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Fukuoka Broadens Lead Over Fifth and Sixth Days of Grand Tour Kyushu

by Brett Larner

Looking set to take its first Grand Tour Kyushu title since 2009, the Fukuoka Prefecture team spent the fifth of the Tour's eight days widening its lead over two-time defending champion Miyazaki Prefecture from 13 to 21 minutes thanks to wins on three of the day's five stages including new stage records by Second Stage runner Masato Imai and anchor Teruo Taneno. Yoshikazu Kawazoe was the only Miyazaki runner to stem the tide, winning the Third Stage to put Miyazaki back ahead of the Nagasaki Prefecture team in 2nd. A surprise came on the day's opening stage, where former Juntendo University captain Yuki Nanba, now teaching at a high school back home in Tomei, Oita but famous for breaking down with a huge lead on his stage late in his senior-year Hakone Ekiden and staggering his way in to the handoff, cracked the course record by 3 seconds to set a new mark of 52:55 for the 17.4 km stage.

Miyazaki came out hard on Day Six, winning the first five stages with strong runs from most of its best runners.  A strong run from anchor Hiroyuki Horibata, 7th place at the 2011 Daegu World Championships marathon, looked set to give Miyazaki the sweep, but an unexpectedly powerful run from Fukuoka anchor Takeshi Makabe, a recent transplant from Tokyo's Kanebo corporate team to the minor Fukuoka-based Kurosaki Harima team, beat Horibata by 11 seconds over 20 km to put punctuation on the day.  Fukuoka's overall lead over Miyazaki fell to 18 minutes, but with only two days of racing left it will take a serious breakdown or two on the Fukuoka side for Miyazaki to have a chance of running them down.  With a now 20-minute margin over Nagasaki, Miyazaki's position as runner-up looks secure.  The Grand Tour Kyushu wraps up Sunday in Fukuoka.

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

Day Five
5 stages, 71.3 km

Team Standings
1. Fukuoka Pref. - 22:02:43 (3:36:44, 1st)
2. Miyazaki Pref. - 22:23:27 (3:43:48, 2nd)
3. Nagasaki Pref. - 22:26:56 (3:48:10, 3rd)

Stage Bests
First Stage (17.4 km): Yuki Nanba (Oita Pref.) - 52:55 - CR
Second Stage (17.6 km): Masato Imai (Fukuoka Pref.) - 51:22 - CR
Third Stage (12.0 km): Yoshikazu Kawazoe (Miyazaki Pref.) - 41:08
Fourth Stage (11.2 km): Masayuki Obata (Fukuoka Pref.) - 32:49
Fifth Stage (13.1 km): Teruo Taneno (Fukuoka Pref.) - 38:12 - CR

Day Six
6 stages, 86.7 km

Team Standings
1. Fukuoka Pref. - 26:23:43 (4:21:00, 2nd)
2. Miyazaki Pref. - 26:41:54 (4:18:27, 1st)
3. Nagasaki Pref. - 27:01:07 (4:34:11, 3rd)

Stage Bests
First Stage: (13.7 km) Kazuya Deguchi (Miyazaki Pref.) - 40:16
Second Stage (14.7 km): Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Miyazaki Pref.) - 43:40
Third Stage (16.5 km): Takuya Fukatsu (Miyazaki Pref.) - 49:31
Fourth Stage (11.1 km): Fumihiro Maruyama (Miyazaki Pref.) - 33:15
Fifth Stage (10.5 km): Takahiro Mori (Miyazaki Pref.) - 31:14
Sixth Stage (20.2 km): Takeshi Makabe (Fukuoka Pref.) - 1:00:20

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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