TOKYO, Japan – It was an exciting showdown between the current Japanese national champion, Ayako Toyooka (PANASONIC LADIES), and the 2013 champion, Sakiko Miyauchi (Team CHAINRING). After a few smart choices between her and her pit crew, Toyooka pulled off a tricky pass in the final sand section and finished ahead of Miyauchi for a last minute win.
The way the race played out between the two Japanese national champions was actually very similar to the year before. One big difference, however, is that in 2014 they had had three very strong Americans to mix it up with: Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective), Wendy Simms (Kona) and Lyne Bessette (CyclocrossWorld).
As opposed to racing under blue skies in the snow last year, this Cyclocross Tokyo Women’s Elite field of 13 raced under heavy rain. Toyooka said, “I had a really hard time on the tough course at Worlds the week before so I’ve just been recovering since then, and hadn’t ridden prior to the race except for a little bit out of the rain on rollers. But I knew that despite the time off, once the adrenaline kicked in I’d be able to race at a high level.”
And that she did: From the start line the current queen of Japanese cyclocross went out very hard.
She quickly put a lead of nearly 30 seconds on all chasers within a lap. However by the third lap, last year’s national champion, Miyauchi, had cut Toyooka’s lead to 12 seconds. And by the last lap, in a replay of the year before, Miyauchi was able to overtake Toyooka but lost the lead in the sand section to finish just behind her.
Interestingly, both women attributed the two seconds difference to the preparation and choices made by Toyooka and her pit crew on the last lap.
As Miyauchi explained “I should have thought ahead about tactics more. The way the pit was set up at the entrance to the last long sand section, if you took a bike that would be fast in the sand then you would take too much risk in the slippery woods for the next lap. But when Toyooka was behind me going into the final sand section, she opted to pit and change to a sand specific set up. She caught me at the U-turn on the far end and bumped past me on the inside line. After that I wasn’t able to find any good lines to pass her back.”
Miyauchi was disappointed in herself for losing the lead in front of the most spectators of any cyclocross event in Japan, but her determination to take the national championship jersey from Toyooka again next season and win at Cyclocross Tokyo next year was written across her face.