Niseko Classic 2018 Winners and Round-up
The guts, the glory and the good times at the fifth Niseko Classic at the weekend.
Grinta is the Italian word for "straight up guts" and is as much a part of cycling as aerodynamic frames and those funny shoes. This past weekend, Niseko was visited by connoisseurs of digging deep and racing hard, migrating in from all over Japan, with a handful of international riders from Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and the United Kingdom, just to name a few.
In typical pre-race fashion, the art of being casually deliberate was not to be taken lightly. Fragrant espressos, cranking out of Rapha's iconic grey van, found their way into many a cyclist's hands as their carbon steeds lay patiently in the paddock.
Race club colors, equipment checks, the hustle of race volunteers, and racers priming their muscles and minds drifted through the morning mist. The sound of freewheels spinning, bike shoes clicking, and gear geeks talking shop peppered the finishing touches to the atmosphere.
During this celebration of cycling, racing and culture, the hills smashed the peloton (group of riders) into two, with breakaways happening at every stage of the 140km race. The first punchy sections around Hanazono and the unrelenting Panorama Line wreaked havoc and strung the pack out. Only the steeliest riders made it off the front, with the Shimano and Mavic neutral support vehicles not far behind.
The trend continued as the cyclists, a synergy of grinta, pain, muscles, and grinding gears, burned their way up to the resort via Route 343, finishing on .Base's steep pitch, in what many agreed was a horrible (in a good way) finish.
Everyone crossing the line was properly cooked, happy with good racing and paying back their oxygen debt behind the smiles and grimaces. Post-race coffees and cold beers, families and crew welcoming riders back from battle, and a sliver of Yotei's peak was a fitting capstone to the day.
Oka Yasumasa, winner of the men's 140km race in 3:35'54", finished nearly 10 minutes faster than last year, solidifying his spot on the top step of Sunday's podium, flanked by Konno Genta (2nd) and Tasaki Tomoyasu (3rd). Results here.
Niseko, for its fifth year in a row and third year as part of the Gran Fondo World Tour, has proven to be a host among the best of them, providing a perfect setting for the celebration of this sport and all it represents. For those who qualified for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Varese, Italia, we say to you, "mata ne" and "buona fortuna!"
Want to see more great summer events on in Niseko? Check out the Events!