2013 Tour of Japan preview

Newly upgraded to UCI2.1 status for 2013, the 16th edition of the Tour of Japan looks certain to be a cracking race. From 19-26 May, 16 teams, including Italian ProTeam Lampre-Merida, will tackle a challenging 582-kilometre parcours which is not to be underestimated.

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 Team Nippo-De Rosa, is the only Japanese rider to have won, in 2004. A full report of last year s race can be found here.

WEATHER
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.

DIFFICULTY
Riders who raced the Tour of Japan last year already have a distinct advantage, given the parcours is a copy-paste [CiQ: just like the first two paragraphs of this preview please excuse me] from 2012. It will take longer to get dressed for the short-and-sweet prologue than it will to actually race it, but stages three through five have the potential to be brutal. The mass-start hill-climb up Mount Fuji looks like the toughest stage on paper, but the following day is guaranteed to hurt a whole lot more; minutes will be haemorrhaged by any rider not in top form.

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TEAMS BREAKDOWN
As a UCI2.1 ranked event, this year s Tour of Japan is open to UCI ProTeams (up to a maximum of 50% of all teams), UCI Professional Continental Teams, UCI Continental Teams and National Teams in accordance with UCI regulations. A maximum of six riders per team are permitted.

71 of last year s 93 starters were registered with the Japanese Cycling Federation, but that number plummets to 45 (out of 96 starters) this year as the race makes way for more international teams to underpin its 2.1 status. Champion System fields the most diverse squad, with six nationalities making up its team; the peloton comprises 17 nationalities.

Team Nippo-De Rosa (previously known as Team Nippo) stole the show last year, with Fortunato Baliani and Julian Arredondo Moreno taking first and second overall, following the duo s pugilistic one-two assault of the peloton in stages three and four. Both riders return this year, though a repeat is anything but guaranteed in the face of a stronger overall field.

First in the 2011 UCI America Tour, Lampre-Merida s Miguel Ubeto Aponte (Venezuela) is [Update 15.05.2013: was] a clear threat to a follow-up Team Nippo-De Rosa victory, as is 2013 Tour de Taiwan overall winner Bernard Sulzberger (Drapac Cycling). Kiwi Joseph Cooper (Huon Salmon-Gensys Wealth Advisors) is also in fine GC form. Sungbaek Park (KSPO) and Chanjae Jang (Champion System Pro Cycling) would usually be heading towards peak physical condition as their homeland s sole UCI race, the Tour de Korea, follows two weeks after Tour of Japan s conclusion.

Potential stage-winners abound, whether its Yukihiro Doi (back in the Continental ranks with Team Ukyo, after a stint with Argos-Shimano), Yuzuru Suzuki (Shimano Racing Team, and 6th overall in 2012), Ryota Nishizono or Tang Wang Yip (both Champion System Pro Cycling), Jai Crawford (Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisors), Luca Wackermann (Lampre-Merida), Sea Keong Loh (OCBC Singapore Continental) perhaps 15% of the field is in with a real chance of a stage victory.

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PROVISIONAL AND FINAL START LIST (ADDED 18.05.2013)

LEADER S JERSEYS
Four 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

Leader of Best Young Rider Classification White

PRIZE MONEY
Here s the breakdown: [To be listed once available]

Overall winner (individual) = Overall team = Overall team (Asian) = Overall KOM = Overall Points = Overall Young Rider =

Stage winner =

MEDIA OUTREACH
All official race information can be found at the Tour of Japan website. Daily snippets are being frequently made on Twitter and Facebook though translation software will be required if you don t read Japanese and Cycling iQ will be posting stage reports, with more stunning images from the tireless Sonoko Tanaka, on a daily basis. Furthermore, we re delighted to welcome back Ryota Nishizono, who will be providing daily insights from the peloton.

??????????? LIVE COVERAGE
Stage 2 (21 May) will be streamed live on roadracelive.net from 09:00 local time.
Stage 3 (22 May) will be streamed live on U-Stream and ICTV from 08:30 local time.
Should any live stages be added, they will be announced on Twitter using the hashtag #iidacatv

STAGES AND PROFILES

Stage 1 | Sakai (ITT) 2.65km
Sunday, 19 May 2013 (starts 13:40 local time)

Stage 2 | Mino 160.7km (11.6km + 7 laps of a 21.3km circuit)
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 (starts 09:15 local time)

Stage 3 | Minami-Shinshu 148km (12 laps of a 12.2km circuit + 1.6km)
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 (starts 08:45 local time)

Stage 4 | Fujisan (Mass-start hillclimb) 11.4km
Friday, 24 May 2013 (starts 10:00 local time)

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Stage 5 | Izu 146.4km (12 laps of a 12.2km circuit)
Saturday, 25 May 2013 (starts 09:30 local time)

Stage 6 | Tokyo 112.7km (14.7km + 14 laps of a 7.0km circuit)
Sunday, 26 May 2013 (starts 11:00 local time)

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