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Gear up for the "Tour de Okinawa 99"

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-09-10

A flash of colors zipping by on ultra thin wheels is how some spectators might perceive the sport of bicycle racing. In the last ten years cyclists have pushed their athletic ability to the limit, finishing races with amazing speed. Not only have the riders become faster, but so have the machines on which they ride. A racing bike is a high-tech combination of the latest alloyed metals with an aerodynamic design made to cut through the wind at incredible velocity. There is almost nothing to separate the rider from the hard pavement whizzing by below, which means there is virtually no room for error. The sport is definitely not for the faint hearted, but it can be a thrill to watch. On November 12, 13, and 14, some of the best racers from around the world will compete in the 11th annual "Tour de Okinawa" in Nago City, giving local residents a chance to both observe and compete in this spectacular sport.

Organizers of the "Tour de Okinawa" are currently taking applications from all eligible riders for several different categories of both professional and amateur races. At the top of the list is the Men's 200 km Championship Race (¥8,000 entry fee) - a grueling ride around Okinawa's northern coastline and through its rugged interior. Scheduled to begin on November 14 at 7 a.m., the race is open to registered International Cycling Union(ICU) professional cyclists only. The course is considered to be one of the most challenging races in Japan, because of the steep mountain roads that riders must climb, and is the only individual bike race in Japan officially sanctioned by the ICU. Racers have only a small window of opportunity to avoid disqualification in the race, and must arrive at ten different check points no more than fifteen minutes behind the top group.

The world's top women cyclists will also converge on Nago for the Women's 50 km International Race (¥8,000 entry fee), scheduled to start at 7:14 a.m. on November 14. All applicants must be registered JCF riders. The women's race course follows the mountainous region of Motobu Peninsula, and will have two check points with the same time-limit rules as the Men's 200 km Championship Race.

For those racers who have not yet reached professional ranks but still take their cycling serious, there are several amateur road race divisions within the "Tour de Okinawa" which one can attempt to qualify.

The Men's 200 km Citizen Race follows the same course as the Men's 200 km Championship Race Division. There are also three other men's amateur races: the Men's 120 km Citizen Race, the Men's 80 km Citizen Race, and the Men's 50 km Citizen Race. (The men's races are open to all males over the age of 19. Entry fee is ¥9,000.) Women can challenge themselves with the Women's 50 km Race, open to females over the age of 13 (¥9,000 entry fee). A Junior 50 km race for junior high school males (¥8,000 to enter) will also be held.

The touring division is perfect for cyclists who are looking for a non-competitive event and for families. There is a Mountain Bike 70 km Tour, open to all males over 16 (¥7,000), and two courses through Onna and Kin village for all cyclists over the age of seven (¥5,000). A much more challenging course is the 357 km "Touring around Okinawa"; a two-day tour that also includes a barbecue party in Ginoza. (Entry fee is ¥15,000, which includes one night’s accommodation.)

The "Tour de Okinawa" also offers touring courses in Iheya and Izena islands. (All cyclists over 10 years of age are eligible to enter. The entry fee of ¥15,000 includes both the fare for ferry and overnight accommodations.) Last on the list is the Ie Island Tour, which is open to cyclists over the age of 7 (¥7000).

Make sure you come out to Nago in November and cheer on all the riders as they zoom by. If you are a cyclist and wish to enter in this year's "Tour de Okinawa," applications are available at the Tour de Okinawa Executive Committee Office, located on the second floor of the Nago Civic Center. Entry forms are also available at the Falcon Fitness Center. The deadline for all applications is September 30. For more information, please call 0980-54-3174.

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