Driven by the will to provide some solace to earthquake-affected Japan, rider Shinichi Fukushima of the Japan national team put up a splendid display of determination and prowess to take Stage Five of the Tour de Taiwan 2011 – a 111.2km ride round the cultural city of Taichung.
Japan were recently hit by a devastating earthquake with the subsequent tsunami resulting in not only loss of lives and properties but has also affected the stability of several of the country’s nuclear plants.
And Fukushima today was very proud of his achievement when he went off very early on the stage to complete the route in 2:53:52 to finish with more than a minute advantage over second-placed Park Sung Baek of Korea and the rest of the peloton.
“I was not feeling too well from the first day of the race (the prologue in Taipei City), but this morning I felt a lot better,” said Fukushima, the only Japanese ever to have won the Tour of Japan (in 2004).
“In this tour, I had wanted to do something special for Japan and also the victims of the tsunami. And with this win, it is my small way to help inspire Japan to recovery.
“I have a lot of strength today and I’m really happy that I won the stage.”
With the start this morning at the century old Mid-Lake Pavilion of Taichung Park, the peloton began what was initially thought to be a quiet ride for the first 10km before they hit the first sprint of the day which was taken by Mehdi Sohrabi of Tabriz Petrochemical team at Wuchi Primary School.
Immediately afterward, Shinichi did not stay around and linger with the rest of the peloton when he went off on his own to take the second sprint at Tuniu Primary School (the 58km mark).
The former Japan champion Fukushima then went on to grab the two KOMs (after Zhongxing Mountain Bridge and then at the finish at the Taichung Metropolitan Park) before arriving to the cheers of the waiting crowd in spectacular fashion with arms raised having vanquished the peloton single-handedly.
But while Fukushima took both climbs and also the stage, the red jersey for the King of the Mountain is still in the grasp of Mehdi as well as the best ranked Asian in the blue jersey.
With the bonus points earned today, Mehdi has also cut the lead of team-mate and current yellow jersey holder Markus Eibegger to just two seconds adrift from nine seconds yesterday.
Markus said afterwards that the rule today and also the next several days would be not to take too much risk.
“We can’t possibly be working every day, we only have six riders and it is not easy to dominate from start to finish of a tour,” added the Austrian. “I think that we are quite happy with the position of the team at the moment.”
“We have two riders in front with good time gap and tomorrow will see a different day perhaps someone else taking the stage win. I’m just looking forward to Stage Seven where there are no climbs, only sprint. I’m still recovering from the climbs of the last few days.”
With Mart Ojavee of Champion System taking six points today to consolidate his position as the leader of the sprinters in the green jersey, the shirt for the best ranked Under-23 rider is still within Adam Phelan of Drapac Professional Cycling team.
Stage Six of the Tour de Taiwan tomorrow will ride out in Changhua County – with two KOMs and three sprints dotted throughout the 136km route.
TOUR de TAIWAN 2011
STAGE FIVE RESULTS
1. Shinichi Fukushima (Japan) 2:53:52
2. Park Sung Baek (Korea) 2:55:18
3. Mehdi Sohrabi (Tabriz Petrochemical) 2:55:18
4. Wu Po-Hung (Team Senter Merida) 2:55:18
5. Roger Beuchat (Champion System) 2:55:18
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION (after STAGE FIVE)
1. Markus Eibegger (Tabriz Petrochemical) 14:27:18
2. Mehdi Sohrabi (Tabriz) 14:27:20
3. David McCann (Giant Kenda) 14:27:37
4. Floris Goesinnen (Drapac) 14:28:03
Rhys Pollock (Drapac) 14:28:25