KARAK: Japanese Shinichi Fukusima proved that persistence and hard work are the key to success when he became the first Asian to win a stage in the 2007 Tour of Langkawi yesterday.
The victory in Stage 7 from Kuantan to Karak, for the Nippo-Meitan Hompo rider was only the third stage victory for an Asian rider in the 12-year history of the Tour after Wong Kam Po (2000) and Shinichi's younger brother Koji (2005).
Shinichi won the 170km race in 3'47:42 ahead of Italian Elia Aggiano of Tinkoff Credit System and France's Pierre Drancourt of Equipe Bouyges Telecom.
Besides the stage win, Shinichi also claimed the blue jersey for the leading Asian rider from Hossein Askari. He also moved up to second spot in the individual overall classification behind Anthony Charteau of Credit Agricole.
I am very satisfied with the win today because I felt excellent at the start and when the rider from Tinkoff (Aggiano) gave an indication of an early breakaway we went for it,'' said Shinich.
We tried to escape yesterday but were caught. Today, I tried harder and even though the others gave up in the closing stages, I pushed and pushed to make sure that I win the race.''
When told that he was now second in the individual overall standings, the former Japanese champion said: Really? I didnt know that. So tomorrow I must climb harder than Ive ever done before.
An early breakaway just four minutes after the start saw Alberto Loddo, Francesco Tomei, Loh Sea Keong, Lee Won-jae and Shinichi as among the front group.
They were soon joined by Aggiano, Johanne Kachelhoffer, Drancourt and Yoshiyuki Abe.
With less than 50km to go to the finish, the breakaway group was still in front. A second attack from Shinichi and Jae-won saw a battle forming upfront with Loddo joining in the fray but in the end, it was Shinichi, who throttled up to finish two seconds ahead of Aggiano.
I just did not have the energy for the last kilometre and Im really disappointed that I did not win today. But Im glad that we have at least managed to keep the green jersey (sprint),'' said Italian Loddo, who has won four stages of the Tour.