September 19/99 2:34 am - Report From Hokkaido-Part 1
Posted by Editor on 09/19/99
Tour de Hokkaido, Japan
(courtesy Kris Westwood)
Note: These reports are a few days old - Kris has has trouble getting a reliable internet connection. The Prologue was actually September 15th. Part 1:
The Tour de Hokkaido got under way today with a 4.2 km prologue individual time trial. This race was held on a fairly technical circuit in a park in Obihiro City, a town known for its wine. The course was mainly on narrow bike paths, with a tough headwind for the first half, followed by a fast tailwind section before a difficult hairpin corner a few hundred metres before the finish line.
Besides some mechanical problems experienced by a few of the Japanese riders, there were no unusual incidents to report. Charles Dionne set a very good time about half way through, which still had him in third place until the last few riders finished. Frenchman Philippe Mauduit's benchmark time was not seriously challenged, though Pascal Choquette came within two seconds to set the second fastest time. Finally, the fourth-last rider off, Sergey Yakovlev took two seconds off of Mauduit's time, putting the Frenchman in second and relegating Pascal to third. Charles ended up eighth.
Yakovlev, who also rides for Nippon-Hodo, is from Kazakhstan, and just raced in the Tour de l'Avenir. I have heard that he is Asian champion, though that is subject to confirmation.
We will be starting tomorrow's stage with two riders comfortably near the front of general classification. Not only that, but we get second position in the following vehicles' caravan, which makes me happy because I can see the race.
Until tomorrow - Kris Westwood
1. Serguei YAKOVLEV 4.2 km in 5'19.48" (47.4 km/h)
2. Philippe MAUDUIT at 1.72"
3. Pascal CHOQUETTE at 4.24"
4. Junichi SHIBUYA (JPN/Bridgestone Anchor) at 4.68"
5. Ken HASHIKAWA (JPN/Bridgestone Anchor) at 5.34"
8. Charles DIONNE at 6.85"
21. Robin BAILLIE at 13.48"
34. Bruno LANGLOIS at 21.17"
55. Martin ST-LAURENT at 31.14"
95 riders started, 95 riders classified
Today's first stage of the Tour de Hokkaido did not go at all well for the Canadian team. Charles Dionne finished a creditable eighth, and three other members of the team were with him in the main pack, but Pascal Choquette was taken out of the race in a stupid accident, and we had more mechanical incidents than we would have preferred in a race where getting to the riders is very difficult.
The stage got under way under bright and sunny skies for the 168 kilometres from Shikaoi to Kitami. The first 23 kilometres were all uphill over the first (and biggest) mountain pass of the Tour. As the grade of the climb steepened a few kilometres before the summit, riders started to lose contact with the leading pack. Among them was Bruno St-Laurent, who has been suffering from a persistent knee injury this year and has trouble warming up. It should also be added that Bruno had an unfortunate incident with a camera tripod in the parking lot before the start, which luckily
only resulted in some broken spokes and a few choice words addressed from a prone position on the pavement.
A brief downhill and a twisty road along a lake was followed by another steep climb. Both Pascal Choquette and Rob Baillie had problems with their back wheels and had to be serviced by the Mavic neutral support vehicles. Pascal got back to the pack quite quickly, but Rob, who flatted at a less fortunate moment, was only able to get back on in the ensuing downhill.
No conclusive attacks had been made up to this point, but as the pack took stock on the long descent, two riders rode off the front: Ryohei Suzuki (JPN/Chuo University) and Robin Reid (NZL) worked well together and their lead was soon over six minutes. Rob Baillie took advantage of the relatively slow pace in the pack to change wheels to fix a shifting problem, while Bruno Langlois finally made it back into the pack with a group of riders that had formed off the back after the first climb. Frenchman Philippe Mauduit (Nippon Hodo) also stopped to take a leak, and only got back in in extremis when the pace suddenly accelerated!
At the 84 km point the riders reached the feed zone. On this tour feeding, including water, is only allowed in the feed zone, so everybody is a little anxious to get their musettes with food and bottles. This makes the feed zone a little chaotic, with riders wobbling about trying to grab bags from what in many cases are inexperienced feeders. One Japanese rider somehow managed to get his feed bag stuck in his front wheel and shot across the road right into the path of Pascal Choquette. Both riders fell in a heap, but we quickly got Pascal untangled, on his way and back in the pack. Soon afterwards he called us up, complaining of pain in his wrist, and he pulled off the road. He couldn't hold the bars anymore and has what looks like a broken wrist and a displaced collar bone to boot: his race was over.
We got Pascal sorted out into the ambulance and I booted back up the road to catch up with the race again just before the following mountain summit. Rob briefly lost contact but quickly chased back on, while the pack closed in on the two leaders. They were caught well before the final phase of the race, which saw a flurry of attacks by Martin St-Laurent and the race leader, Sergey Yakovlev (KAZ/Nippon Hodo). Despite this the pack were still together as they came into the finish sprint, which was won by Junichi Shibuya (JPN/Bridgestone Anchor), with Ciaran Power of the Irish team in second. Shibuya's win handed him the overall lead through time bonuses, so an excellent day for him.
All in all not a very auspicious day for us, though of course things could have been worse. Hopefully fortune will be smiling a little more brightly on us tomorrow. Pascal is in good spirits and will be riding with us in the team car tomorrow
Stage 1 - 168 km
1. Junichi SHIBUYA 4h12'32" (39.9 km/h)
2. Ciaran POWER
3. Makoto IIJIMA (JPN/Sumita Ravanello)
4. Takehiro MIZUTANI (JPN/Nippon Hodo)
5. Koujirou NAKAGAWA (JPN/Soleil Kinan)
8. Charles DIONNE
16. Martin ST-LAURENT
56. Robin BAILLIE
64. Bruno LANGLOIS all same time.
95 starters, 86 finishers
Overall after stage 1:
1. Junichi SHIBUYA
2. Sergey YAKOVLEV at 5"
3. Philippe MAUDUIT at 7"
4. Makoto IIJIMA s.t.
5. Ken HASHIKAWA (JPN/Bridgestone Anchor) at 10"
8. Charles DIONNE at 12"
19. Robin BAILLIE at 18"
32. Bruno LANGLOIS at 26"
49. Martin SAINT-LAURENT at 36"
1. Junichi SHIBOYA
8. Charles DIONNE
1. Shinri SUZUKI (JPN/Shimano)
1. Nippon Hodo