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Haas repeats his 2011 win in the Japan Cup by holding off Boasson Hagen and Bole in a 9-rider sprint at the end of a hard, selective edition of the Japanese Race

Photo: Garmin-Sharp

EF EDUCATION - EASYPOST

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EDVALD BOASSON HAGEN

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NATHAN HAAS

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19.10.2014 @ 17:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) repeated his 2011 victory in the Japan Cup when he won the 2014 edition of the biggest Asian one-day race. The Australian beat Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Grega Bole (Vini Fantini) in a photo finish after 9 riders arrived at the finish in Utsonomiya.

 

Three years ago Nathan Haas earned himself a professional contract when he added the Japan Cup to the overall win in the Herald Sun Tour that he had taken a few days earlier. Today he continued his love story with the Japanese race when he won the 2014 edition of the event.

 

Haas emerged as the strongest when 9 riders arrived at the finish to decide the hard and selective race in Utsonomiya. The Australian benefited from strong support from Daniel Martin and managed to hold off Edvald Boasson Hagen and Grega Bole in a photo finish.

 

The Japan Cup celebrated its 23rd edition by attracting the largest audience yet. For the first time ever there were spectators all the way around the circuit in Utsonomiya that would be covered 10 times before the 151km race ended with a lap of a 14.1km circuit. According to the organizers, no less than 80,000 people were in attendance, with the event benefiting from splendid weather condiions.

 

Local hero Takashi Miyazama (Vini Fantini) had announced his retirement before the race and it turned out to be a race with lot of action from riders doing their last race as Karsten Kroon (Tinkoff-Saxo) also played a key role. Right from the start, Nariyuki Masuda (Utsonomiya), Yukihiro Doi (UKYO) and Junya Sano (Japan) attacked already on the first lap but they were brought back.

 

Instead, Darren Lapthorne (Drapac), Takayuki Abe (Utsonomiya), Jose Vicente Toribio (UKYO) and Genki Yamamoto (Vini Fantini) countered the move and created the long breakaway of the day. On the second lap, Naoya Uchino (Japan) and Sano tried to bridge the gap but they were brought back before they managed to make the junction.

 

Sky, Garmin-Sharp and Tinkoff-Saxo took control and allowed the gap to reach a maximum of 6.30 after 3 laps. From there, it started to come down, with the deficit being 4 minutes at the end of lap 5. While Bernhard Eisel (Sky) worked in the peloton, Toribio, Yamamote and Abe won the KOM sprints. At the midpoint of the race, the excitement grew when special guest Fabian Cancellara made his attendance.

 

With two laps to go, the action really started. Starting the penultimate lap, the gap was down to 48 seconds and this prompted Miyazawa to try to bridge the gap. When he was brought back, Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) countered the move and he joined Toribio who was the only surviving member of the early break.

 

However, it wasn’t to be for Toribio and Polanc who were brought back by the peloton as they started the final lap. At this point, less than 20 riders were still in the main group.

 

As usual, it all came down to the final passage of the climb on the Kogashi Forest Road. Here Moreno Moser (Cannondale) attacked and he crested the summit as the lone leader. On the descent Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) tried to join him but he failed to make the junction.

 

With 5km to go, Moser was 15 seconds ahead of a 10-rider chase group in which Daniel Martin, Christopher Juul-Jensen and Michael Valgren Anderson (both Tinkoff-Saxo) were chasing hard. Moser battled on courageously but passing the red kite, he was brought back.

 

The race came down to a sprint from a 9-rider group. Polanc entered the final turn in first position, trying to lead Valerio Conti out. However, Haas and Boasson Hagen reacted immediately but it was Bole who started. Haas moved down the right-hand side of the road and as the Australian, Boasson Hagen and Bole all made a bike throw at the line, it came down to a photo finish. In the end, Haas was declared the winner of the race, making it two in a row for Garmin-Sharp after Jack Bauer won last year’s edition (following the disqualification of Michael Rogers).

 

The Asian season continues tomorrow when the Tour of Hainan kicks off in China. Lampre-Merida and Belkin will be the two WorldTour teams in the 2.HC event.

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