Two professional Japanese road cycling teams will be making their debut in this month’s Grassroots New Zealand Cycle Classic being staged entirely in the Waikato. Leading the charge is the 2018 No.1 UCI ranked team in the Asian circuit, the KINAN Cycling Team, while the second team making their New Zealand debut is the AISAN Racing Team, a UCI Continental registered team.
Grassroots Trust New Zealand Cycle Classic race director Jorge Sandoval says to have the top ranked Asian UCI team racing in New Zealand is a huge deal for the five-stage elite international men’s road cycling race, being staged in and around the surrounds of Waipā from January 23rd – 27th 2019.
“All stage races in Asia are very competitive and feature many European teams. Having the KINAN team in the New Zealand Cycle Classic will lift the profile of our event on the tour enormously,” says Sandoval. “For KINAN, it is also a big deal starting their season in New Zealand. They’re a very professional team, as well as the riders, they are bringing their manager and mechanic and media manager who will report daily to websites all over Asia and the world.”
Leading the KINAN Cycling Team is French hill climber Thomas Lebas, winner of Tour Hoikaido, Tour de Flores, the international Tour of Setif in Algeria as well as the Mountains competition. Lebas started his cycling career racing in Europe until 2013 when he was signed by the Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team, and since then he has concentrated on the Asian calendar winning races and featuring in almost every stage race he’s participated in.
Accompanying Lebas in the team are Masaki Yamamoto, 2018 Asian U23 and TTT champion, Yasuharu Nakajima, twice winner of Tour of Thailand, as well as Jim Okudo, Hiroshi Tsubaki and Yudai Arashiro.
Meanwhile leading the AISAN Racing Team, is 23-year old sprinter Hayato Okamoto, the 2017 Asian under 23 road champion. Okamoto is also a stage winner at this year’s Tour of Taiwan and at the 2017 Tour of Hokkaido, where he won a stage as well as the Sprint competition.
Helping Okamoto at stage finishes are five very versatile and experienced riders in Tomohiro Hayakawa, Kota Sumiyoshi, Shotaro Watanabe, Ken Nakagawa and French rider Frederic Monier.
“It’s so exciting having these teams contest the Grassroots Trust New Zealand Cycle Classic and race alongside the other international teams that we will announce soon. It will create strong interest in the 2019 Classic and help enhance its standing internationally,” says Sandoval.
“I’ve never had a Japanese team in our event before which is why this is so thrilling to welcome the KINAN and Aisan Racing teams to our shores in 2019. I’ve followed and participated as a team manager in various Asian races in the past and I know they are very competitive, hard races to win. The teams are currently in training camps and will come here ready to race.” says Sandoval.
The Grassroots Trust New Zealand Cycle Classic is a five-stage elite international men’s road cycling race, the only Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) 2.2 sanctioned race to be held in New Zealand in 2019. After being staged in the Wairarapa for the last three years it will be staged entirely in and around the surrounds of Waipā from January 23rd – 27th 2019 and will feature new race routes that will test all riders.
Being held simultaneously with the Grassroots New Zealand Cycle Classic is Three Peaks RIDE New Zealand’s Cycling Festival, a week-long festival encouraging people of all ages and stages of cycling to get out and ride more regularly. These two events have been made possible thanks to the generous support from the Brian Perry Charitable Trust and the Waipa District Council.
“Having the Grassroots New Zealand Cycle Classic and Ride New Zealand’s Festival of Cycling being held simultaneously will give the entire community a chance to see some of the world’s best riders in action and provide them with opportunities to get out on their own bikes and discover the Waipā district one road at a time,” says Mr Sandoval.
The AISAN Racing Team for the New Zealand Cycle Classic is:
Team manager: Takumi Beppu
21 – Tomohiro Hayakawa
22 – Kota Sumiyoshi
23 – Shotaro Watanabe
24 – Hayato Okamoto
25 – Ken Nakagawa
26 – Frederic Monier
The KINAN Cycling Team for the New Zealand Cycle Classic is:
Team manager: Tetsuya Ishida
71 – Thomas Lebas
72 – Yasuharu Nakajima
73 – Jim Okudo
74 – Hiroshi Tsubaki
75 – Yudai Arashiro
76 – Masaki Yamamoto