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Olympic Marathoner Nakamoto Returns to Roads as Grand Tour Kyushu Reaches Halfway

by Brett Larner

Japan's #1 marathoner, London Olympics 6th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto, returned to the roads Oct. 30 with the Fukuoka Prefecture team on the third day of the Grand Tour Kyushu 2012, an eight-day, 50-stage, 732.2 km ekiden around Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu.

After dominating on the traditional 72-stage, 1056.6 km course in 2010 and at last year's scaled-back 60th running, Miyazaki Prefecture got off to a strong start on Day One, finishing the day with an 84-second lead over Fukuoka and a lead of more than 2 1/2 minutes over Nagasaki Prefecture thanks to large part to Third and Fourth Stage wins by rookie pro Tetsuya Yoroizaka and Kazuya Deguchi.

2009 winner Fukuoka fought back on Day Two, winning four of the six stages and opening a nearly 2 minute lead on Miyazaki with Nagasaki another 5+ minutes back.  Miyazaki's lone stage win of the day came thanks to 2011 World Championships marathon 7th-place finisher Hiroyuki Horibata, who won the Fourth Stage by nearly two minutes in a solid performance that bodes well for the upcoming winter marathon season.

With Nakamoto winning the 15.3 km Second Stage in 45:26 in his first serious post-Olympics race and a stage record from anchor Koji Kaneko Fukuoka continued its roll, all but sweeping Day Three and extending its lead to 6 1/2 minutes.  Miyazaki's Takahiro Mori was the only rival to break through, setting a new course record of 42:14 for the tough 13.6 km Fifth Stage.

Day Four saw more strong performances from Fukuoka as athletes began to run their second stages of the Tour, Ryuji Watanabe winning his stage for the second time and Hiroki Kubota setting a new Fourth Stage record.  The day belonged to the Nagasaki team, however, as anchor Taku Miyahara set a stage record and both Sho Matsueda and Yuki Mori won their second stage titles to give Nagasaki the day win and close its gap to 2nd-place Miyazaki from a 7:40 deficit to a margin of 46 seconds.

With four days of running to go Fukuoka seems to have an untouchable lead of nearly 13 minutes, but Nagasaki and Miyazaki look set for a tough battle for the runner-up spot.

Grand Tour Kyushu 2012
Kyushu, Oct. 28-Nov. 4
50 stages, 732.3 km, 9 teams
click here for complete results

Day One
5 stages, 75.2 km

Team Standings
1. Miyazaki Pref. - 3:49:15
2. Fukuoka Pref. - 3:50:39
3. Nagasaki Pref. - 3:51:46

Stage Bests
First Stage (15.1 km): Sho Matsueda (Nagasaki Pref.) - 44:17
Second Stage (17.7 km): Masato Imai (Fukuoka Pref.) - 53:11
Third Stage (14.0 km): Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Miyazaki Pref.) - 42:46
Fourth Stage (12.8 km): Kazuya Deguchi (Miyazaki Pref.) - 38:50
Fifth Stage (15.6 km): Ryuji Watanabe (Fukuoka Pref.) - 48:07

Day Two
6 stages, 74.0 km

Team Standings
1. Fukuoka Pref. - 7:34:36 (3:43:57, 1st)
2. Miyazaki Pref. - 7:36:30 (3:47:15, 2nd)
3. Nagasaki Pref. - 7:41:49 (3:50:03, 3rd)

Stage Bests
First Stage: (9.4 km) Kaoru Hirosue (Fukuoka Pref.) - 28:51
Second Stage (12.2 km): Yuki Mori (Nagasaki Pref.) - 36:34
Third Stage (15.3 km): Takeshi Makabe (Fukuoka Pref.) - 44:57
Fourth Stage (14.2 km): Hiroyuki Horibata (Miyazaki Pref.) - 42:10
Fifth Stage (11.3 km): Masayuki Obata (Fukuoka Pref.) - 33:57
Sixth Stage (11.6 km): Makoto Tobimatsu (Fukuoka Pref.) - 35:18

Day Three
6 stages, 91.9 km

Team Standings
1. Fukuoka Pref. - 12:12:42 (4:38:06, 1st)
2. Miyazaki Pref. - 12:19:16 (4:42:46, 2nd)
3. Nagasaki Pref. - 12:26:56 (4:45:07, 3rd)

Stage Bests
First Stage (10.4 km): Kei Goto (Fukuoka Pref.) - 30:40
Second Stage (15.3 km): Kentaro Nakamoto (Fukuoka Pref.) - 45:26
Third Stage (20.0 km): Kenichi Kawano (Fukuoka Pref.) - 1:01:28
Fourth Stage (20.2 km): Yuki Oshikawa (Fukuoka Pref.) - 1:00:39
Fifth Stage (13.6 km): Takahiro Mori (Miyazaki Pref.) - 42:14 - CR
Sixth Stage (12.4 km): Koji Kaneko (Fukuoka Pref.) - 37:33 - CR

Day Four
8 stages, 122.1 km

Team Standings
1. Fukuoka Pref. - 18:25:59 (6:13:17, 2nd)
2. Nagasaki Pref. - 18:38:46 (6:11:50, 1st)
3. Miyazaki Pref. - 18:39:32 (6:20:16, 3rd)

Stage Bests
First Stage (9.8 km): Tomoaki Bungo (Miyazaki Pref.) - 30:01
Second Stage (13.8 km): Yuki Mori (Nagasaki Pref.) - 41:41
Third Stage (14.4 km): Ryuji Watanabe (Fukuoka Pref.) - 42:55
Fourth Stage (17.0 km): Hiroki Kubota (Fukuoka Pref.) - 51:32 - CR
Fifth Stage (17.6 km): Ayumu Hisaibara (Fukuoka Pref.) - 53:34
Sixth Stage (19.6 km): Sho Matsueda (Nagasaki Pref.) - 59:44
Seventh Stage (12.8 km): Mao Fukuyama (Fukuoka Pref.) - 38:36
Eighth Stage (17.1 km): Taku Miyahara (Nagasaki Pref.) - 50:53 - CR

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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