Where EAST meets the Northwest
COMPETITIVE CYCLIST. Japanís Yukiya Arashiro celebrates on the podium after
being awarded the prize for best combative rider during the sixth stage of the
Tour de France cycling race over 118.1 miles with the start in Arpajon-sur-Cere
and finish in Montauban, France, on July 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #15 (August 1, 2016), page 7.
Japanís leading cyclist races in his seventh Tour de France
By Mike Street
Special to The Asian Reporter
In recent years, the focus of the Tour de France has been either on the
frontrunners or the cheaters, but Asian cycling fans have been cheering for
Japanese rider Yukiya Arashiro since 2009. In 2016, Arashiro participated in his
seventh Tour de France, showing his strength during one breakaway stage and
overcoming a gruesome injury sustained earlier in the year to post a very strong
Arashiro entered the cycling scene in a rather improbable fashion at 18 years
old in 2002. An avid handball player, he had never participated in competitive
cycling, but a family friend who was competing in France inspired him.
Arashiro followed his friend to France to begin racing competitively. "I
never even saw the Tour de France on television until I arrived in France, and I
didnít know how it worked," he said later. "Initially, I just wanted to make it
to the finish of races." In the more competitive world of French cycling,
Arashiro soon began to excel.
In 2005, he won two under-23 championships in Japan: the National Time Trial
and the Road Race Championships. After graduating from the junior circuit, he
won Japanís National Road Race Championships in 2007, a performance he repeated
Arashiroís career began to really take off in 2008, when he finished third
overall in the Tour du Limousin, winning the raceís second stage. This was his
first stage victory and best finish in an HC (Hors díCategorie) race. HC races
are one level below the top-level Grand Tour, which comprises the three most
famous cycling races: the Tour de France, Giro díItalia, and the Vuelta a
In addition to his performance at the Tour du Limousin, Arashiro won both the
Tour de Okinawa and the Tour de Kumano. This breakthrough year led to an
invitation to ride in the 2009 season with the Bouygues Telecom team, who
selected him to ride in his first Tour de France.
That year, Arashiro became the first Japanese cyclist to finish the Tour de
France, crossing the finish line in 126th place, ahead of countryman Fumiyuku
Beppo. In 2010, Arashiro stood alone as the first Japanese cyclist to finish two
Grand Tour events after completing the Giro díItalia. In that race, he led a
breakaway in the fifth stage, nearly earning his first Grand Tour stage victory.
Arashiro also finished ninth at the world road race championships in Melbourne,
the first top-ten finish for a Japanese cyclist in that event. Arashiro capped
that excellent season by placing 112th in his second Tour de France, improving
on his performance from the year before.
After securing the Asian Championship in 2011, Arashiro established another
landmark in 2012. His win in the 2012 Tour du Limousin was the first HC victory
by a Japanese cyclist, establishing Arashiro among the top echelon of
That year, Arashiro also competed in his fourth Tour de France, establishing
new standards for himself and his country. In the second stage, he finished in
fifth place after a mad sprint to the finish, the closest heíd ever come to
winning a Grand Tour stage.
His fourth-stage breakaway earned him the red jersey for being that stageís
most combative rider. He finished in 84th place, the best performance ever by a
Japanese rider in the Tour de France. After the race, he said, "For me, the most
important thing every season is to ride the Tour."
In 2013, the year Arashiro repeated as Japanís road race champion, he won
second place at the Tour de Limousin and finished 99th in his fifth Tour de
France. He improved that result in 2014 by winning 65th place, a year when he
also finished the Giro díItalia for the second time.
Arashiro showed his resilience in 2015, as he broke his shoulder in a wreck
during a race in Liege, Belgium. He could not participate in the Tour de France,
but six months later, Arashiro completed the Vuelta a EspaŮa. This made him the
first Japanese cyclist to finish all three Grand Tour events. Even better, he
did so in 65th place; a month later, he also took third in the Japan Cup.
Prior to this season, perhaps because of his grit, Arashiro was signed by the
Italian team Lampre-Merida, who cited his trailblazing ways as well as his
performance record. In his inaugural race with the team, Arashiro took second
place at the Asian Cycling championships. Less than a month later, however, he
went down in a wreck in the final stage of the Tour of Qatar, this time breaking
his left femur.
But Arashiro kept his fitness up and proved his health at the Tour of Japan
four months later, leading a breakaway at the end of the seventh stage for his
first stage win since his 2013 victory. A month after that, he raced in his
seventh Tour de France, once again displaying his grit and sprinting ability.
In the sixth stage, Arashiro led a breakaway after just three kilometers,
pulling away from the pack with one other rider for 165 kilometers. They built a
lead of more than five minutes before the peloton overtook them. For his
aggressive riding, Arashiro won the red jersey for the second time at the Tour
de France. He said later, "Iím pleased that I received the award as most
combative rider, itís a prize for the determination I had to promote the
breakaway Ö Today I add another beautiful moment."
In the end, Arashiro was unable to keep up the pace heíd maintained in
earlier Tours, but considering his injury in February, his performance was
nonetheless impressive. After slipping back to 140th place in the middle stages,
Arashiro improved down the stretch to finish in 116th place. Next season, if he
can stay healthy, look for Arashiro to set even more Asian records on the
international cycling scene.
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