2013 Tour of Japan stage 1: Sakai ITT

Winner of the final stage of last year s Tour of Japan, Aisan Racing Team s Taiji Nishitani picked up where he left off, putting his long-range sprinting ability to good use with a strong ITT performance in today s opening stage of the 2013 Tour of Japan in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture.

Images: Sonoko Tanaka

Last year s winner, Fortunato Baliani (Team Nippo De Rosa), registered a solid, but not spectacular, performance, checking in 15? behind Nishitani. KSPO s Joon yong Seo, a stage-winner in last year s Tour of Thailand, finished runner-up, with Nishitani s teammate of eight years, Kazuhiro Mori, in third. The combined performance of Aisan s riders was enough to elevate the Nagoya-based team managed by Fumiyuki Beppu s older brother, Takumi into first place amongst the team rankings.


LEADERBOARD Individual General Classification (Green jersey): Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team) Points Classification (Blue jersey): Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team) King of the Mountains Classification (Red jersey): N/A Best Young Rider Classification (White Jersey): Joon yong Seo (KSPO)

Teams General Classification: Aisan Racing Team


Ryota Nishizono (Champion System) | 13th in today s stage; 13th on GC at 0 09?

Nippo broke the peloton in the third stage last year so, until then, it s important for GC contenders, like me and Adiq (Othman), not to lose time. Adiq s condition is relatively good, I think. Of course, we will do our best at the Mt Fuji stage this year. Since last year, the Shuzenji stage [CiQ: Stage 5, held at the Continental Cycling Center in Shizuoka Prefecture] is 50 kilometres longer than in the past. It s a big difference, because it s a very hard stage. Even after 90 kilometres, the peloton is almost broken. Every year, 10-20 riders don t start the next day. It s a very aggressive day. It s difficult to beat the Nippo guys and some of the pure climbers up Mt Fuji, but we have a chance in Shuzenji to get the time back.

I ve looked at several riders in Lampre and Vini Fantini, but not many of them are climbers; most of them are classics riders, sprinters or rouleurs. Looking at their recent results and from my experience, Nippo may again take control of this race, especially at Mt Fuji. According to my feeling at Trentino and last year s experience, (Juli n) Arredondo is stronger than the average ProTour climbers. You could see this at Langkawi; he beat every ProTour rider, so even this year we have to watch out for Nippo. From Drapac, Darren Lapthorne looks strong, I think. But only Nippo has three cards to play: Arredondo, Baliani and Compagnaro.

Tomorrow is a transfer day, with the race convoy heading to Mino, Gifu Prefecture, approximately 250km to the northeast of Sakai. At time of writing, fair weather is expected, with temperatures forecast to be between 17-29 C.

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Reigning Japan National ITT Champion, Ryota Nishizono, gets some face-time with local media.

Two of South Korea s biggest road cycling talents, Chan jae Jang (Champion System Pro Cycling) and Sung baek Park (KSPO) catch up.

As always, the morning featured a criterium which does not count towards the Tour of Japan classification which was watched by an estimated 61,000 spectators.

Lampre-Merida, the sole ProTeam in the Tour of Japan newly upgraded to 2.1 status this year gave the organizer some bang for its buck in the criterium.

Apprehensive: Craig Lewis tentatively opens the door of his team s car. The rain stayed, but at least the temperatures were spring-like.

Juli n Arredondo (Team Nippo De Rosa) studies the start list

A sport for young and old. Now get those clap sticks clapping!

Quite a wet day, eh mate? Drapac Cycling s Thomas Palmer finished in 17th, 10? behind Nishitani.

Joon yong Seo riding into 2nd place.

Kazuhiro Mori blasts off. He would finish third overall a mere three minutes and thirty-one seconds later.

Kohei Uchima, 4th placed overall after today s stage.

Does anyone have a photo of Taiji Nishitani sans smile? One of the most consistently-happy guys in the peloton -and for especially good reason today.

The team to beat: Hideto Nakane, Juli n Arredondo, Fortunato Baliani, Kohei Uchima, Simone Compagnaro, Shinichi The Legend Fukushima



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