Words by Vladimir Shevchuk
In the world of cycling, where speed meets mechanical uncertainty, every race is a gamble. For me, the Tour de Okinawa, which takes place on the southern island in Japan, wasn't just a race; it was the apex of a year-long journey—a story marked by sweat, sacrifice, and moments of pure joy.
My cycling journey began as off-season training for skiing, but it soon morphed into a transformative experience. Fueled by a pandemic-induced desire to explore the outdoors, my casual rides evolved into dedicated, regimented cycling.
In early 2022, a chance encounter introduced me to Tokyo's fastest amateur cyclists. The camaraderie formed during 5 am morning rides, conquering mountains, and pushing our limits became my routine. The turning point arrived when someone suggested the Tour de Okinawa - a race that became my year-end target.
Training became a rhythm—a symphony of early rides, challenging mountain sessions, and an unwavering commitment to improvement. The fear of descending haunted me, but in Niseko Classic (UCI Gran Fondo, my first race), I faced it head-on. Dropped from the front group in the descent, riding solo, fatigue mounted. A decision loomed—succumb to fear, descend cautiously, and struggle to catch up, or cast it aside, embrace the speed, and save energy. A crucial lesson learned; my fear began to yield.
Yet, the road to Okinawa wasn't without adversity. A mechanical glitch during the race: a dropped chain in a breakaway, threatened my dreams. In that breakaway, I tasted the essence of racing, the exhilaration, the thrill, the synchrony with the bike.
On race day, heavy rain and slippery roads challenged me. Adjusting, I lowered tire pressure to 65psi (at 72kg). Wearing Prevail bib shorts, Fanboy jersey, and Aero Racing socks and gloves in 15°C weather, the kit choice proved perfect and as a bonus eye-catching.
Reflecting on this journey, it's more than races, training, or sacrifices. It's about fleeting moments of happiness on the bike—where the world fades, and joy remains. Cycling became a journey of self-discovery, pushing limits, and finding solace in pedaling.
Beyond the physical pursuits, I seek to explore the unknown, challenge myself, and revel in the ecstasy of pushing boundaries. The Tour de Okinawa may be over, but the pursuit of those brief moments on the bike continues—a journey that transcends the mundane, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth.
Vladimir Shevchuk is a Tokyo-based cyclist who has called Japan home for the past 10 years. He finds joy in road cycling, running, savoring good coffee, and harboring a deep affection for bagels (something he picked up from a trip to NYC). Follow his cycling adventures and more on Instagram: @jtrvladimir.