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15th Japan Cup - 1.1
Japan, October 22, 2006
Neo-Pro Riccò flies to win the Japan Cup
Another new champion born in Japan
By Kei Tsuji/www.cyclingtime.com
The 15th edition of the Japan Cup was held on October 22 in Utsunomiya, the same parcours where the World Championships were held in 1990. In the final sprint, Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir) jumped out and finished on the line in front of Ruggero Marzoli (Lampre-Fondital) and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel).
In the final phase, the rider from Modena could not get a support from his team-mates, but he fought his way out by himself. Javier Mejías (Saunier Duval-Prodir) was the man who contributed most to Riccò's success, because it was his attack made the race move.
"I'm so happy to win in front of the good sprinters, Marzoli and Gusev." Riccò announced after the race, "I'm a climber, but I thought it would be a better to stay with the others and finish in sprint." The 23 year-old Italian has finished his neo-pro season with a delightful victory.
As a tradition, the Japan Cup has invited foreign teams. Going back the past races, you can find great champions, like Gilberto Simoni, Andrea Tafi, Eric Zabel and so on. For the local tifosi, this is the only chance to see the ProTour riders in Japan, and that's why this race has grown as the most popular cycling event. This year was no exception; the organizer has invited four ProTour teams, Discovery Channel, Lampre-Fondital, Saunier Duval-Prodir and Bouygues Telecom.
A great amount of the Japanese fans, about sixty thousand, gathered at the Utsunomiya Forest Circuit, tough the race lacked the defending champion Il Piccolo Principe, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital). The crowds showed that the popularity has never stopped growing.
According to the Disco's roster, it was obvious that the team, directed by Johan Bruyneel, has come to win it. Fumiyuki Beppu (Discovery Channel), called "Fumy," was said to be the leader of the team. The first Japanese ProTour rider who wears the red-white national champion jersey was able to stay in front until the final bell rang, but then entrusted the task to Gusev.
How it unfolded
As autumn is drawing on, it was a cool morning when 65 riders and the 13 team cars got started to the mountainous circuit. They passed 11 laps, 151km in total.
About this course, one of the favourites Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) expressed his impression before the start. "This is really like a Classic race," said the Clásica San Sebastián champion. "The climb is hard, but short. I found that this course is very much suited to me. I'm ready to win it."
It was Koji Fukushima (Team Vang) who attempted to go clear soon after the starting pistol, and then ten Japanese riders caught him. The bunch, controlled by ProTour teams, left the eleven go and the time gap grew rapidly.
Two riders were dropped from the breakaway, leaving Masahiro Shinagawa, Yoshimasa Hirose (Skil-Shimano), Kazuhiro Mori, Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team), Koji Fukushima (Team Vang), Ken Hashikawa (Matrix Powertag), Yusuke Hatanaka, Kazuya Okazaki (Japan National Team), Shinri Suzuki (Miyata-Subaru) to go ahead, gaining two minutes in the first two laps.
But the bunch was keeping the pace steady, and the gap remained under three minutes. When the nine-man breakaway reached the last three laps, the pursuit began in earnest, headed by the Sauniers and Discos. Then Javier Mejías (Saunier Duval-Prodir) bridged to the leading group and drew away everyone in front. The Spanish rider got a big gap over the bunch, but was caught in the final lap.
At 5km to go, there were only five riders in the leading group, all ProTour, Gusev and Devolder (Discovery channel), Marzoli and Szmyd (Lampre-Fondital), and Riccò; it seemed that Disco and Lampre were the favourites. In the final sprint, Szmyd showed a sharp acceleration for Marzoli, but Riccò was in a good position, just behind the Lampre duo. Finally, the first-year pro jumped out and finished nipped ahead of Marzoli by just a few inches.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Miwako Sasaki
Images by MakotoAYANO/www.cyclingtime.com
1 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 3.58.18 (38.09 km/h) 2 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 3 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel 4 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel 5 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre-Fondital 0.10 6 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.41 7 Takashi Miyazawa (Jpn) Cycle Racing Team Vang 8 Xavier Florencio (Spa) Bouygues Telecom 0.43 9 Hidenori Nodera (Jpn) Skil-Shimano 0.57 10 Shinichi Fukushima (Jpn) Cycle Racing Team Vang 11 Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Skil-Shimano 12 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Discovery Channel 13 Guido Trentin (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 14 Yasutaka Tashiro (Jpn) Japan National Team 15 Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Cycle Racing Team Vang 1.01 16 Taiji Nishitani (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team 1.32 17 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Japan National Team 4.18 18 Trent Lowe (Aus) Discovery Channel 4.41 19 Yoshimasa Hirose (Jpn) Skil-Shimano 20 Javier Megias Leal (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 21 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Myata-Subaru 22 Koji Fukushima (Jpn) Cycle Racing Team Vang 23 Mashahiro Shinagawa (Jpn) Skil-Shimano 4.47 24 Takumi Beppu (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team 4.50 25 Tomoya Kano (Jpn) Skil-Shimano 26 Nariyuki Masuda (Jpn) Myata-Subaru 27 Satoshi Hirose (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team 28 Kam Po Wong 29 Fuyu Li (Chn) Marco Polo Cycling Team 30 Miyataka Shimizu (Jpn) Cycle Racing Team Vang 4.54 31 Kazuhiro Mori (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team 7.28 32 Makoto Iijima (Jpn) Japan National Team 8.15 33 Atsushi Takano (Jpn) Myata-Subaru 9.21 34 Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 35 Kin San Wu (HKg) Purapharm 36 Makoto Nakamura (Jpn) Myata-Subaru 37 Ken Hashikawa (Jpn) Matrix 38 Morris Possoni (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 39 Pierre Drancourt (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 9.25 40 Kuei Shiang Peng (Tpe) Giant Asia Racing Team 12.27 41 Keng Hsien Chen (Tpe) 42 Yusuke Hatanaka (Jpn) Japan National Team 12.56 DNF Tomoya Sano (Jpn) Matrix DNF Alberto Fernández De La Puebla (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir DNF Kazuyuki Manabe (Jpn) Japan National Team DNF Benjamin Noval (Spa) Discovery Channel DNF Wang Yip Tang (HKg) Purapharm DNF Walter Bénéteau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom DNF Takeaki Ayabe (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team DNF Masahiko Mifune (Jpn) Myata-Subaru DNF Kojiro Nakagawa (Jpn) Matrix DNF Kai Tsun Lam (HKg) Purapharm DNF King Wai Cheung (HKg) Purapharm DNF Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom DNF Fan Hsin Chu (Tpe) DNF Naoki Mukaigawa (Jpn) Matrix DNF Rongxi Zou (Chn)
Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com