What's Cool In Road Cycling

Exclusive Interview: Masahiko Mifune

Masahiko Mifune is a rare sight to behold in the Euro-peloton, and an unexpected testimony to the true international appeal of the sport of cycling. Masa is from Japan, but no stranger to battling for the cobbled gutters of continental racing – he’s been a pro since 1994 and based in the cold North for most of that time.

Like many of us, he became inspired watching his fist Tour de France, and even though he was only 14 years old, decided to try his legs at bike racing. Like many kids in japan, his sport was swimming, but he was no longer into it. At first he knew nothing about training, and little more about road racing, which was status quo in his country in 1983.

But he knew how to pedal faster than most, and was soon getting decent results in local races. In 1986 he decided to get serious and moved to Holland in 1987. Two years later after finishing high school his father was expecting him to attend university. But by now Masa wanted to turn pro, and thankfully his father supported him. Over the next three years, he split his time between Japan and Holland, but trained harder than ever (sometimes until 2:00 AM!). Each year his results improved and in 1994 he turned pro.

He has ridden 6 years with Gerard Bulens’ Landbouwkrediet-Colnago squad and is quite happy where he is, but would not rule out a move to a bigger team with a chance to ride the Tour – if he gets the chance. His role in the team is that of seasoned domestique, but he never rules out winning. In fact, winning races remains his motivation. And clearly states that without this motivation, he would stop racing completely.

He still loves racing and simply tries to improve with each race, one day at a time. Sounds like good advice for anyone!

Our Michele Tomasi talked in depth with Masa about his season and the perspective of this man from Japan.

1. PCN – As you ride for a Belgian team, did you ride a lot of races in the spring and the Classics?
MM – It was not so good. Because I had a bad crash in March in Holland (GP Erik Breukink). Some one crashed ahead of me, then I hit. My left shoulder blade was broken, I was out of competition about 4 weeks.

2. PCN – What type of training program have you done as preparation for the early season?

MM – I always start training program in the end of November. I begin competition from Tour of South China Sea (25th Dec-1st Jan). I got 3rd place over all.
I had really good intensities training in Japan. Also I do Cyclo Cross. I was National Champion 2000-2001.
Every week end, I take maximum ride 1 hour. That was good training for me.

3. Which of the 3 Grand Tours is your favorite and why?
MM – Tour de France. Because When I was 14 years old, I began bike racing after I watched the Tour on TV. But If I have a chance to start (a Grand Tour), I don’t care which one is…

4. How did you get started in bicycle racing and what motivated you to become a professional bike racer?

MM – I watched Tour at 14 years. Before I was swimming. I had a big interest for the bicycle races.
“I want be professional racer” That’s all.

5. Would you ever consider marrying a female cycling racer?

MM – Sorry, I have no interest for female cycling riders.
Why? Because I need some one’s support now, not to be supporting for someone else now.
And I’malways seeing the pro peloton. I don’t want look at that in the home. I think the most important reason to get married is how do I feel about it.

6. What do you learn as a professional racer that is valuable in other areas of your life?

MM – I think a lot. Like “Cycling is me”.

7. If you were not a racer, what do you think you would be doing?

MM – I never think about it. Absolutely I love cycling. May be collector of professional riders pictures and bottle and caps… that’s a joke. (laughs)

8. What advice would you give to a young rider looking to be successful in the pro peloton?

MM – It’s difficult question. Because I think I’m not so successful yet.

9. Do you have a personal website that our readers could visit?

MM – www.masahikomifune.com.

But I have only Japanese language this moment. You may not read text, but you can see pictures.
I will plan to make an English version.

10. What’s your opinion about the latest doping problems at Giro 2002? What’s the right way for resolve the doping problems?

MM – Last 15 years, bike races are growing up to world wide sports. That’s why I watched Tour in Japan.
Also prize money becomes higher and higher, and it will be come big commercial effective. I know every body don’t want take anything, but also they want to be more successful. Why don’t I take drugs? That’s simple. I want to have a life that is longer than my bicycle life. I want be winning, but winning is not only bicycle races….

11. What about Cipollini and his leaving?

MM – Everybody can’t stay forever, even me. If Cipollini leaves the peloton now, I won’t be surprised. That’s possible. But if he stays, that’s also not a surprise.

12. You are a rider with a big experience as also your team mates Rolf Sorensen and Marc Steel, but in your team there are a lot of young interesting guys. What do you think of them? And especially of Popovych.

MM – Oh, Don’t you think I’m young rider??
My age is perhaps old in the peloton, but I feel still same age as young rider. If they need to ask me something, OK, I can tell it. I’m 9 years as a pro now. May be I know something more than them.

I think Popvych is one of best rider. He has world title, he showed his good performance in Giro.
His future, if he think about another team mates, what they think about it. I mean if he is the top in the team, every body given there all chances. He need try to get good result, not only his self, also for the team mates.

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