The whole crew out having fun racing ’cross in Japan. ©T Nakajima

The whole crew out having fun racing ’cross in Japan. © T Nakajima

by T. Kobayashi

It’s more than just a flash mob! After IOC Jacques Rogge announced Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympic games, the cyclocross community in Japan wanted to have some fun. More than 240 ’crossers, including juniors riders, gathered at riverside of Yoshimi Park, Saitama on October 6th for opening race of 2013.

While cyclocross racing has been popular in Europe for over 60 years, the sport is catching up here in Japan. GP-Mistral, which host series of six races per year, was previously seen more as local event for core riders. Satoru Ohyama, the event director and race commissar, always talked about his dream of one day growing a truly competitive Japanese ’crossers at international level, has decided make a drastic changes from 2013 season. His plan is to lift up local games to a professional ’cross racing event with more focus on incubation of grass-roots riders… A beginning of decade and experiment.

Bringing kids to ’cross in Japan. © T. Nakajima

Bringing kids to ’cross in Japan. © T. Nakajima

As a huge step forward, Ohyama decided last year to opt out GP-Mistral from the AJOCC, cyclocross federation in Japan. He wanted to bring a distinctive competition to make the game more attractive to various ’crossers. Ohyama then introduced a cash prize system into Elite class riders, so even amateurs now have chances of earning cash if able to reach a podium. In addition to UCI classifications, various new categories were launched for masters, women, youth, U14, kids, and even for girls and bambi (pre-elementary kids). Opportunities are wider, and races are more fun to join for various age groups, different skill levels, and genders: There is something for everyone!

Bringing kids to ’cross in Japan. © T. Nakajima

Bringing kids to ’cross in Japan. © T. Nakajima

The excitement of young racers and those parents cheering kids were amplified by the brass band playing music all day throughout races. Sheer racing spectacles were seen at all levels, had proved its success of re-born GP Mistral and 2013 season opener.

Just before closing of the event, when award ceremony was in progress to celebrate those podium kid riders of the day. There was someone in the junior audience who calmly expressed his feeling using a popular phrase from a recently broadcasted TV drama, saying,“You shall double payback next time!”

Ohyama wrapped up the day with a big smile on his face.