Jason Christie of Avanti Racing capped off a great 2015 season for the boys in blue by winning the Tour de Okinawa. While the likes of Joseph Cooper were busy ripping it up in Southland, Christie was in Japan taking a fine solo win ahead of Shotaro Iribe and Benjamin Prades.
210km of rolling Japanese roads comprises the Tour de Okinawa, a tough one-day race first held as an amateur event in 1989. Since the race turned professional in 1999 it has attracted a pre-dominantly Japanese winners roster, with Canada, Hong Kong and Australia also being present. Never before had a New Zealander stepped up on the top step of the podium, a statistic Jason Christie was keen to amend.
Christie lined up as the only Kiwi in the Avanti Racing Team for the one-day race, alongside Aussies Mark O’Brien, Benjamin Dyball and Aaron Donnelly. A host of previous winners were also there, namely two-time winner Kenji Itami of Kinan Cycling, last year’s winner Nariyuki Masuda of Utsunomiya Blitzen, and 2013 champion Sho Hatsuyama of Bridgestone Anchor Cycling.
The race broke up quite radically over the course with Bridgestone Anchor Cycling being very well represented at the front. Damien Monier, Kazuo Inoue and Sho Hatsuyama were all in a strong position to contend for the win, but it was the Avanti Racing team – with Mark O’Brien and Jason Christie in the front at the latter stages – that took their opportunity best.
Christie escaped alone to win by 13 seconds after more than five and a half hours in the saddle. He finished ahead of Shimano Racing’s Shotaro Iribe and Matrix Powertag’s Benjamin Prades.
It is a brilliant way to end the season for Christie, who has already raced two other Japanese UCI races at the Tour of Japan and Tour de Kumano. The National Road Championship bronze medallist has made it thirteen victories for the Avanti Racing team on the UCI circuit in 2015 with fellow Kiwis Joseph Cooper, Taylor Gunman and Patrick Bevin all featuring.