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                 Tour de Hokkaido 2003

 

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Marco Polo Cycling Club

The Marco Polo Cycling Team will travel to Japan at the beginning of September. For some of the riders this is the start of a long Asian Tour, with races in Borneo, Malaysia, Thailand and China. 

 

The Marco Polo Cycling Team has the following riders in Japan:

Dahlberg, Nathan (New Zealand)

Wilson, Tim (Australia)

Reid, Robin (New Zealand)

Lange, Cory (Canada)
Kramer, Remko (Netherlands)

 

The staff are;

Frans van Slagmaat, Team Manager

Don Wilson, Mechanic

Francis Cerny, Soigneuse

 

The schedule of the Tour de Hokkaido 2003:

 

September 10 Opening ceremony Asahikawa City

September 10 Prologue Asahikawa City Time Trial 2,3 KM

September 11 Stage 1 Asahikawa City Nayoro City 181 KM

September 12 Stage 2 Bifuka Town Wakkanai City 181 KM

September 13 Stage 3 Toyotomi Town Rumoi City 172 KM

September 14 Stage 4 Takikawa City Saporro 170 KM

September 15 Stage 5 Criterium Saporro 61 KM

 

Report by Remko Kramer

 

Nathan Dahlberg and Tim Wilson had already left the team house that is situated, in an old monastery near Gennep in the Netherlands. They left for a big Asian Tour of races starting in Japan, then Indonesia, Malaysia and China.

We, Team Manager Frans van Slagmaat, Soigneuse Francis Cerny and I, Remko Kramer rider on the team, only joined for the first race, the Tour de Hokkaido a 6-day stage race on the northern island of Japan.

 

The flight was pretty long with stopovers of 3-4 hours in London and Osaka. I had a very good sleep, on the flour between the chairs of the 747 from Japan Airlines. There was not much room, and every 20 minutes I woke up from the pressure at one side. But with turning around every time, I made a good 6 hours during the 11-hour flight to Asia.

The airport of Osaka, named Kansai, is something special. It is an artificial island in the sea before Osaka. From the air you can see the strange square shape. The main building, which is huge, has a special design and looks really cool. And what a difference. Coming from the London Heathrow airport, were we had to walk stairs and take an old bus, driving through old rundown hangars and luggage stores from the one terminal to the other. Now a short walk and there was a monorail train, stopping close to the luggage band. And in the few minutes this took, the Japanese were able to have the luggage there already!

Waiting for the connecting flight to Chitose airport, Sapporo, we met Cory Lange, who came from Canada for the whole Asian Tour. His bicycle was left in Canada and at arrival in Sapporo this was the first worry. Luckily the former secretary from the Tour de Hokkaido and our friend, Hiromi was there to help us to make arrangements.

At the airport we also met Nathan and Tim again and Robin Reid who came in from New Zealand. They took us to the hotel, just a five minute walk to the airport hotel where a nice warm meal was waiting for us, no chopsticks yet.

 

September 9

 

The next day we were picked-up with a few other teams for a bus ride of 200 KM to Asahikawa. Nathan decided that he needed some training to get his system going and he took his bicycle and an unreadable tourist map of Hokkaido.

After we arrived at the hotel in Asahikawa we built our bicycles together. Now our multi-functional super-translator Belgium Paul de Coninck, who teaches the Japanese to eat grilled chicken, took care of business and arranged that Cory's bicycle would be at the hotel that evening, just on time for the prologue.

The ride was a disaster, after 100 meters Francis was run over by a taxi. The wheels from her bicycle, the spare bicycle, were ruined and she was smashed on the asphalt and her back and ribs hurt very badly. The Japanese police came in with two cars and a motorcycle. They measured everything and digital photos were taken of anything near the accidents location. Luckily the taxi company would take care of the damage.

 

September 10

 

The Tour de Hokkaido started with a prologue on a bicycle path along the Ishikari River. The weather had turned into a raining day and in the afternoon the wind got stronger and stronger. I had the last starting time and rode a bad prologue, my legs felt like cramping in the cold rain in the all-out-effort of 2,3 KM.

The other guys did better, but we had no specialist in this discipline, so no great results.

 

Nathan Dahlberg at the start of the prologue. (Photographer: Francis Cerny) 

 

Results Prologue

 

1 Taiji Nishitani (Jpn-*El.2) 2.51

2 Jean-Francois Laroche (Can-*El.2) 0.00

3 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn-Nip) 0.02

 

29 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO 0:03:00 9 sec

31 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO 0:03:00

35 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO 0:03:01

54 REID Robin MARCO POLO 0:03:05

90 KRAMER Remko MARCO POLO 0:03:13

 

 

In the evening there was an opening ceremony in the Asahikawa Grand Hotel.

 

September 11

 

Luckily the weather had changed again and in the sun we rode to the starting area.

 

Soigneuse Francis Cerny smiling again after her accident, Cory Lange gets his legs rubbed before the start with some Born warm-up oil. (Photographer: Remko Kramer)

 

Our tactics were to cover every break because we expected that a good composition in a breakaway could get very far. But everybody was so sharp that the many, many attacks lead nowhere.

Before the last of three climbs a four men group was gone. In the downhill and flat section after, we had then in sight. There was another small hill and turning on this one, I was at the front. A good 500 meters of climbing and a turn, some Japanese from the Bridgstone-Anchor Team and from Team Shimano sprinted on their big ring - 14/15. I followed but was going at my max. At the turn, another 1 KM of climbing showed up and I had to shift to the small ring, exploded and had big problems to catch on in the peloton. At the top we got dropped with a few guys. Meanwhile the Italian in the Japanese Nipponhodo team, Claudio Pizzoferrato took a few hundred meters. But with 20 KM to go, this seemed useless. So many teams and riders were still trying and going full speed. But Pizzoferrato kept on going. The peloton came to 100 meters but he kept his advantage and managed to stay away even with the mass-sprint behind him. What a ride!

 

Results Stage 1

1. Claudio Pizzoferrato (Ita-Nip) 4.04.12

2. Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn-Nip) 0.10

3. Shinri Suzuki (Jpn-Shi) s.t.

 

13 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO 4:04:22 - 0:00:10

21 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO 4:04:22 - 0:00:10

45 REID Robin MARCO POLO 4:04:22 - 0:00:10

51 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO 4:04:22 - 0:00:10

63 KRAMER Remko MARCO POLO 4:07:33 - 0:03:21

 

GC after Stage 1

1 Claudio Pizzoferrato (Ita-Nip) 4.06.56

2 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn-Nip) 0.12

3 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn-Shi) 0.17

 

25 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO 4:07:22 0:00:26

26 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO 4:07:22 0:00:26

30 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO 4:07:23 0:00:26

39 REID Robin MARCO POLO 4:07:27 0:00:31

63 KRAMER Remko MARCO POLO 4:10:46 0:03:50

 

After the finish, lunch-boxes were given out and in the sun we relaxed in the park at the finish and ate the "western-style" sandwiches. The Asian lunch-boxes were a lot more interesting with rice and sushi, later we exchanged, the difference attracts.

 

Robin Reid and Cory Lange after the first stage.  (Photographer: Francis Cerny) 

 

After a bus ride we arrived at a lake in the nature, with around it a holiday park and a camping. We had a wooden house for the whole "family". Mechanic Don Wilson cleaned and fixed the bicycles at the balcony at the front door.

Some of the guys went for a hot bath, a specialty in this area of Japan. The others had a massage and washed their clothing.

 

Mechanic Don Wilson checking the bikes in front of the wooden house we stayed in.  (Photographer: Francis Cerny)

 

September 12

 

Robin Reid before the start of the 2nd stage.  (Photographer: Francis Cerny)

 

This day we would take the biggest climb of the tour. But the beginning was fast as yesterday and each team tried to attack the leader jersey of Italian Pizzoferrato.

We raced well and covered each break. Cory took a good moment and put the hammer down when he had a nice gap with three others. A few KM further there was a hot-spot sprint with very valuable bonus seconds. Cory won this and moved further up in the GC.

 

Later Nathan was in a 10 men break, which lasted longer. But the Nipponhodo team from the Tour leader made a chase, on the flat they could not close the 2-minute gap. But at the climb they drove tempo and slowly closed the gap. I was riding above my limit at this tempo and got into problems. Two KM under the top, I got dropped and in the downhill we grouped with 10 riders. With 100 KM to go this was serious. We still hoped that the peloton would chill-out at the feed-zone, but they didn't. So we had to struggle to stay in the time limit of 20 minutes. Sometimes we were showed the time difference and we seemed to be saving, but we had to keep riding as hard as we could. Then at 10 KM before the finish, some commissaries decided that we were out of the time limit. So close to the finish, we didn't want to give up and with a few guys we kept on going. And still we made it within the time limit, but since they already told us to stop, we were out of the race! Shit!

 

The other guys had no problems and only complained about the high speed at the end. Therefore there was no chance to break away and these guys are no specialists in the mass sprint.

 

Results Stage 2

1. Taiji Nishitani (Jpn-*El.2)4.19.26

2. Claudio Pizzoferrato (Ita-Nip) s.t

3. Jean-Francois Laroche (Can-*El.2)s.t.

 

22 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO CAN 4:19:26 - 0:00:00

24 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO AUS 4:19:26 - 0:00:00

38 REID Robin MARCO POLO NZL 4:19:26 - 0:00:00

61 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO NZL 4:19:26 - 0:00:00

 

GC after stage 2

1. Claudio Pizzoferrato (Ita-Nip)8.26.14

2. Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn-Nip)0.19

3. Jean-Francois Laroche (Can-*El.2)0.21

 

15 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO 8:26:46 0:00:31

26 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO 8:26:48 0:00:34

27 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO 8:26:48 0:00:34

39 REID Robin MARCO POLO 8:26:53 0:00:39

 

 

Tim had to go to the doping control and we had some lunch in the harbour of Wakkanai at the north side of Hokkaido. In this harbour city, many signs are in Russian, so close are we to some Russian Islands. Before the coast there is a volcanic island, one peak, 1700 meters high!

At the evening we took a hot bath in the Toyotomi Hotel.

 

September 13

 

Robin and Tim check the profile of the stage.  (Photographer: Francis Cerny)

 

The weather forecast was bad. A typhoon was coming, already passed the south of Japan with new wind speed records! Visited Korea afterwards, some people were killed here! And now it came straight to us. Not so powerful anymore, but still strong enough to blow some bicyclists from the road...

At the start it was still quiet but the peloton was not. Attacks from the gun and in the first KM a group formed. Tim saw the danger and went after them. Cory covered this attack and got away with some Japanese.

 

Cory: " Tim was going! We also got away from the field and I wanted to move over. I shouted and luckily Tim heard me, together we made it to the break and with 13 men we came together".

 

This was the break we were looking for every day. The big Japanese teams were happy with the composition and so were we. Some teams like the Canadian National Team with a 4 th place on GC tried but didn't get there. So the peloton got quiet and the break kept going. They took an 8 minutes and the GC was set for the rest of this race. Now the value of the bonus seconds that Cory took became clear. Place 6 in GC and Tim on place 11 with only 2 seconds from the top ten.

 

Results stage 3

1 HIROSE, Satoshi NIPPON HODO 4:04:49 -

2 KANO, Tomoya SHIMANO Racing 4:04:49 0:00:00

3 TANAKA, Mitsuteru AISAN KOGYO 4:04:49 0:00:00

 

8 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO CAN 4:05:24 0:00:35

9 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO AUS 4:05:24 0:00:35

60 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO NZL 4:13:17 0:08:28

71 REID Robin MARCO POLO NZL 4:13:17 0:08:28

 

GC after stage 3

1 HIROSE, Satoshi NIPPON HODO 12:31:13 -

2 KANO, Tomoya SHIMANO Racing 12:31:27 0:00:13

3 TANAKA, Mitsuteru AISAN KOGYO 12:31:29 0:00:15

 

6 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO 12:32:10 0:00:56

11 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO 12:32:12 0:00:58

28 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO 12:40:05 0:08:51

40 REID Robin MARCO POLO 12:40:10 0:08:57

 

The typhoon brought in heavy rain at the end of the stage and the riders were wet and cold at the finish. During the night strong winds were whistling around the hotel.

 

September 14

 

Most of the typhoon had passed during the night and it was a very quiet day.

 

This was the day of Shinichi Fukushima! He celebrated his birthday yesterday and decided that he would give himself a present. Early in the stage he got away with 3 riders. First part of the stage was not so hard, but after a small mountain range there was an open flat section with strong winds. The peloton got splintered in the cross-winds here, but Fukushima, who was on his own now, kept going.

With 30 K to go two riders bridged up to Fukushima. But with two K to go the chase group was so close that they gave up, but not Fukushima. He went by himself and won the stage with 3 seconds...

 

Team manager Frans van Slagmaat takes the left feedbags, (a phototrick on the front of the car)  (Photographer: Remko Kramer)

 

The team worked hard today and made sure Cory and Tim were in the first group. They were fine, but only in the last 100 metres a small gap in the sprint cost valuable time. Time is taken from the first rider of the group. And this small gap was a new timing point and cost 4 seconds and 2 places in GC!

 

Results stage 4

1 FUKUSHIMA, Shinichi BRIDGSTONE@ANCHOR 4:08:38 -

2 LAROCHE Jean-Francois CANADA 4:08:41 0:00:03

3 GRIFFIN Paul IRELAND 4:08:41 0:00:03

 

12 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO AUS 4:08:45 0:00:07

13 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO CAN 4:08:45 0:00:07

29 REID Robin MARCO POLO NZL 4:08:45 0:00:07

49 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO NZL 4:10:31 0:01:53

 

GC after stage 4

1 HIROSE, Satoshi NIPPON HODO 16:39:54 -

2 KANO, Tomoya SHIMANO Racing 16:40:12 0:00:17

3 TANAKA, Mitsuteru AISAN KOGYO 16:40:14 0:00:19

 

8 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO 16:40:54 0:00:59

11 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO 16:40:58 0:01:03

27 REID Robin MARCO POLO 16:48:50 0:08:55

41 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO 16:50:41 0:10:47

 

We stayed in the Gateau Kingdom Hotel in Sapporo. This is a huge luxury hotel. The entrance hall reaches 15 floors high and glass elevators go up and down. From the rooms we had a view in the hall were they had a wedding ceremony every hour.

 

Then we received very bad news! The next race on this Asian Tour, the Tour of Borneo was cancelled. This meant big trouble, what can we do. Most of the team was here with expensive tickets with many stop-overs to the next tours, Borneo, Malaysia, Thailand and China. But now there was more then 2 weeks nothing.

After contact with the team management back in Europe, we decided to break-up the rest of the Asian Tour and send everybody hoe after Hokkaido, what a pity.

 

September 15

 

Today the last stage of the Tour de Hokkaido was in the Moerenuma Park. This is a complete new park, designed by sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The entire park forms one sculpture with several impressive constructions.

 

The criterium in the Moerenuma Park with sculptures designed by sculptor Isamu Noguchi.  (Photographer: Francis Cerny)

 

There was a very fast course and the race was controlled by the Nipponhodo team. Robin managed to win a bonus second in a hot-sprint, but this was 1 second to less to get into the prices. Also Cory and Tim tried several times, to get away for bonus seconds but this was impossible with the tempo of this criterium.

 

Results stage 5

1 MIZUTANI, Takehiro BRIDGSTONE ANCHOR JPN 1:19:34 -

2 MIFUNE, Masahiko MIYATA SUBARU JPN 1:19:34 0:00:00

3 SUZUKI, Shinri SHIMANO Racing JPN 1:19:34 0:00:00

 

12 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO CAN 1:19:34 0:00:00

32 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO AUS 1:19:34 0:00:00

59 REID Robin MARCO POLO) NZL 1:19:34 0:00:00

63 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO NZL 1:19:34 0:00:00

 

Final General Classification

1 HIROSE, Satoshi NIPPON HODO 17:59:25 -

2 KANO, Tomoya SHIMANO Racing 17:59:46 0:00:20

3 TANAKA, Mitsuteru AISAN KOGYO 17:59:48 0:00:22

 

8 LANGE Cory MARCO POLO 18:00:28 0:01:02

11 WILSON Tim MARCO POLO 18:00:32 0:01:06

27 REID Robin MARCO POLO 18:08:23 0:08:57

40 DAHLBERG, Nathan MARCO POLO 18:10:15 0:10:50

 

Final Team Classification

1 NIPPON HODO 54:08:13 -

2 SHIMANO Racing 54:08:36 0:00:23

3 Miyata SUBARU 54:09:14 0:01:01

4 MARCO POLO) 54:09:28 0:01:15

 

After the race there was a great closing ceremony, with music and dance, the awards ceremony and a dinner with delicious food and some drinks...

 

A video from the race was shown projected on the wall during dinner. And afterwards we had  a few drinks, and went for some swimming to the pool area next to the hotel.

 

Here we would like to thank our translator Paul, Mari from the organisation and the organising committee for the great event they put up and the nice time we had in Japan.

 

Robin Reid in action in the criterium in Moerenuma Park (Sapporo).  (Photographer: Francis Cerny)

 

 

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