World Wide Cycling
de Hokkaido 2004:
September 15 Opening ceremony
September 15 Prologue Sapporo, Moerenuma Park 2,6 KM Time Trial
September 16 Stage 1 Sapporo – Date City 185 KM: 2 big climbs up to 400-500 metres (from 0 metres) at KM 60 and 105 smaller climbs at KM 15 and 140
September 17 Stage 2 Abuta Town – Oshamambe Town 173 KM: A big climb up to 900 metres (from 200) at KM 80 then 2 smaller hill-tops after KM 100 down
September 18 Stage 3 Yakumo Town – Kamiiso Town 187 KM: Up to 400 metres at KM 25 200 metres at KM 75 and 400 Metres at KM 160 all starting from 0 metres.
September 19 Stage 4 Nanae Twon – Hakodate City 157 KM: Two times up to 100-120 metres at KM 80 and 130
September 20 Stage 5 Kamiiso, Criterium 60 KM
by Michael Carter: Marco Polo rider, former top-pro, professional
cycling trainer in the USA at Echelon Sports. Check www.espcycling.com
here it is, the 2004 Tour De Hokkaido. After the Tour Of Qinghai Lake earlier
this year, where I came home with my tail between my legs, (my wife is eager to
point out that the only reason that I did not do well there was because I came
do wn with a bug - which I did, but still.......never a pleasant experience
getting dropped in territory that normally, you control, not so confident. Even
after a pretty good Master World Championships, where I finished a frustrating
7th place in the 40+ road race, 3rd place in the 35+ road race and 1st in the
hill climb...but that was Masters Worlds, not a pro-race.
For me, the Tour of Hokkaido is a big question mark.
Hilger: One of the neatest things about our team is the diversity.
For example, my
manager, and mechanic are from New Zealand, Hong Kong, Mongolia, South
Africa/Italy (that's our team manager who runs the "Davis Phinney"
camps with Davis and his wife), Japan and Belgium. Other teams and riders
involved in this race are from Russia, Iran, Canada, Italy, China, Ireland, and
Australia and mainly Japan. After putting our bikes together and having a
terrific lunch at Paul's café (Paul is our translator who is from Belgium but
lives in Japan) - it's a Belgium pub with some Japanese flare (food wise),
phenomenal Belgium beer and excellent Italian espresso - we decided it was time
to stretch the legs a bit and actually ride our bikes.
When I first got on my bike I felt like
hadn't ridden in over a year -OUCH! However,
after an hour or so, I finally started feeling a bit normal everyone fit a bit
Marco Polo Cycling Team after a good "Belgium" meal in our
translators; "Paul's Café" in Saporro (Hokkaido, Japan).
left to right, Mechanic Nakamura Rikio (Japan), Mike Carter (USA), Paul de
Conick (Belgium), Ben Robson (New Zealand), Allan Wolhuter (South-Africa),
Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh (Mongolia), Chi Yin Leung (Hong Kong), on their knees;
Eddy Hilger and Nanci Carter (USA). (Photo: Chi Yin Leung)
Marco Polo Cycling Team in the Tour de Hokkaido:
Allan Wolhuter (South Africa)
Nanci Carter (USA)
Ulzii-Orshikh or Oggi (Mongolia)
Yin Leung or Kenji (Hong Kong)
Robson (New Zealand)
15th - Prologue 2.6 K
arrived back in Colorado from Europe (just coming home from Master World Champ's
in St Johann, Austria) on Tuesday, September 7th then climbing back into the
aluminum tube on September 11th for another trip of a total of 17 hours of
flight time, not to mention a layover of 3.5 hours in Osaka, this first effort
is going to hurt! I have no idea what time zone I am in, neither does my wife
Nanci who is joining the team on this trip as "Massage Therapist", who
has hardly been out of Colorado her whole life. She seems to have adjusted to
the first 8 hour difference from Colorado then the 15 hour difference from
Japan, much more than the crusty, gristly old globe trotting pro cyclist who
can't seem to grow up.
enough felt absolutely stuck to the road for the prologue. Thankfully, Eddy
Hilger who has joined us from the states after leaving behind his new born (5
weeks old) daughter Kenzie, wife Carlee and son Jackson, uncorks an awesome
prologue and finishes 10th. Eddy definitely carried the Marco Polo flag with
pride. I on the underhand, finish a dismal 54th out of 100.
For a race that is super tight with time bonuses, gentle climbs and
little opportunity to make up time personally I am in a world of hurt. But Eddy
is our guy! With more than 500 K to go in the tour, a lot can still happen and I
hope that it does and that it does so in the favor of Marco Polo.
Yin Leung concentrates for the start of the prologue. (Photo:
Chi Yin Leung)
16th - Stage 1 Sapporo to Date City 187 K
Hilger: While I slept incredibly the night before, I couldn't have slept worse
I was up probably every hour and then at 4:30am I was up for good!
Thankfully our South African manager brought his travel espresso maker. At first
I told him I'd pay him good money for an espresso, then I bartered with
finishing well enough to move our car up in the caravan. In cycling your team
car is based on your best rider in the overall general classification. So, with
me being 10th overall, our team car is 10th out of 20.
it is hot. Good chance to sweat out the 17 hours airplane trip in the aluminum
profile for this year's Tour Of Hokkaido looks to be rather difficult. This
stage has two big climbs; the second is going to 900 meters from essentially sea
level. In reality, they were very gentle. Race was very much controlled until
the 20 K to go sign marker. I rode in the back of the field nearly all day. Oggi
and I went for the less stressful tactic in a stage of this nature and hung out
in the back all day long. On the two climbs I moved to the front just to keep
tabs on what was happening and to check on Eddy. Eddy looked pretty good so I
followed Dominique Perras and Ghader Mizbahni, the two big threats in the hills,
when they attacked. Thankfully, I had no absolutely no trouble following those
guys. Looks like the "China Syndrome" (the curse of Qinghai Lake) is
behind me! The whole field is together with 30 K to go but a group of 11 noodles
off the front, not one Marco Polo rider there. Oggi looks at me and says
"We chase, huh?" So we start to work our way up to the front. In the
mean time, Ben puts in a fantastic effort to bring it back the group that
contains Mikhail Teteriouk from Nippon-Hodo.
too long afterwards I follow an attack with 20 K to go. I counter that attack on
a slight up hill, turn around and see we have a gap. At that point there are
maybe 6 of us, and then to my pleasant surprise, I see Eddy. The group continues
to grow in number until it reaches 16. At 8 K to go, there is a pretty good hill
and I anticipated a move there by somebody, but it never comes. The great thing
about this whole break that we have is that the race leader missed the break so
has a huge threat to win, David McCann from Giant who is in 2nd place at the
time. But, Eddy is there. So I am dedicated putting as much time as we can to
put Eddy in the top 3. Long story short, Kam Po Wong wins the stage, I am happy
to see him win since not only is he a first class rider but a Marco Polo member
as well, but Nippon-Hodo's Giuseppe Ribolzi is the new race leader.
Hilger: We haven't got the results from the stage but I think I moved us up to
the 5th car:) I happened to make
the winning move/break, but didn't have much at the end of a tough 115-mile
race. I ended up finishing 8th.
race was beautiful! I haven't seen
the type of scenery and landscape like I did today - outside of Colorado.
Our kiwi says the views remind him of New Zealand - sorry I can't
describe it better. These are the
times I wish I could write, but don't get me wrong, I'm much more thankful that
I can ride a bike half-way decent than write... Mom that's for you:)
a side note, our hotel is quite similar to a vacation hide-away. Think of the
movie the Last Samurai and you'll have an idea of the room we have. We'll be
sleeping on the floor with mats, we have slippers to use before entering the
main area, and there are sliding doors and one of those tiny tables in the
middle of the room. For some Asian culture, our Hong Kong rider has Japanese
music playing on his computer right now and I'm sipping on green tea:) The view
out our window showcases a gorgeously peaceful lake with a volcano on one side
and a temple (probably) across the lake. Last but not least, as soon as I get
done writing this I'm off to the mineral springs "bath" - a hot
springs more or less.
Robson and Eddy Hilger in Japanese style. (Photo: Chi Yin
2, Abuta Town To Oshamambe Town, 174 K
stage looks to be the decisive stage of the race - on paper in any case. Starts
off with a climb that gains 250 meters in 9 K, just enough to wake up the body!
Then its big rollers to the "Hot Spot" at 63 K, then a 16 K climb
starts shortly thereafter. This climb starts at 175 meters or so, tops out at
875 meters. This is followed by a short descent of 4 K, then another climb of 8
K, then another short descent, then another climb of 3 K, then a long descent
from 97.6 K to 118 K or so. Then there is 47 K of flat, and at 154 K, another
short but steep climb of 3 K, then a run in to the finish.
"Rick" has the bicycles ready to race. Eddy, Ben and Oggi leave for
the start. (Photo: Chi Yin Leung)
stage starts out fast, attack after attack. Mostly it is the Aisan Team and the
Anchor Team trading off countering each other. That stimulates Shimano and
Nippon - Hodo and of course, Marco Polo! So we all are attacking and counter
attacking each other non-stop. And in classic fashion, a lull in the action
ensues, and crafty rider that he is, Oggi recognizes that this is ripe for an
attack. Eddy, 2 from Shimano, and Anchor rider who I don't know, and one or two
others all noodle off the front and gain 3 minutes before the first big climb.
Hilger: Today's stage really had me hoping I would not be dropped as it's quite
hard and there are some REALLY GOOD climbers... thankfully I made the break with
our Mongolian hammer-head! He's
only won the Mongolian National Road Race 20 times and the Time Trial like 15
times - I'm serious, he's a legend in Mongolia. This guy still sprints pretty well - back a few years ago he
was sprinting w/ the sprinting stars of cycling!
over 3 minutes up the first climb was nice - we gained close to 2300 vertical
we wrapped around a volcano - it was almost surreal as the race's helicopter
flew over us, people ringing cow bells, motorbikes leading the way for us,
camera man taking pictures, TV camera's shooting footage on the motorbikes.
for us, the Shimano guys Tomoya Kano, Shinri Suzuki and Hidenori Nodera are
still with us, so along with Aisan, this Shimano trio dial it up on the climb.
It is not until the start of the second climb that we catch the group with Eddy
and Oggi. Oggi had set the tempo for the breakaway, while Eddy relaxed as best
he could. As we do catch, more attacks follow, one after the other. On the big
descent, everything settles down a bit, but only for a short while. Eddy rolls
off the front - solo - again! A long way to go still remains before the stage
concludes. But he ends up with a rider from Team Canada, Cameron Evans, and then
two others bridge up to them and they build a lead to as much as 3 minutes at
one point. The main group slows to what seems like a crawl. Despite that
seemingly slow tempo set by Nippon-Hodo, the field eventually catches Eddy's
break back, and even the stragglers from way behind the main bunch also catch
back, including Giuseppe who was OTB all day! I follow a few of the ensuing
counter attacks and end up off the front with a screaming Dominique Parras from
Canada. Dominique seems to think he has to yell at every one in order to get
them to work in the break. That guy always has some instructions for his
breakaway companions. Good rider in any case and have to love him for his
enthusiasm. At any rate, we end up
with a 25 second gap, but are caught with less than 3 K to go. Oggi pulls off a
5th, thanks in part to help from Ben.
day for Marco Polo, regardless of not winning. Bummer that Oggi and Ben receive
time penalties for crossing the center line of the road. That cost the team 4th
on team GC, but seems the UCI Commisaires want to play a "power trip"
game and disregard the nature of bike racing. In the closing moments of battle,
it is only natural to "go for it" and do all necessary to win -
particularly in the last few hundred meters. Even the eventual winner of the
stage is relegated! Poppy cock if you ask me and EVERY other rider in the race!
Eddy is now tied for 3rd with a Canadian, Kam Po Wong is in a comfortable lead
now. That guy is riding amazingly well.
3, Yakumo Town To Kamiiso Town, 187 K
was to be yet another long day at the office. The way the organizers have made
the profiles for these stages is a bit deceiving. From the profile, this day
looks to be brutal. Climbs that look to be like walls are actually quite gentle
when you look at the scale. You realize that the average grade of each climb
looks to be about four to five percent. Maybe the last K of the first and last
climbs are hard, about 8% but in reality, even those are not so bad.
Carter and Ben Robson have fun before the start. (Photo:
Chi Yin Leung)
race starts out as a carbon copy of yesterday's stage - attack after attack.
This day sees a climb after about 7 K's that is 20 K long, and reaches 380
meters from sea level. Not steep but again, a great way to wake up the legs!
field stays together the remainder of the stage, minus one crash with 10 K to go
that splits myself, Oggi, Kano, and a few others off the charging field. We have
to chase super hard - biggest effort of the day in fact to make it back on. Eddy
and Ben were near the front, so for them, no problem sitting in. Oggi puts in a
HUGE effort to make it back, with a precious 2 K to go. I make it back just
ahead of him with about 3.5 K to go. Hidenori from Shimano suffers a bad crash
with about 200 meters to go, but Eddy and Ben survive just fine and avoid any
catastrophes. Kamp Po still has the jersey and quite comfortably so. Eddy is
tied for third with Cameron Evans of Canada.
Hilger: We had a plan for the final 2km but it didn't work as Oggi and Mike got
caught behind a crash with 4-5km to go. However,
Ben (the young kiwi) led me out in one of the most
sprints. I mean guys were all over
the road, no one team was organized so it was a free for all!
Thankfully we stayed upright - 2 guys crashed really hard right in front
of us with 100 meters to go.
sprint action in the Tour de Hokkaido 2004. (Photo: Chi
4, Nanae Town To Hakodate City, 157 K
though this stage is shorter than the first 3 road stages, there no reason at
all to think that this stage will start off any different than the three
previous. Sure enough, the stage starts off with attack after attack.
Perras instigates a move over the first first climb that starts at 6 K and goes
for 10 K, gaining 140 meters, which again, so no big deal really. But it is
enough to split the field. I end up countering the attck by Dominique and Shinri
from Shimano, and eventually, there are about 16 riders off the front. Once
again, Eddy has made the selection, which is just great! I tell him to sit on
and do nothing - I will do it and he needs to rest. That size of a breakaway
group is really too big. Too often, too many will sit on and not help. Then
these gaps occur in the echelon, and invariably, guys stop working and the move
disintegrates. Sure enough, that is what happens, but not until I have
sufficiently driven my self to a near death trying to keep the move away. All
for naught though, as Team Canada and the Iranians chase us down.
the finish was all that waited. Oggi
tried to give Eddy a lead out into the finish, but Oggi is very aggressive in
these things and timidity does not win out. Eddy loses Oggi's wheel, and Oggi
ends up 6th.
Hilger: Since our plan went to pot yesterday, Oggi was pretty motivated to lead
me out. He led me out but I lost
his wheel (to the points leader) in the corner with 1km to go.
I was sitting 5th going into the last corner but I don't have much
against these pure sprinters.
can they go! I was still top 10,
but had hoped for a top 5. Oggi and
my other teammates were a bit upset that I couldn't pull out the sprint, so our
manager and Mike talked to me a bit. As
many of you know, sprinting can get a bit crazy - guys pushing each other at
35mph, bikes hitting each other - simply "fearful" things going on
which if you aren't used to it then it's nutty.
My team manager told me when the South African team would lead him out he
would wear 3 t-shirts under his jersey b/c he knew the risks he would have to
take - and those risks could cause him to crash. Basically they were saying don't EVER let someone else take
the wheel of your lead-out man.
a side note, I'm a bit frustrated as only the race leader has been on the climbs
with me and the few other climbers. Every
other guy in the top 10 is dropped like a brick on the climbs but the finishes
are so far out from the climbs everyone pretty much comes back together.
For example, the Italian who is 2nd overall was in the 3rd group on the
2nd stage - several minutes down, and that was on the first climb of three!
Oh well, that's racing, you learn, adapt and try to figure out how to can
gain time elsewhere.
crazy crit to go! Eddy is in 4th, behind Cameron, so should be interesting
5, Kamiiso Town Criterium, 15 Laps of 4.6 K, 60 K Total
goal today is to protect Eddy's 4th and to get him in a break where he can steal
some bonus sprints and move up in GC. We're
not too sure about the opportunities at the finish where the time bonuses are
ten, six and four seconds. Aisan, Nippon-Hodo, Shimano, Anchor, the Koreans all
have good sprinters and seem to be much better at that game than we are, so the
Hot Spots look to be the best chance.
is making this stage so exciting are the Hot Spots. Four of them today at laps
12, 9, 6 and 3 to go. Time bonuses are 3, 2, and 1 second. With the top 20 guys
all within 60 seconds, this Tour Of Hokkaido is coming down to the last stage,
and maybe, to the very last sprint!
starts out super fast (why should anything be different?) as every team is
trying to make the most of this last opportunity.
does end up off in a break after about lap 5, and steals the bonus at 6 to go!
Not sure who has won the others, but 3 seconds will be huge! The break does get
caught, and this one is coming down to a field sprint. I hit the front with a
lap and a half to go, and start to dial it up. On the last lap from the top of
the course, Oggi is on my wheel, and Eddy is on his. At 1 K to go, I swing off,
let Oggi take over. THIS time, Eddy does not waver, he is right on Oggi's wheel.
Oggi takes him down to about 400 meters where Ben then takes Eddy down to the
line and Eddy places 2nd behind Park, the young Korean! That makes for a total
of 9 seconds in bonuses for Eddy, ties him for 2nd on G.C.!
from Nippo was 3rd, is tied with Eddy. To break the tie, the officials go back
to the prologue, where Giuseppe beat Eddy by mere 100ths, so Eddy ends up 3rd on
Hilger: With 2km to go Oggi came up to me - I hugged his wheel like crazy, then
lost it in a corner but realized if I didn't get it that could be it for me.
I fought for his wheel and pretty soon we were flying. With about 1200
meters to go we are doing close to 32-33mph, just Oggi and I at the front. It
was really weird because it was so easy being behind this powerful cyclist. I
had no clue what was going on behind and thought we were going to get swarmed
any minute, but with a little crosswind I think it was tough.
With 1000 meters to go Oggi picked the pace up but I was yelling at him
to save some for the finish. At
about 800 meters our New Zealand teammate Ben came out of nowhere and made sure
I got his wheel. I'm glad I have some muscle because I threw this little
Japanese guy out of the slip stream - at 400 meters the sprinters started coming
up and I tried sucking onto the Korean who had won yesterday and 2 of today's
time bonus'. In the end he took me to the line but I couldn't come around him -
heck 2nd isn't bad for bunch sprint - probably my best ever!
Especially for a big UCI stage race! It wasn't me, it was the team!!
Hand's down, I wouldn't have gotten 2nd nor would I have been tied for
2nd for the overall if it weren't for them!
I wish you could have felt/seen the joy I had for them as I heard and saw
them celebrating our "victory". It
was truly incredible, all cultural barriers gone and a team going crazy...
getting on the podium (top 3 finishers overall) is absolutely a HUGE achievement
for my team and I!
job by Eddy! He never let down, raced this whole race each day, with all he had
to give. The team all rode great, and the staff of Allan, Paul our translator
and Marco Polo Fan Club President in Japan, our mechanic Rick and soigneuse
Nanci; all played a significant role in the success of the team. Not bad for
team that has no one receiving a paycheck!
podium of the Tour de Hokkaido 2004, with in the green leader jersey, Kam Po
Wong, our Eddy Hilger became third overall. (Photo: Chi
Polo Cycling Team: We are very happy with this podium placing by Eddy Hilger
in the Tour de Hokkaido 2004. It is already a very successful season for Marco
Polo, with overall victories in the Tour of Sri Lanka, the Tour de Korea and
recently in the Tour d'Indonesia!
is also an incredible result of Eddy Hilger, in only his second year of racing
and first year at international level with the Marco Polo Cycling Team!
We want to thank everybody for their help and support and the Tour de Hokkaido organization for their hospitality.