Masahiro Ishigami, Hijiri Oda and Atsushi Oka all have something in common. In addition to belonging to the same structure of the EF Education-Nippo Development Team, the three Japanese have traveled to France in their careers. Masahiro Ishigami first arrived in France in 2017 at AVC Aix-en-Provence. In 2016, for his first Espoir year, he had already participated in several French amateur events with EQA DS and he also participated in the Tour de l’Avenir. “I spoke to my director of sport and told him I wanted to be at a club in France. He was looking for a team for me and AVC Aix-en-Provence were interested in hiring me”he remembers DirectVelo.
MASAHIRO ISHIGAMI STILL LIVES IN AIX
The 24-year-old runner learned a lot in N1 training. “It’s great for training”. He then became a pro in 2020 at Nippo Delko One Provence. But the experience was cut short. He participated in several races and sponsor Nippo left after the first year. “Not very good,” he summarized. The following season, after a few months of latency, he joined the EF Education-Nippo Development Team. “Mentally it’s very difficult. They helped me a lot “. At the start of 2022, he designated the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs and the Tour du Jura Cycliste as his first goals. “I climb harder. But I’m in bad shape. Maybe I trained too hard. I rested before the Tour de Bretagne where things got better ”.
Masahiro Ishigami still lives in Aix-en-Provence. “I train every time with the guys from the club and the AVC staff takes care of my bike if there is a problem”. He was hoping to climb a ladder. “I want to go ahead and win races in Europe. I hope to join a ProTeam. This is definitely my last year on the EF Education-Nippo Development Team”told the Yokohama native who started mountain biking at the age of 5-6 before quickly climbing the road.
HIJIRI ODA ALTERNATES BETWEEN ROAD AND CYCLO-CROSS
As for Hijiri Oda, he started BMX when he was 4 years old. “I started the road in 2016”. He also practices cyclo-cross. The 2nd of the last Japanese Championship in the specialty took part in several plowing events in Europe before Covid. “Next winter, I hope to do it again in Europe”. The Saitama citizen, where the Tour de France Criterium titles took place, participated in a Norman N3, Team EC 14-Groupama, in 2019. “This team gave me an opportunity to take a step forward. It was a great experience. Plus, I was with my friend. (Keisuke Aso, Editor’s Note)“. He remained there for two years before joining the EF Education-Nippo Development Team. 19th in the Morning Trophy (1.2) and 21st in a Tour de Bretagne stage (2.2), the 23-year-old rider hopes to win several UCI races in Europe. “I’m a puncher. I want to go on a WorldTour team ”.
Finally, Atsushi Oka is the latest to start cycling. “I am still 15 years old. In the past, I played football and rock climbing. I have an older brother and he gave me a bike “. He was also the last to arrive in France in 2020 but directly joined the pros of Nippo Delko One Provence. “It was a good experience but it was a bit difficult. I have problems. I tested positive after eye surgery.. Like Masahiro Ishigami, he found refuge in the EF Education-Nippo Development Team in 2021. During this time, he finished 4th in the Morning Trophy (1.2). “I chose sprinting but I’m not a sprinter. I would love if there were some small hikes like the Tour de Bretagne. But my performance at this event was not good. I crashed on the first stage of the last kilometer and I was a bit injured ”. The Tsukuba citizen, who lived on the side of Zürich like Hijiri Oda when he was in Europe, also hopes to take a step forward. “I was on a team for Espoir. I’m 26, I’m not a kid anymore. It’s not a simple situation, I want to go with a bigger team ”.
Today, three Japanese Tour of Britain musketeers have returned to Japan ahead of the Tour of Japan (May 19-22), Tour of Kumano and National Championship, along with Yusuke Kadota and Yugi Tsuda. “At Covid, the level has dropped because there are no more foreign teams. But we will still prepare well. We will be in training from May 14.”, finished Masahiro Ishigami.