Interview with Pro Racing Driver João Paulo de Oliveira

  • By Clarence

Niseko was a bustle of activity last week with the official UCI Gran Fondo World Series qualifier event, Niseko Classic 2024, happening on the morning of 16 June. Setsu Niseko welcomed and hosted several riders participating in this annual road race event, including João Paulo de Oliveira, a professional racing driver currently competing in the Japanese Super GT Series. This time, he came to Niseko as a participant for the Niseko Classic 150-kilometre race, finishing 9th in his age group and qualifying for this year’s UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. Big congratulations from the Setsu team. 

After the race, Mr. Oliveira shared with us his experience over the Niseko Classic weekend and his stay at Setsu Niseko.

Photo Credit: Nobuhiko Tanabe

Please briefly introduce yourself.

My name is João Paulo de Oliveira. I’m 42 years old, born in São Paulo, Brazil. I am a professional racing driver.

You’re known as a professional racing driver but how did you get into road cycling/racing? How is it different from car racing?

I originally started cycling as training for car racing, but within a few years I started to develop a passion for cycling and nowadays it’s more than just training, it’s a way of life.

It’s different in a way that in cycling I basically have control over everything. I decide when to start, when to finish, what route to take and I decide how I like to do my training. In car racing, there are many other things involved in preparation. In order to do practice, you need to book a racing circuit, you need a team to prepare the car and everything costs a lot more. So in terms of access, cycling is a lot more accessible and easy to do.

How was your experience participating in the Niseko Classic race this year? Any particular high points of the race for you?

It was incredible! I prepared myself well for the event and really enjoyed myself. I was riding in the leading group of the race after 100km, but with about 40km remaining there was a crash involving riders in front of me and they fell only a few metres in front of me. I slowed down to avoid them but unfortunately, I got hit from behind by another rider and went down as well. Many riders were involved. I had some damage to my bike as my brake lever was completely bent, my chain was jammed and my bike computer was thrown away from the bike. So I needed a couple of minutes to put back my chain, fix the brake lever, and find my computer on the other side of the road. At that moment the race completely changed for me because I went from comfortably riding with the lead group and sharing the work with other riders to riding all out alone for the final 40km and having no one to share the work with. It was incredibly harder, but I was proud to ride through the pain on my body to finish 9th, which enabled me to qualify for the World championships in Denmark later this year.

Photo Credit: Nobuhiko Tanabe

How did you prepare yourself for this year’s race?

I did plenty of training rides every week using the distance and elevation similar to the race profile of Niseko, 150km with 2,500m of altitude gain.

You arrived 3 days earlier ahead of race day. How did you condition yourself for the race during those 3 days?

I was feeling slightly under the weather in the weeks before the race. When you’re preparing for a race, usually you do the hard training until a week before the event and then in the final week you need to give your body more time to rest. So, in those 3 days I made sure to get enough rest and eat well in order to be as fit as I could. I thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the Setsu onsen in the afternoons and doing some stretch work after that. The food at the hotel’s restaurant, méli mélo, was superb and it made my life so much easier. All I had to do was focus on the race! On race day, we had breakfast from 4am, so I had a few rice balls, a frittata and some fruits before the start.

What made you decide to stay with Setsu Niseko this year? What did you like about your stay?

I searched for information online on the best options near the start line and Setsu stood out. I was truly happy to stay at Setsu and look forward to coming back again. The hotel has a very peaceful feel, some incredible food and the onsen is very helpful to relax before an event like that. I really enjoyed the breakfasts with high quality ingredients which powered me during the days I was there.

Would you recommend riders to stay in Setsu Niseko? What are the good points of staying with us?

I would recommend everyone for sure. The location is absolutely the best combined with all the amenities and infrastructure. There are many positive points about staying at Setsu, but if I had to name one, I would say breakfast on race day at 4am was very special.

Photo Credit: Nobuhiko Tanabe

Lastly, do you have any plans of coming back again next year? Any new goals after a successful finish this year?

Absolutely! I plan to come back next year and improve my result. Now that Niseko has been announced for the World Championship venue for 2026, I want to be in my best shape to try and be able to win the Worlds.

Once again, congratulations on a successful race this year and we are happy to have been a part of your journey in the Niseko Classic 2024. We look forward to welcoming you again next year.

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