Japanese university students Toyohiro Oka (Trek-Marco Polo Cycling) and Yuya Sasaki (Team Nippon-Colnago), from Kyoto Sangyo University, decided to take a few weeks off, rent a car and race in California. In preparation for their big collegiate national road race, they thought that racing in the States would put an edge on their training and gain invaluable experience. The American peloton is unlike any peloton in Japan.
“Racing in Japan is very different. The standard mode is for a breakaway to go,” commented Oka, who is a senior majoring in business administration. “The winner is always from this initial break. There is very little strategy involved. I wanted to come here to learn how the American riders race, like attacking. I wanted to see the Americans race and ride in an American race. My hope is to take back the attacking race form to Japan and use it in races there. I really do like how the riders attack the peloton.”
Toyohiro Oka (Trek-Marco Polo Cycling)
“I also like the way the teams work together here,” continued Oka. “There is not much in team strategy in the Japanese collegiate ranks. Watching the teams ride was interesting.”
“The criteriums have been fun but are very fast. The pace does not fall and remains fast.” Oka won the Suisun Harbor Criterium in Suisun City, CA. Oka placed first in the Miyata Cycle Road Race U23 and placed 12th in the Japan National Road race U23 in Japan this year.
Tony Cruz (BMC) and Yuya Sasaki (Team Nippon-Colnago),
“I came here because there is a very important collegiate race at the end of the summer, stated Saski, a senior studying law. “I want to win that race and came here to train. I want to be able race well. I came to learn how to race fast. I am learning how attacking the peloton and pacing can affect a race.”
“I hope to be a professional cyclist one day and plan on continuing my training even after graduatiion,” declared Sasaki. “Since I have been here I have grown to admire Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics) and I remain a Pantani fan.”
While racing in California, Saski placed 7th at the Winters Road Race in Winters, CA and placed 7th at the University Road Race in Santa Cruz, CA. Saski won the South Japan Road race and came in 7th at the Japan National Championship Road Race this year.
Sasaki riding in the University Road peloton.
Many thanks to Yukie Nakamura (Kenda Tires) and her husband Masayoshi (Mark) Nakamura for setting up the meeting with Oka and Sasaki. Mr. Nakamura would like to make this an annual program for young Japanese collegiate riders to gain invaluable experience riding in the American peloton. Hopefully we will see more young Japanese riders enjoy their summer vacation competing in the California Cup series next year.
All pictures copyright Stephanie Gutowski