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Hagiwara and D’hoore retain Japanese and Belgian Road Race Championship Titles

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Mayuko Hagiwara and Jolien D’hoore have both successfully defended their titles in the Japanese and Belgian National Road Race Championships respectively. Both riders went into the races as favourites and, as the only ones representing the black and orange jersey, found themselves heavily marked. Both riders managed to overcome this pressure, however, and both took their victories in sprints from reduced pelotons.

“It’s a very very special and happy feeling because this course was not so hilly and in the end it was a sprint,” Hagiwara said. “I didn’t expect that I could win, but I could win, so I’m very happy.”

As a teammate of such champion sprinters as D’hoore, former two-time road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, and Australians Nettie Edmondson and Chloe Hosking, top climber Hagiwara feels that she must have picked up some finishing technique somewhere along the line.

“I never thought I could sprint, but today I could do!” Hagiwara laughed. “A Japanese sprint!”

As the overwhelming favourite, thanks to her victory in four of the last five Japanese Road Race Championships, Hagiwara was constantly watched by the mostly domestic peloton in Otowara, but was able to beat them at their own game at the finish. Time Trial Champion Eri Yonamine (Saxo Bank FX Securities) was second, and Hiromi Kaneko (Iname Shinano Yamagata) was third.

“It was a typical Asian race,” she explained. “Everyone was very slow because the circuit was not so hard. It was maybe hard for four or five laps, but nobody tried to attack. If I moved, everyone followed. If Eri Yonamine – she won the time trial and is also strong – if she went to go, everyone followed. And if maybe two or three riders go: if I don’t go, everyone stopped.

“One time three riders got a gap of two minutes and it was a little bit nervous. But I just waited, and watched Yonamine Eri; I used her a lot, and I waited, waited, waited. In the end I tried to do something, and just to sprint in the final.

“It was a very difficult race, and I had to use my head a lot!” she added.

Although she lost her time trial title to Yonamine last week, Hagiwara has retaken the jersey that she will wear on most days in Europe, and is looking forward to proudly showing her country’s flag in the biggest races again.

“I’m very happy that I can wear the Japanese jersey again – in the Giro also – it’s very important for me, and very special for me too,” she smiled.

In Tervuren, to the east of the Belgian capital, Brussels, D’hoore also found herself watched by a peloton dominated by the big Belgian teams. Despite the attention her status as a defending champion with a World Cup victory her name this season, the 25-year-old managed to roll with the punches and use her devastating sprint on the finishing straight. Lotte Kopecky (Topsport Vlaanderen Pro-Duo) was second, with Sofie De Vuyst (Lensworld-Zanatta) third.

“The race wasn’t that easy for me. It was quite hard,” D’hoore explained. “I had no support of teammates, so everybody was riding on my wheel. When I wanted to attack they were on my wheel and they didn’t take over; it was quite difficult sometimes…”

In a race peppered with attacks – with D’hoore herself getting into a dangerous looking group midway through – it was nevertheless mostly kept under control by the sprinters’ teams. A big move from Jessie Daams (Lotto-Soudal) inside the final 30km threatened to foil the fast-finishers, but she was eventually chased down in the closing stages.

“There was one girl that got away in the final – Jessie Daams – and I thought she would win,” said D’hoore. “But then suddenly some teams started to ride again, and they closed the gap quite quickly. Then they caught her back with 1km to go, so it was a bunch sprint; well, a sprint with a group of maybe 30-35 riders.”

“I wasn’t confident because I did a lot of work in the race,” she continued. “When there were attacks I had to go with them because I was the only one from the team. So I did a lot of work, I couldn’t save myself for the sprint. I hoped I had something left for the end, and I had, so I’m happy about that!

“I heard Mayuko won her championship, and Anna too. So it’s looking good for the Giro with all the the Champions’ jerseys!” D’hoore laughed.

Result Japanese Road Race Championships
1. Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

2. Eri Yonamine (Saxo Bank FX Securities)
3. Hiromi Kaneko (Iname Shinano Yamagata)

Result Belgian Road Race Championships
1. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

2. Lotte Kopecky (Topsport Vlaanderen Pro-Duo)
3. Sofie De Vuyst (Lensworld-Zanatta)

Japanese Championship Photo Credit: Sonoko Tanaka
Belgian Championship Finish Photo Credit: Marc Van Hecke/


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