Egan Bernal, the winner of the 2019 Tour de France, will take starter’s orders on the 7th edition of the Saitama Criterium. So will his team-mate Chris Froome who will be making his return to competition on 27th October.
The Colombian winner of this year’s Yellow and White Jerseys will again cross paths with the 2019 Polka Dot Jersey winner, Romain Bardet (Fra), as well as the 2018 World Champion Alejandro Valverde and several stage winners on the Tour de France.
Colombia enjoyed triumph in July thanks to Egan Bernal, the youngest winner of the Tour de France in cycling’s modern era, at the mere age of 22 years. After having savoured his success on the podium on the Champs-Elysées, then on his return back to the motherland in the streets of Zipaquira, his hometown, Egan Bernal, who also won the White Jersey, will be celebrating his victory at the Saitama Criterium where the Japanese spectators will flock in considerable numbers. Bernal will perhaps have an opportunity to shine on the 3.5-km circuit route through Saitama, having conquered the general classification in France without winning a single stage. To make up for this, the latest Tour de France winner could try to win “Stage 22”, although he will have to compete with his leader on the 2018 Tour de France, Chris Froome, who has programmed his return to cycling for the Japanese event, a race he has only missed once since his first success in 2013.
In Japan, the four times winner of the Grande Boucle will be rubbing shoulders with another regular on the podium on the Champs-Elysées and the roads of Saitama: Romain Bardet, this year’s Polka Dot jersey winner, will again be putting on the outfit that he dreamed of as a child to finish his season.
Other stage winners, such as Matteo Trentin, Daryl Impey, Omar Fraile and Lilian Calmejane have been invited to the race, as well as the most recent winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Critérium du Dauphiné, Jakob Fuglsang.
Main contenders (on 27/9):
AG2R La Mondiale: Romain Bardet, Mikael Chérel, Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra), Oliver Naesen (Bel);
Astana Pro Team: Jakob Fuglsang (Dan), Jan Hirt (Cze), Omar Fraile (Spa), Manuele Boaro (Ita);
Mitchelton-Scott: Matteo Trentin (Ita), Daryl Impey (Rsa), Luka Mezgec (Slo), Luke Durbridge (Aus);
Movistar Team: Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler, Imanol Erviti, Antonio Pedrero (Spa);
Team Ineos: Egan Bernal, Ivan Sosa (Col), Chris Froome (Gbr), Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa);
Total Direct Energie: Lilian Calmejane, Anthony Turgis, Jérôme Cousin (Fra), Rein Taaramäe (Est);
Tour de France Japan Team: Yukiya Arashiro (Jap)
Fotos: Gerhard Plomitzer – www.plomi.smugmug.com