Chapeau, Fumy

Fumy Beppu on retirement, cycling in Japan, and riding to the moon

After 17 years of racing, Fumy Beppu is retiring from the peloton. The first cyclist from Japan to race in the WorldTour, Beppu is a former multiple road and time trial national champion, Asian road champion, and a faithful teammate. He’s one of a handful of riders to have raced the biggest events in the sport: the Olympics, the World Championships, all five Monuments, and all three Grand Tours.   We sat down with Fumy to discuss retiring, the future of the sport in Japan, riding to the moon, and his future plans.

How do you feel about your decision to retire?

Pretty good! When I was younger, that would have been a harder decision to end my career but now it’s pretty clear. I’ve had a 17-year professional career. I’m not really tired but now is the time. These last two years have been a difficult time with less racing and having to stay at home. I was thinking, “What am I doing?” I was bored. Training and competition, sure, they’re important but it’s not the same as before. Before I was busier, always looking forward, looking to the next year and to the future beyond but now I’ve been looking back and I see that I have done everything, so this is a good time to stop racing. I calculated the distance from my training logs and my training kilometers alone are the distance to the moon. Some people think about how many laps around the planet, but I went to the moon. I can keep riding but not at the professional level so I decided to stop. Now I want to create the next chapter of my life.

With all this time to look back, what stands out to you?

My overall career is a highlight. I did all three Grand Tours, all five Monuments, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games. Only 11 people in the world have done that. I’ve done so many races. I did the 2009 Tour de France and on stage three I was eighth and on stage 19 I was seventh, so I had two top 10s in my first Grand Tour. During the last stage to the Champs-Élysées, I was in the breakaway and won the combativity prize. But there is more to racing than just results. For me, it’s the emotions and the memories. In 2011 I rode the Giro d’Italia. Wouter Weylandt died in a crash while I was riding just behind him. I saw the whole crash. That was really hard. At the time, I was eighth on GC and I was thinking I could maybe finish in the top 10 overall and that would be pretty nice but then I saw this accident happen and I completely forgot about the race. It’s so dangerous. The sport is really nice, it makes you happy, you meet lots of people. It’s our job but at the same time, it’s our lives. In this sport, I’ve seen so many things. Happy things and sad things. In some ways it’s like normal life.   

What does cycling mean to you?

It’s never smooth. In these 17 years, I’ve learned a lot. Cycling is a sport and people enjoy sports but I learned a lot from this sport. Cycling is different from school but it’s also a place to learn, for people to grow, to get a kind of education. This sport for me means an education, learning to help my career, to help my life, and I will continue learning until I’m dead. This is my message: cycling is an education. Sure, enjoy the competition, but in this sport you need to learn about yourself, about the world. It’s not easy to make a change and start a new chapter so that’s why we need to learn as much as we can.

How has cycling grown in Japan during your career? Where do you see it going?

In Japan before 2005 when I first became professional, there weren’t too many people who knew about cycling. My family told me it was just a hobby, so I knew I had to become professional. I had to show them this was a career. We have keirin racing in Japan and there are 2,500 professional keirin riders. But road racing? What kind of job is that? That’s just a hobby, people thought. There was no pre-existing history of Japanese professional riders so many European teams told me it was too difficult to sign me because they didn’t know Japanese cycling. But Japanese cycling has grown, and all across Asia, too. Now there’s the Japan Cup and the Saitama Criterium and those events have 80,000 to 100,000 fans come out to watch. My father said he was very proud of me. That’s a big compliment. 

You’ve raced for seven teams in your 17-year career. How did you decide to come to EF?

When I joined the team, I was really excited. This team is unique, it does everything differently: the jerseys, the mentality, the tactics. It was different from everything I already knew. Then we started racing together and it was a completely different way to approach racing. I learned this different way of racing, I learned these new tactics. I thought “oh, interesting!” about trying tactics in this new way. With so many teams, there’s only one guy who can win the race. Every other team thinks about the same things in the same way so it’s difficult to find a different way, a different approach for the tactics. The approach of most teams is so common. It’s mathematical and boring, just chase the break and then sprint or whatever. But here with EF, they think of many different approaches and try new tactics. For me it’s all about new ideas. It was a really good experience I had this year. I raced for seven teams. Seven teams means seven different mentalities but with EF it was something brand new to me even after so many years.

What are your plans for this next chapter of your life?

I have a secret project that I’m very excited about. I’ve been thinking about it for eight years already but I can’t talk about it yet! I can only say that it is not connected to cycling. There is something else I am working on that is connected to cycling. Now that I have ended my cycling career, I want to support Japanese cycling and to help promote Japanese cycling. I know a lot of people and I have so much information. My career will come full circle. I have a French wife and we have a 7-year-old daughter so I will stay in Europe. I want to spend more time with my family so they’re happy about that. My daughter and I ride together, it’s just papa and daughter time. It’s amazing. Last year I bought a Cannondale bike for her. She was pretty happy! It’s amazing this time that we spend together so I will continue riding with her until she grows old enough to tell me to stop!

Is there a particular person who has been influential in your career?

Not just one person, but all of the fans. American or European or Australian or Asian, I just want to say thank you to all of the fans. I am not alone in this hard sport. All of the cyclists in the peloton are not alone, we have the spectators who cheer, the fans who support us. That’s been such a help in my career and I want to thank all of the fans for everything because without all of you, I wouldn’t have kept racing for so many years. So please keep supporting cycling and please encourage and push the next generation of riders.    

 

Congratulations on an incredible career, Fumy, and we wish you success in your next chapter.