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Imai and Nakamoto Untouchable as Fukuoka Wins Grand Tour Kyushu

by Brett Larner

With a commanding lead after six days of racing, the Fukuoka Prefecture team came into the final two days of the eight-day, fifty-stage, 732.3 km Grand Tour Kyushu 2012 with little doubt of the outcome but no lack of effort.  Preceded by three Fukuoka stage wins on the seventh day's first seven stages, anchor Kentaro Nakamoto, 6th place in the London Olympics men's marathon, won the second of his two 2012 Tour runs, blasting a 52:47 course record for the 17.9 km Eighth Stage.  Nagasaki Prefecture anchor Yuki Mori was also under the old record, but Nakamoto's run was so dominating that he was a full 29 seconds faster than Mori.  Nagasaki, 3rd overall on total time, won two stages to finish the day just over a minute behind leader Fukuoka and almost 9 minutes ahead of overall 2nd-place Miyazaki Prefecture, whose lone stage win of the day came courtesy of veteran marathoner Tomoyuki Sato on the 18.0 km Fourth Stage.

Miyazaki started the final day of the Tour hard, opening runner Satoru Sasaki taking the 17.3 km First Stage record in 51:21.  From there on out it was an all-Fukuoka show, with the leading team's men taking all five remaining stages.  Anchor Masato Imai was unchallenged but still took the stage, his third win in three starts, one a course record, within the tour's eight days.  Following his win at last month's Fukuoka Prefecture 10 Mile Championships, where he ran the all-time 2nd-fastest time behind only former teammate Samuel Wanjiru's course record, Imai looks to be in the best shape of his life ahead of an undoubtedly likely appearance at December's Fukuoka International Marathon.

Imai's anchor stage win brought Fukuoka home with the win for the stage, the day, and the tour, its first overall title since 2009.  Miyazaki's Ryuji Ono was next across the line, giving the two-time defending champions the overall runner-up spot 32 minutes behind Fukuoka.  Nagasaki, which at times looked in range of retaking 2nd from Miyazaki, was 3rd nearly 20 minutes back.  Nine teams altogether started and finished the Tour, last-place Okinawa Prefecture more than 3 1/2 hours behind Fukuoka for the full eight-day event.

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

Day Seven
8 stages, 127.3 km

Team Standings
1. Fukuoka Pref. - 32:52:34 (6:28:51, 1st)
2. Miyazaki Pref. - 33:20:30 (6:38:36, 3rd)
3. Nagasaki Pref. - 33:31:07 (6:30:00, 2nd)

Stage Bests
First Stage (17.6 km): Shinji Ando (Saga Pref.) - 53:54
Second Stage (12.7 km): Sho Matsueda (Nagasaki Pref.) - 37:56
Third Stage (13.0 km): Junichi Tsubouchi (Fukuoka Pref.) - 40:58
Fourth Stage (18.0 km): Tomoyuki Sato (Miyazaki Pref.) - 53:57
Fifth Stage (15.5 km): Kei Goto (Fukuoka Pref.) - 48:08
Sixth Stage (14.9 km): Koji Kaneko (Fukuoka Pref.) - 45:41
Seventh Stage (17.7 km): Satoshi Yoshii (Nagasaki Pref.) - 53:21
Eighth Stage (17.9 km): Kentaro Nakamoto (Fukuoka Pref.) - 52:47 - CR

Day Eight
6 stages, 83.8 km

Final Team Standings
1. Fukuoka Pref. - 37:03:23 (4:10:49, 1st)
2. Miyazaki Pref. - 37:35:32 (4:15:02, 2nd)
3. Nagasaki Pref. - 37:54:55 (4:23:48, 3rd)
4. Saga Pref. - 39:07.25
5. Oita Pref. - 39:11:00
6. Yamaguchi Pref. - 39:14:00
7. Kagoshima Pref. - 39:16:38
8. Kumamoto Pref. - 39:16:40
9. Okinawa Pref. - 40:40:37

Stage Bests
First Stage: (17.3 km) Satoru Sasaki (Miyazaki Pref.) - 51:21 - CR
Second Stage (15.8 km): Ryuji Watanabe (Fukuoka Pref.) - 47:49
Third Stage (14.6 km): Hiroki Kubota (Fukuoka Pref.) - 43:20
Fourth Stage (10.8 km): Shinji Tateishi (Fukuoka Pref.) - 34:32
Fifth Stage (10.8 km): Kyohei Nishi (Fukuoka Pref.) - 30:21
Sixth Stage (14.5 km): Masato Imai (Fukuoka Pref.) - 41:30

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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