Tour de Okinawa draws bicycle racers to Nago

Tour de Okinawa racers crossing the Haneji Bridge.

The hills are alive around Nago City this weekend, but with the sounds of bicycles, not music, as the Tour de Okinawa generates 23 races.

Cyclists will be competing in 13 elements of racing, eight cycling section events, and another two festival-related events promoting the greatest cycle-sporting event in Japan.  The weekend-long set of events –including international road races, citizen road races and citizen tour races– take place around the Yanbaru area of northern Okinawa, all under the banner of the Tour de Okinawa.

Starting and finishing line is in Nago City.

The races are held to promote sightseeing in the northern Okinawa area, to draw attention to local culture, and to contribute to improvement of public benefits, such as a community improvement or health enhancement.  The races begin at 7:45 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Participants include both professionals and amateurs.  Professional riders are limited to the 210-kilometer Champion Road Race, which is the longest of all bicycle road races in Japan. The race features invited pro-cycling teams from abroad who will face Japan’s top road racing teams on the hilly roads of northern Okinawa in this exciting race.  The Champion Road Race takes place on Sunday, and consists of 20 teams with five members on each team.

Female pro-teams compete on a 100-kilometer course, also on Sunday. The women’s course has a reputation of being one of the toughest on the Japanese cycling circuit.

The third elite category is for juniors who are 15 ~ 18 years old. Participation in all three elite categories is by invitation only.

Other race categories taking place over Saturday and Sunday include both individual and family events that are basically open to all bicycling enthusiasts.

Both men’s and women’s pro events are for invited teams only.

The two-day event is also used to spread news and promotion of the cycling sport in Okinawa Prefecture, and of the opportunities for international exchange and cooperation with various organizations both from Okinawa and mainland Japan. Many organizations cooperate in planning and organizing the race, which is also sanctioned by the Japan Cycling Federation.