July 07, 2016

MONTAUBAN, France (AP) Japanese cyclist Yukiya Arashiro felt right at home on the sizzling roads of the Midi-Pyrenees.

So much so that he went on a 137-kilometer (85-mile) breakaway during Thursday's sixth stage of the Tour de France, the hottest leg thus far.

As the peloton rode deep into the southwestern part of the country, the air temperature soared to 36 degrees (97 F) and the road was hotter still, melting in some places.

''I like (the heat) very much. When it reaches 40 degrees like today I love it,'' Arashiro said.

Arashiro and Czech rider Jan Barta attacked at the 3-kilometer mark and established a lead of five minutes before getting caught by the main pack with 22 kilometers to go in the 190.5-kilometer (118-mile) leg from Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban.

For his efforts, Arashiro was awarded the prize of most combative rider of the day, meaning he will have the honor of wearing a special red bib in Friday's stage concluding in the high Pyrenees.

Arashiro's first real season in Europe came in 2005 with the GSC Blagnac team located on the outskirts of Toulouse, near where Stage 6 was contested.

''I know people near Toulouse. I'm happy to ride nearby with the red bib tomorrow,'' Arashiro said in French. ''But I will have to take it easy because I was in a breakaway for (137) kilometers today. My legs are going to hurt.''

Usually smiling, the 31-year-old Arashiro is one of the most friendly riders in the peloton. He often has his dog with him when he steps off the team bus in the morning, attracting even more followers.

''Many things crossed my mind when I was in the breakaway, to the people in Japan who watch the race live on TV,'' Arashiro said. ''I was happy to show them my jersey.''

Having joined the Lampre team for this season, Arashiro is racing in his sixth Tour de France. In 2009 he became the first Japanese rider to complete the Tour when he crossed the finish line on the Champs-Elysees ahead of compatriot Fumiyuki Beppu.

The first two Japanese riders who started the Tour didn't finish: Kisso Kawamuro in 1926 and 1927 and Daisuke Imanaka in 1996.

Arashiro broke his femur bone during a crash in the Tour of Qatar in February.

''I could not ride a bike for 40 days,'' he said. ''I did a lot of fitness in the gym, otherwise I would have lost all my muscles.''

Arashiro finished in the main pack four seconds behind stage winner Mark Cavendish. He's in 137th position overall, more than a half hour behind leader Greg van Avermaet.

''It was hard in the end because the others rode fast in the chase,'' Arashiro said. ''But that's life.''


AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.


Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf

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