Japanese star Arashiro to begin with Bbox Bouygues Telecom at Le Tour de Langkawi

Kuala Lumpur – One of the last coups towards the end of the transfer window prior to the Pro Tour teams’ rosters to be finalised for the 2009 season was the recruitment of Japanese Yukiya Arashiro by the newly named Bbox-Bouygues Telecom French outfit. The 24 years old from Okinawa seduced team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau by his continuous attacks. He also proved to be efficient sometimes as he won stage 2 in the 2.1 Tour du Limousin, a race where he finished 3rd overall in 2006.

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Consistency on French soil has earned him the pro contract he dreamt of when he moved to Normandy in 2004 riding for small club EC Aumale after completing his studies and giving up his aims of becoming a professional handball player.

Arashiro’s attacks were also noticed by the staff of Bouygues Telecom at Le Tour de Langkawi, in which they competed together in the past two years. He proved to be a decent sprinter as he came 7th in stage 4 from Gua Musang to Kota Bahru in 2007. “We have different approaches of the sport of cycling and we are very interested to discover his”, Bernaudeau explained. The cycling coach from Vendée was known for giving their chance to French coloured riders from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe (Rony Martias and Yohann Gène) and Saïd Haddou who is the first pro cyclist coming from the third generation of Algerian immigrants in France.

For the first time, an Asian integrates a French team. Bernaudeau had looked at such an opportunity since the first time he sent his amateur team Vendée U to Malaysia for Le Tour de Langkawi back in 1996 for the inaugural edition. Bbox-Bouygues Telecom assistant directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit has a long personal history of contribution to Asian cycling. He has worked as DS for Japanese team Nippo-Hodo and he organised a Japanese team to learn the basics of cycling and study languages at the University of Poitiers from 1998 to 2001. From 2002 to 2004, he coached the national woman team of China.

“In China, cycling could get a huge and rapid boost as long as the government wants to do it, but in Japan the development of the sport is limited by the density of the traffic on the roads”, Mauduit explained. “The federation isn’t very proactive at the difference of some cycling enthusiasts who try their best to give Japanese riders exposure in Europe and other Asian countries.”

Akira Asada is the most notable of them. Arashiro hails from his Meitan-GDR team. “It will be strange to see Yukiya riding Le Tour de Langkawi with another team because he has always been with us previously”, Asada said. “I’m also looking forward to be at the same races as him in France. I hope that our new rivalry will help each other to get better. I wish him the best luck anyway.” Asada’s dream of taking a Japanese rider to a Pro Tour outfit has now become concrete and it shows that doors are open in Europe for riders from other Asian countries as well as long as they build solid foundations and produce results overseas.

“I hope to win races for Bbox-Bouygues Telecom, including a stage at the Tour de France”, Arashiro stated. “I also want to grab the Japanese national title again.” Following the good old habits of the Meitan-GDR team, Arashiro has headed off to Thailand in January to gear up for Le Tour de Langkawi. “The hot weather and the climbs are similar to the conditions I’ll face in Malaysia”, he said. “I went to France in December for the training camp of Bbox-Bouygues Telecom. I’ve had the impression this team is a real family. It’s also very open in terms of tactic. There’s no designated captain. Any team member is likely to try and win, also to get a chance to participate to the Tour de France. At Le Tour de Langkawi, I’ll first do my best to gain the confidence of my team-mates, I’ll also try and win stages and GC.”

“We’ll go to Le Tour de Langkawi with the aim of winning GC”, Mauduit confirmed. “Johann Tschopp will be our natural captain. Considering his weight-power ratio, the climb of Genting Highlands will suit him more that Fraser’s Hill last year.” The Swiss climb was on his way to contest the stage win up to Fraser’s Hill in 2008 but he lost all his hopes due to a flat tyre with 2-km to go. “Our concern is the weather conditions that our European riders have had to face recently”, Mauduit mentioned. “The cold and the snow have affected the training of cyclists like Tschopp.” Shall the Europeans reach Malaysia with a bit of a lack of form compared to their initial plans, Bbox-Bouygues Telecom will be able to count on its super motivated Asian recruit.

Bbox-Bouygues Telecom for Le Tour de Langkawi: Yukiya Arashiro (Jap), Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra), Yohann Gène (Fra), Arnaud Labbe (Fra), Guillaume Le Floc’h (Fra), Johann Tschopp (Swi). Directeur sportif: Philippe Mauduit.

The Le Tour de Langkawi 2009 will feature 20 teams from February 9 to 15, starting in Putrajaya, the home of Malaysian government, and finishing in the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur with the traditional criterium at Dataran Merdeka.

The Tour is organized by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) with the support of the Malaysian Government via the Ministry of Youth and Sports and sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC).

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