Tama cyclists tackle hills, muck
TAMA HILLS RECREATION CENTER, Japan — Nature’s elements challenged the 100 competitors on mountain bikes Saturday as they traversed a muddy course in the 25th Tour de Tama at Tama Hills near Yokota Air Base.
Steep hills, along with the slippery muck created by the previous day’s rain, tested the American and Japanese riders in four divisions: women, men, open and expert.
“It was really tough — definitely not for the inexperienced,” said Airman First Class Justin McKinney, of the 374th Maintenance Squadron at Yokota.
Airman 1st Class Justin Manser, also assigned to the 374th Maintenance Squadron, said he entered the race hoping to just stay upright. He managed to do that, but he still injured his leg on one of his pedals during a rough landing after flying over a hill.
“I might need to go get some stitches,” Manser said.
Some riders fell victim to a particularly steep part of the course called the double dip, where McKinney took several spills. He said one tumble had him flying over his handlebars.
Japanese riders outnumbered their American counterparts. Anthony Fichera, outdoor recreation director at Yokota, said the good showing of Japanese riders demonstrates how the annual event has become a much anticipated outdoor occasion in the local community.
“The Japanese riders are fearless,” said Senior Airman Patrick Oliver. “I never saw them use their brakes once.”
Top riders among the women, riding 5 kilometers, were Yuki Suzuki, first place, 41:46; Rie Fujita, second, 43:00; and Miki Hayase, third, 44:56
Fastest in the mens division, also riding 5 kilometers, were Go Endo, first, 37:18; Yu Shibata, second, 37:21; and Matsunori Katsumi, third, 37:31. The top mens division SOFA finisher was Jason Palmer at 40:23
Leaders in the open division, covering 7.5 kilometers, were Hiroshi Sanada, first, 50:20; Hideaki Asai, second, 52:41; and Kenji Suzuki, third, 54:08. The top SOFA finisher in the open division was Kelly Morast at 1:09:15.
The fastest finishers in the expert division, racing 10 kilometers, were Kazushi Mikami, first, 59:58; Yuichi Suzuki, second, 1:01:35; and Raimu Sonobe, third, 1:02:55. The top SOFA finisher in the expert division was Michael Rice at 1:03:15.