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Friday, Sept. 7, 2007

Spokes for yourself

Into cycle racing? Not into doping scandals? Well maybe this is the international road race for you.

Tour de Hokkaido

The Tour de Hokkaido, while perhaps not as sonorous as its French forebear, is Japan's only town-to-town road race. Now in its 21st year, the event will be held Sept. 13-17 and is likely to attract up to 30,000 bell-ringing, hand-waving, photo-taking fans.

The race is in six stages, starting from Otaru City on the Sea of Japan coast and winding down to the town of Imakane in the south, before moving to the east-coast town of Oshamambe for the return journey — along the coast and into the mountains — back to Sapporo City in central Hokkaido.

Some of Hokkaido's already pleasant views are sure to be complemented by the momentary presence of 100 sweaty, Lycra-clad Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Iranian, German and Korean cyclists who will be cyling through the historical Otaru City (catch them 9:15 to 9:30 a.m., Sept. 13); Kyowa Town, with views over the mountains of Niseko (11:42 a.m. to 12:02 p.m., Sept. 13); the coastal road in Setana Town (12:20 to 12:42 p.m., Sept. 14); and near the Windsor Hotel in Toyako Town, where world leaders are due to rub shoulders at next year's APEC conference (12:07 p.m. to 12:27 p.m., Sept. 15).

The final stage is at Moerenuma Park in Sapporo City, where sculptor-turned-park-designer Isamu Noguchi's wide-open and undulating spaces will no doubt lend themselves to some hair-raising speed (from 10 a.m., Sept. 17). More information at www.tour-de-hokkaido.or.jp.

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