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                 Tour de Hokkaido 2002

 

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Marco Polo Cycling Club

 

Marco Polo Cycling Club will fight for GC win in Tour de Hokkaido.

 

With a very strong line-up the Marco Polo Cycling Club has arrived in Kushiro, Hokkaido. The team, partly coming directly from the altitude race Qinghai-Tibet, will go for the overall victory. This season the Marco Polo teams have been fighting for this in almost every stage race they participated in and with the second spot in the Chinese Qinghai Lake race (Glen Chadwick) and the lead in the Tour de Korea (Cory Lange) they where really close a couple of times. The goal of the team, winning four UCI stage races, just like year, will become hard to reach if Hokkaido will not be won. This will not be an easy job, with strong competition from Japanese teams, Ireland and the newly founded Jura Suisse - Nippon Hodo team.

 

Line up Marco Polo Cycling Club:

Nathan Dahlberg (NZL); Michael Carter (USA); Rasmus Madsen (DEN); Bert Dekker (NED); Kay Kermer (Ger)

 

Team director: Allan Wolhuter (GBR)  

 

German Kay Kermer became 3rd in a stage. (Photographer: Jill)

 

Report by Michael Carter

 

When Nathan Dahlberg asked me to join Marco Polo to race the Tour Of Hokkaido, I was really motivated. I have had a good season thus far, so thought that I might be able to cash in on the good form, yet again. The Tour Of Qinghai went pretty good, so hoped I could keep that for going. If only......

 

Prologue, Kushiro City, 2.5 K.

After traveling from Europe to Chicago, and staying in Chicago for three days, then flying to Sapporo, I knew the time change would be a bit rough. But hey, it is only a prologue right? Yikes! Turns out that it was a harbinger of things to come.

 

Warming up, felt a bit "blocked" but not that bad. I did not think I had a chance to win this parking lot prologue, but with my time trailing results for the year going well, thought I might not lose more than 20 seconds. After about 1 K, my lock ring came undone. Couldn't believe it! I had to climb off my bake as my chain wedged into the frame and the chain stay. After working with the wheel to get it out from the bike, I had to put the lock ring back on, and tighten it down with my fingers, enough so I could at least finish the prologue.  Lost 1:45 seconds, which was a tremendous amount of time. Thankfully, we had an astute Directeur Sportif in Allan Wolhurter. He petitioned the UCI officials to give me a restart, but they refused. Instead, Allan worked his magic, and convinced the UCI officials to give me the slowest time of the day, plus a second. Disaster averted! Put me 41 seconds out, which was not horrible, still a lot of racing left.  

 

Prologue - September 11: Kushiro Sports Park ITT, 2.5 km

 

1 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse      3.12

2 Andrew Pinfold (Can) Canada                       0.01

3 Makoto Iijima (Jpn) Sumita Ravanello Pi           0.02

4 Satoshi Hirose (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse

5 Mizutani Takehiro (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor

 

21 Kay Kermer (Ger) Marco Polo                      0.09

29 Nathan Dahlberg (NZl) Marco Polo

38 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo

62 Rasmus Madsen (Den) Marco Polo

100 Michael Carter (USA) Marco Polo                 0.41  

 

Teams 

1 Canada                                            9.48

2 Bridgestone Anchor

3 Nippon Hodo                                       0.04

 

7 Marco Polo Cycling Club                           0.02

 

Stage 1, Kushiro City to Rausu Town,  176 K.

The stage started out very aggressive. A lot of attacking. I followed a few moves, hoping to get away with one.  This stage was one of those where the one move you decide not follow, gets away, stays away. The break built a 7-minute lead, but with an 18 K climb at the end, didn't feel panicked by it. The group would be working hard all day, and no doubt spent from their efforts.

 

Again, I did not feel real sharp at the beginning, but I did not feel horrible either. In fact, sitting in was effortless! I could not believe how easy it was to just sit in. Yet, whenever I hit the front, I also could not believe how thick the air felt. Seemed like it was four times as hard to maintain speed while riding on the front, as opposed to sitting in. Any way, we hit the bottom of the climb, and I knew it was not going to be great day. I felt pains in my lower back, which is very unusual for me. I knew something was amiss. (Could it be that my age is finally catching up with me?). After about 10 K of trying to get away, forcing tempo, I blew (erupted is more like it!). The whole world passed me by. I wanted to get off my bike and walk. The climb was only about 7 to 8%, but my body shut down. The time changes took their toll, no doubt. Ended up losing 9 minutes to eventual race winner, Simone Mori. Still a lot of racing to go, right?  

 

Kay Kermer: " I was going well on the final climb and was still with the first group. My legs were good and I thought I could get a good placing. Then my rear derailleur came off! I could not continue. There was only neutral support from motorcycles, because it was all in small groups going up the climb. But I needed a spare bicycle. I had to wait untill everybody had passed me before I got another bicycle. I was in great shape and planned to go for a top-placing in GC, but my chances on the GC were gone." 

 

Stage 1 - September 12: Kushiro - Rausu, 176 km

 

1 Simone Mori (Swi) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                4.26.46

2 Tomoya Kanou (Jpn) Shimano Racing                           0.27

3 Ken Hashikawa (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor                      0.58

4 Mikahail Teteryuk (Kaz) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse             1.09

5 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Shimano Racing                          1.47

 

13 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo

 

General classification after stage 1

 

1 Simone Mori (Swi) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                4.30.02

2 Tomoya Kanou (Jpn) Shimano Racing                           0.29

3 Ken Hashikawa (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor                      0.55

4 Mikahail Teteryuk (Kaz) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse             1.20

5 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                1.42

 

15 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo                               1.56

 

Teams classification

 

1 Nippon Hodo                                             13.33.06

2 Shimano Racing                                              1.06

3 Islamic Rep. Iran                                           3.05

 

9 Marco Polo Cycling Club                                   10.32

 

Stage 2, Shari Town to Kitami City, 171 K.

Feeling better physically, but down mentally. Rats! How will I make up 9 minutes? There IS still a lot of racing left, right? This stage featured two good climbs, a Cat 2 climb at 77 K, and a Cat 1 climb at 116 K. The first climb was not much of a climb, in fact, Mori's team, Nippo Hondo, had an easy time keeping it all together. The second climb, the Cat 1 climb, was 8 K of that started at 150 meters, and climbed to 754 meters - a good hard climb. On that Cat 1 climb, felt good, really good. I made it over the top with Mori, Dominck Peras, a pro racing for Canada, and a Japanese phenom from Team Shimano, as well as Mizbani, who is from Iran (What? Iran has bike racing? Yes, and they have GOOD riders!). Fellow Dutch team mate (the lone Dutchy on the team) Bert Dekker also made it over the top with the four of us. After a somewhat technical descent, we had something like 1:45 on the group behind. With 30 K to go, Allan pulled up in the team car, and told us that the group was only 30 seconds behind. I told Bert to sit up, and then Dominck looked at us like we were insane, and yelled at us to keep going. I looked at HIM like He was insane, and then he attacked! The guy rode like a man possessed - ended up winning the stage solo! When the group caught us, driven by the whole Iranian Nation, I though that for sure we would gobble Peras up. But that crazy Canuck held us off! Kay Kermer, my other not-so Dutch but German, team mate placed well in the sprint for 2nd, finishing in the top 5 in the field sprint.

 

I did not make any time up, but felt back to my old (yes, very old!) self in the mountains. Things were looking up. There is still a lot of racing left, right?  

 

Stage 2 - September 13: Shari - Kitami, 171 km

 

1 Dominique Peras (Can) Canada                             4.17.44

2 Masamichi Yamamoto (Jpn) Shimano Racing                     0.08

3 Hisafumi Imanishi (Jpn) Shimano Racing

4 Ken Hashikawa (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor

5 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse

 

6 Kay Kermer (Ger) Marco Polo

 

General classification after stage 2

 

1 Simone Mori (Swi) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                8.47.54

2 Tomoya Kanou (Jpn) Shimano Racing                           0.29

3 Ken Hashikawa (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor                      0.55

4 Mikahail Teteryuk (Kaz) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse             1.20

5 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                1.40

 

15 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo                               1.56

 

Teams classification

 

1 Nippon Hodo                                             26.26.42

2 Shimano Racing                                              1.06

3 Islamic Rep. Iran                                           3.05

 

8 Marco Polo Cycling Club                                    10.32

 

Stage 3, Rubeshibe Town to Shimizu Town, 170 K.

This looked to be the hardest stage of the race. 170 K, up and down all day, with 3 significant climbs that featured the biggest climb of the tour. We had perfect weather, no rain and perfect temperatures so far. This stage was absolutely beautiful; the countryside was surprisingly green and rolling, much like Switzerland. I pictured all of Japan to be filled with people no matter where you looked. But Hokkaido is not like that at all.

 

Nathan Dahlberg went for it from the gun. He was off the front with 5 or 6 others, and they built a sizeable lead. Things were looking good until we hit the biggest climb at 106 K. The group Nathan was in disintegrated. Same guys leading the charge up the climb, Mori, Peras, Mr. Shimano guy, Bert Dekker, myself, and Mizbani, who would be dropped near the top. Unfortunately, the top of this climb was 57 K from the finish, and like the day before, it regrouped into a field of 40-45 guys. So, with Kay Kermer, our filed sprinter coming up to us with a big group, I knew I could at least help keep it together for him, so he could give it a go in the filed sprint. And go he did! Kay ended up 6th on the day, which was impressive, considering the difficulty of the day.

And me? Still not making up time! Still some racing left, right?  

 

Stage 3 - September 14: Rubeshibe - Shimizu, 170 km

 

1 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Shimano Racing                       4.17.41

2 Dominique Peras (Can) Canada

3 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                0.03

4 Andreas Hestler (Can) Canada

5 Paul Griffin (Ire) Ireland

 

6 Kay Kermer (Ger) Marco Polo

 

General classification after stage 3

 

1 Simone Mori (Swi) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse               13.05.38

2 Tomoya Kanou (Jpn) Shimano Racing                           0.29

3 Mikahail Teteryuk (Kaz) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse             1.20

4 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                1.35

5 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Shimano Racing                          1.37

 

14 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo                               1.56

 

Teams classification

 

1 Nippon Hodo                                             39.19.54

2 Shimano Racing                                              1.03

3 Islamic Rep. Iran                                           3.12

 

5 Marco Polo Cycling Club                                    10.38

 

Stage 4, Hidaka Town to Iwamizawa City, 150 K.

OK, last road stage. Last chance to win a stage. No, not much left. Nippo Hondo is so strong; they are not letting any one get up the road that is a threat. They are riding at the front; just lay a REAL pro team from Europe. Makes it easy to sit in, but impossible to get away! This stage had two categorized climbs, the last one and also the hardest on the day, was 20 K from the finish, so maybe....

Turned out that Peras went for the early move. I knew that Nippo would just ride tempo, keep it close, then bring the move back on the final climb, and control until the finish. Sure enough, Peras and his accomplices were reeled in on that final climb. I made it over that climb, as did Bert Dekker, with the leaders. But, as with the previous stages (except that infamous first stage) it all regrouped. Thankfully, Kay Kermer was in the group that caught the front! I had a job to do! I waited until 4 K to go, and an Iranian and one other were off the front at about 40 seconds. I drove it as hard as I could. I drilled it until we were with in 10 seconds. That was about 1.5 K's to go, and then the Canadians took over. Kay followed their lead out, ended up 3rd on the day! Awesome! A podium finish for the boys from the Netherlands (er, make that Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, and the USA!). That night, I felt the makings of a head cold creeping up on me. The chills, headache, all the usual. Oh no! One stage remaining.....  

 

Stage 4 - September 15: Hidaka - Iwamizawa, 159 km

 

1 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse             3.49.35

2 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Shimano Racing

3 Kay Kermer (Ger) Marco Polo

 

15 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo

 

General classification after stage 4

 

1 Simone Mori (Swi) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse               16.55.13

2 Tomoya Kanou (Jpn) Shimano Racing                           0.29

3 Mikahail Teteryuk (Kaz) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse             1.20

4 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                1.25

5 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Shimano Racing                          1.31

 

14 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo                               1.56

 

Teams classification

 

1 Nippon Hodo                                             50.48.39

2 Shimano Racing                                              1.03

3 Islamic Rep. Iran                                           3.12

 

5 Marco Polo Cycling Club                                    11.02

 

Stage 5, Sapporo Circuit Race, 60 K.

I awoke with a screaming head ache (would not have been the Kirin's last night, would it?). Feverish, weak - not good! Went over to the course to watch the "Staff Race," where our fearless leader, Paul from Belgium (our awesome translator) and Allan took on the rest of the teams' support staff. Paul cruised to an enjoyable ride, no worries for him! Allan took on the Irish contingent, and they raced as if it were the World Championships! Allan was worked over by the D.S. from Ireland, a cop from Belfast (gee Allan, surprised by that one?).

 

When the time came for the "real" race. I pre rode the course. I was bummed that it was so technical, three or four 180-degree turns, on narrow streets through a park. Had it not been for the "bug" that I picked up, (that Kirin is crawling with insects) I would have welcomed such a course. Unfortunately, starting in the very back was NOT the place to be. I rode 4 laps and felt horrible. Riding for 30th place, falling even further from grace, why go on? Call me a coward, but I wimped out, bailed out and rode back to the hotel. Race over - bummer!

 

Great race though. If you ever go, just remember, the first day sets the stage for the whole G.C. Also, watch out for those Kirin's! Take your bug spray, or try something other than Kirin, maybe Sake!  

 

Stage 5 - September 16: Makomanai Park Criterium, 60 km

 

1 Yasutaka Tashiro (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor                1.25.27

2 David O'loughlin (Ire) Ireland

3 Koki Shimbo (Jpn) Asian Kogyo                               0.03

4 Hisafumi Imanishi (Jpn) Shimano Racing

5 Andreas Hestler (Can) Canada                                0.05

 

11 Kay Kermer (Ger) Marco Polo

 

Final general classification

 

1 Simone Mori (Swi) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse               18.20.54

2 Tomoya Kanou (Jpn) Shimano Racing                           0.29

3 Kazuya Okazaki (Jpn) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse                1.20

4 Mikahail Teteryuk (Kaz) Nippon Hodo-Jura Suisse

5 Shinri Suzuki (Jpn) Shimano Racing                          1.23

 

14 Bert Dekker (Ned) Marco Polo                               2.00

20 Nathan Dahlberg (NZl) Marco Polo                           5.33

41 Kay Kermer (Ger) Marco Polo                               19.47

53 Rasmus Madsen (Den) Marco Polo                            26.25

 

Final Teams classification

 

1 Nippon Hodo                                             55.05.32

2 Shimano Racing                                              0.57

3 Islamic Rep. Iran                                           3.26

 

5 Marco Polo Cycling Club                                    11.15

 

 

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