Keiichi Iwasaki in Nice. Not ProTour –Around the World Tour.
The Race To The Sun finished in Nice with Frenchman Amaël Moinard (Cofidis) beating breakaway companion Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom).
Thousands of fans were excited to see big stars like overall winner Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Roman Kreuziger and 170 or so hyper-fit professional cyclists.
But another big biker arrived in Nice just a month before. He’d left Japan in 20o1, cycled thru 36 countries and has so far ridden over 45,000 kilometers. He’s just passing thru Nice, really, because he’s riding around the world with five years still to go.
Here is his introduction: “my name is Keiichi Iwasaki. I am a Japanese man who is traveling around the world. Mostly I travel by bike, but sometimes I walk or handle a boat. Too earn money I perform magic tricks on the street. This travel started 7 years ago: I am still alive and traveling far, little by little.”
He doesn’t’ ride an expensive race bike or even a tricked out mountain bike. Just a rickety one-speed mamachari, a Japanese slang term for “granny bike.” He’s on his fifth one so far after three were stolen and a forth broke down.
During his trip Mr Iwasaki was attacked by a rabid dog in Tibet, robbed by pirates and arrested in India. With a two euro a day budget, he basically funds his entire trip by performing magic tricks.
The former air-conditioning repairman said, “When I was 28, I thought to myself that ‘My life will soon be over before I do what I want to do!’, so I decided to start this trip. With bicycle, I can always feel the air and atmosphere of the place.” There’s a great interview with him at OrangeKite.
You gotta love this guy. He carries a small stove, rain tarp but no camping gear. On the flip side he always has his laptop and camera with him. “Most people are just working and sleeping. If they ever do travel, they go by plane, which is fast and easy, but you can’t see anything. I want to meet people, see the land, and help spread peace,” he said.
Along the way he stopped in Nepal, joined an international expedition of climbers, trained for 10 months and then summited Everest. One he bagged the peak, he rowed a boat 1300 kilometers on the Ganges River then and biked back to Calcutta. Here’s betting that Contador and Valverde couldn’t pull that off.
“Every day is interesting, and I’ve never wanted to quit. The world is not so big – I’m not on the moon,” said Iwasaki. He’s found that wherever he rides, the people really aren’t so different. “Human emotions are the same everywhere – only culture and language are different. So I’m not afraid.”
We hope Nice, France gave Keiichi Iwasaki a big welcome. Perhaps not as big as for Alberto Contador, but maybe warmer.