of Japan could not be described as a hard race on paper. It will be the audacious assaults by local teams that will hurt the peloton s legs. Japan is home of the long-range attack, so expect to see displays of solo bravado that would leave most seasoned fans shaking their heads in equal parts dismay and wonder.
Teams must have a minimum of four, and maximum of six, riders and four officials. 10 of the 16 teams are Japanese, whilst 71 out of 93 starters are registered with the Japanese Cycling Federation. 17 nationalities make up the peloton.
China s Champion System team, the only ProContinental team in the race, has had an anonymous year and desperately needs to pull out a win. Champion System s Chinese riders have struggled in Europe and the team s key sprinters (Anuar Manan and Aaron Kemps) have always been one lead-out man short of being bunch-sprint contenders; though returning star Will Clarke might surprise. Even with its second-division status, Champion System is up against several powerful Continental squads. Terengganu team seems to have all bases covered with Korea s Chan Jae Jang for the sprints and Fukushima for the overall. Bridgestone Anchor is awash with potential stage-winners, Team Nippo s Maximiliano Richeze is in terrific form and Shimano Racing Team s Yusuke Hatanaka also looks to be having a good year.
*Iran s Tabriz Petrochemical Team was on the original entry list but did not start; being replaced by Wong Kam Po s Hong Kong National team.
LEADER S JERSEYS
Three jerseys will be awarded at the conclusion of each stage:
Leader of General Classification Green Leader of Points Classification Blue
Leader of King of the Mountains (KOM) Classification Red
Here s the breakdown: [To be listed once available]
Overall winner (individual) = Overall team = Overall team (Asian) = Overall KOM = Overall Points =
Stage winner =
Apart from the official Tour of Japan website, Tour of Japan updates are being available on Twitter and Facebook though only in Japanese. Cycling iQ has other commitments this week, so won t be on the ground in Japan. However, we re delighted to be receiving images from the fun-loving and globe-trotting Sonoko Tanaka, who is paying her own way to follow Tour of Japan for our viewing pleasure.
STAGES AND PROFILES
Stage 1 | Sakai (ITT) 2.65km
Sunday, 20 May 2012 (starts 13:40 local time)
Stage 2 | Mino 160.7km (11.6km + 7 laps of a 21.3km circuit)
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 (starts 09:15 local time)
Stage 3 | Minami-Shinshu 148km (12 laps of a 12.2km circuit + 1.6km)
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 (starts 08:45 local time)
Stage 4 | Fujisan (Mass-start hillclimb) 11.4km
Friday, 25 May 2012 (starts 10:00 local time)
Stage 5 | Izu 146.4km (12 laps of a 12.2km circuit)
Saturday, 26 May 2012 (starts 09:30 local time)
Stage 6 | Tokyo 112.7km (14.7km + 14 laps of a 7.0km circuit)
Sunday, 27 May 2012 (starts 11:00 local time)