October 27 th 2019 – 09:58
Kriterium (59,5 km)
1 61 ARASHIRO Yukiya 00″ TDF JPN
2 1 BERNAL Egan INS COL
3 21 ROGLIC Primoz TJV SLO
4 44 MEZGEC Luka 05″ MTS SLO
5 84 UCHIMA Kohei 06″ UKO JPN
6 41 TRENTIN Matteo MTS ITA
7 11 BARDET Romain ALM FRA
8 31 FUGLSANG Jakob 09″ AST DEN
9 14 NAESEN Oliver 11″ ALM BEL
10 3 CASTROVIEJO Jonathan 14″ INS ESP
Several days after the coronation of Emperor Naruhito, Yukiya Arashiro achieved a crowning moment in his career by winning in front of his home crowds on the Tour de France Saitama Criterium. The victory must have been even sweeter since in the run-up to the finish he resisted the duo made up of Yellow Jersey Egan Bernal and Vuelta Red Jersey winner Primoz Roglic.Beforehand in the main race, Matteo Trentin and Romain Bardet stood out, respectively claiming the green and polka dot jerseys, whilst the very lively Jakob Fuglsang was designated the most combative rider on this unofficial “22nd stage”.
JAPAN’S KINGS OF THE SPRINT
Sprint aficionados enjoyed a rare formula in Saitama, with four qualification races to reach the final, contested on a rolling start, 800 metres from the finishing line. In the first heat, Oliver Naesen proved to be a bit too cocky when attacking 500 metres from the line and was caught and passed by Japan’s Saya Kuroeda. However, this technique worked for Michal Kwiatkowski, in a tough heat where he had to count on his power to avoid a direct confrontation at the line with Matteo Trentin. The third heat was completely different, in which the duel between Anthony Turgis and Kakeru Omae went the Frenchman’s way right at the very end: “I think my experience helped me to beat him,” explained the relieved Total-Direct Energie rider. The fourth ticket for the final was a two-way battle between a Japanese pair, since Jakob Fuglsang was evidently not confident in his finishing skills against the duo of Watanabe and Sawada, who crossed the line in that order. In the final, “Kwiato” again tried to shake off his competitors with an acceleration 500 metres from the line, but this time was lacking the strength to hold out against his two Japanese rivals. The duel was won by Saya Kuroeda, the only rider of the day to put in a faultless performance.
CALL HIM MISTER AMBASSADOR
A career as an elite sprinter can open doors to all sorts of opportunities. Marcel Kittel, who this summer decided to definitively leave the saddle at the age of 31 years old, has not had to wait for long to slip into a new role. The German colossus, a regular at the Saitama Criterium since his initial participation in 2013 after winning his first four stages on the Tour de France, has been invited this year as an ambassador. This is a natural role for him in light of the affection he has for the end of season race that he won in 2014: “I’ve always had a wonderful welcome here and everybody has been able to see just how touched I have been each time by the acclaim of the crowds”. Kittel can also look back with particular fondness on the 14 stages he won on the Tour de France as he draws the final curtain on his time as a pro rider: “I have had a fine career. The highlights are obviously those victories on the Tour de France, as well as having had the opportunity to wear the Yellow Jersey. As a sprinter, I always dreamed about tasting victory on the Champs-Elysées”. Such memories are not holding Kittel back from looking forward, starting with his life as a young father which will commence in the forthcoming weeks: “It’s a new chapter that’s going to begin for me. I will be spending more time with my family and I will soon be starting studies in economics”.