Japanese Ryutaro Nakamura had a triumphant return to the Hell of the Marianas Century Cycle Race as he topped last Saturday’s competition.
Nakamura, who finished only third last year, completed the 100-kilometer race around the island in 2:54:50 and beat his 2014 time (2:56:13) to spoil the debuts of three Taiwanese riders. The Japanese pro made it to the finish line at Mariana Resort & Spa less than a minute ahead of National Taiwan University of Physical Education and Sport’s Chien Liang Chen (2:55:08). Chen’s teammates Wu Hsing Yang and Hsuan Ping Hsu came in at third and fourth place after timing in at 2:56:28 and 2:59:00, respectively.
The 24-year-old Nakamura and the three Taiwanese bikers stuck together around the first 50K of the race before the former had the chance to pull away as they were going uphill in the As Gono area. By the time Nakamura was heading down Capital Hill after various climbs in San Vicente, Papago, and Kagman, he managed to gain a three-minute lead against the Taiwanese trio. However, Chen, a veteran of various cycling races in Asia, inched closer on their way up to Radar in As Matuis.
“That was the most difficult part of the race because I am starting to get tired and the course is mostly uphill with a lot of turns. I kept on looking back to see if they are catching up on me,” said Nakamura, who returned to Saipan with victory in mind.
“Last year, it was very difficult because I did not know the course very much. I had a hard time in the Kingfisher area and I was a bit cautious because the road was very slippery then. Also, the two Russians I was up against were very good,” he added through an interpreter.
Nakamura, the champion of all-Japan time trial (43K) this year, was talking of Konstantin Fast, who won last year’s race with a time of 2:49:22, and Aleksandr Dorovskikh. Fast withdrew from this year’s event the last minute, while Dorovskikh along with fellow Russian biker Aleksei Barkun came in 25 minutes late for the start of the race.
Dorovskikh ended up at ninth place in the men’s pro division behind a group of Guam riders after clocking in at 3:53:22, while Barkun was last at No. 11 following his official time of 4:05:15. Guam’s Jonathan Martin (3:10:33), Peter Lombard (3:11:47), and Jake Jones (3:21:33), Korea’s Kaon Cho (3:21:48) and Saipan’s Wunn Brillo (3:53:22) were the other participants in the men’s pro division.
“I did not know that the Russians started late. I was worried of the Taiwanese so even though I am about to enter the finish line (loop), I made one final look to see where my opponents are,” said Nakamura, who raised both arms in triumph as he was about to complete the race.
Nakamura’s closest rival admitted the course got the better of him. Chen, through an interpreter, said the course is very technical with a lot of up and down roads, which they did not expect.
Meanwhile, in the women’s division, Mieko Carey lived up to expectations as she got another win in the annual race.
Carey submitted 3:25:51 to finish way ahead of fellow Guam biker Manami Iijima (4:14:33) and good friend and Saipan’s Kimiko McKagan (4:15:40).
“It’s my last race for the season and I am glad I won and was able to race with my friends on Saipan,” Carey said.