FOLLOWING the third highly successful Niseko Cycle Week, more and more professional and amateur cyclists are learning the area has some of the best road cycling anywhere in the world.
Add in the mix some great lakes and pools for swimming, trails for running and ever-improving mountain bike trails and parks and it makes for a world-class summer sports hub.
The recently completed Niseko Cycle Week was the most successful yet with many people travelling to the area from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia to participate in many of the cycle-based events.
The Niseko Promotion Board (NPB) and dozens of local businesses have put considerable funds and effort into expanding the summer activities and it is now starting to really pay off.
NPB head Ross Findlay from NAC stated at last year’s AGM that he sees Niseko becoming ‘Asia’s Boulder’, in reference to the US ski town that has become a hub for amateur and pro athletes to train and race in.
Tour de Hokkaido in Niseko
This year one of Japan’s premier cycle races, the Tour de Hokkaido, had a 186km stage finish in front of the Niseko Alpen Hotel in Hirafu, at the bottom of the main ski lifts.
The steep climb to the finish brought out the most in the riders after a gruelling day, the stage was won by Miyataka Shimizu, who also took out the overall tour.
A time trial race was also held in Kutchan. The Tour De Hokkaido also includes an amateur division which was very well attended as it coincided with the conclusion of Niseko Cycle Week, to make it the busiest weekend in some time.
Hanazono Hill Climb
The local councils in Kutchan and Niseko are both fully supportive of the current cycling boom and included the first ever Hanazono Hill Climb race as part of the annual potato festival (Jyaga Matsuri).
The race had about 200 started and was taken out by Brian Barkhouse. See a video wrap up of the event here.
Kutchan has also launched a summer version of its famous town mascot, the fat little potato boy Jyagata-kun. A picture of Jyagata-kun skiing adorns many signs in the area, but we will start seeing the cycling version more and more, especially in summer.
Hong Kong-based triathletes have also begun to take advantage of the direct flights and discounted summer accommodation to come for training camps to the area.
This year 25 triathletes spent seven days swimming biking and running all over the area, and fell in love.
Hong Kong national triathlon team coach Kenneth Yip will bring out the elite squad for a training camp in July 2011.
Combined with the throngs of Japanese high school rugby, soccer, tennis and white water rafting camps , fly fishing, paragliding, horse riding and four world class golf courses and summer visitors will never be caught with no sports to participate in.
Asia’s Boulder indeed!