Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Japanese Cyclocross Worlds selection race

Kosaka-san (Suwata Racing), Japanese cyclocross champion and  winner of the category 1 race, booking his place at the World Championships in the Czech Republic

On a weekend in Kawagoe my clubmates in Arai Racing Club suggested that I might like to watch a cyclocross race by the Arakawa river at Yoshini. Expecting a small event I could hear a crowd shouting on the other side of the embankment as I rode up. This proved only to be a somewhat hysterical teenage tennis tournament, howls and shrieks greeting every shot. Oh the pressure. I could see distant cyclists beyond, and made my way over to the quiet side. That's how I like sport - everyone doing it rather than just watching - the opposite of football.

Winner of the women's cyclocross race, a Peking Olympics MTB rider

I'd missed the third category race, which was won by an Arai member who is S category (shit-hot?) on the road and had showed his class on the club ride the day before.

The children's ride made me wish I had brought my son who was joyfully slobbing out at his grandma's house. It was great to see these pocket rockets tackling the tricky bits, and especially to see a commited dad sheperding his son along after doing his own race.

What fatherhood is all about

The first and second category races ran together, for an hour and for forty minutes respectively on flat but in places technical course. A place in the upcoming World Championships was on offer for the elite winner. The men's winner put the hammer down from the gun and rode at an impressive speed, attacking everything hard and brilliantly on every lap. He is clearly in a class of his own leaving good riders well behind.

The two Arai club members in the race showed well.

Waka Takeda (18) of Arai Racing Club  well up in the women's race on the first lap - they didn't stay this clean! She is a strong road rider new to 'cross.

Arai cyclist giving it his all

But there was no catching Kosaka-san

Cyclocross: gardening with a bike

A Japanese friend said that the standard of cyclocross in Japan is not high compared with the European scene. The distance from the elite international scene and the expense of competing is prohibitive, so unsurprisingly there are no Japanese riders in the top 140 UCI rankings fro 2009-10.

However the achievements of Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu  in the 2009 Tour de France show what can be achieved. Having ridden with some very fit club riders who have the incredible strength to weight ratio that the slight Japanese frame affords, I feel sure that it is only travelling distance, and the lack of a structure for building young riders and taking them to race in Europe, that is stopping us seeing, for example, a Japanese King of the Mountains in the Tour. Remember Luis Herera out of Colombia?


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