Schlagwort-Archive: Saitama Criterium


Saitama (Japan) – Sunday, November 5th 2023 – Tadej Pogačar wrote the epilogue of a success story and the prologue of a new one. Racing in his Tour de France Saitama Criterium debut, the Slovenian rider came out on top in the Japanese city, the end point of a record-breaking season in which he picked up a whopping seventeen victories, including two Tour stage wins in July. In his final appearance in the white jersey —he will age out of the best young rider’s classification next year— the world number one outsprinted Sepp Kuss for the win, with Peter Sagan on the bottom step of the podium. A short while earlier, Pogačar and his UAE Team Emirates teammates had finished second in the team time trial, which went to Yukiya Arashiro’s Bahrain Victorious.

The champions of the Tour headed to the other side of the world for the last bout of the season, riding in summer-like temperatures under the watchful eyes of tens of thousands of Japanese fans. The ninth edition of the Tour de France Saitama Criterium roared to life as soon as the flag went down. Ten years after becoming the first winner of the race while clad in the yellow jersey, Chris Froome fired the opening salvo on the first of seventeen 3.5 km laps, right after the very first turn. His gutsy ride and relentless attacks throughout the race earned him the combativity award.

Cavendish and Ciccone hunting for points

The peloton reeled in the first breakaway shortly before the first intermediate sprint, where Mark Cavendish, a 34-time Tour de France stage winner racing alongside Froome in the Legends squad, took the first step in his ultimately successful challenge for the points classification. Meanwhile, Giulio Ciccone (Lidl–Trek) was determined to do justice to the polka-dot jersey he won last July. Mission accomplished for the Italian, who featured in multiple breakaways and grabbed enough points to become the king of the mountains.

Sagan and Kuss attack but Pogačar has the final word

Egan Bernal, second in Saitama in 2019, and Chris Froome were the driving force behind a new breakaway that was caught just before the last intermediate sprint, won by Peter Sagan (Legends). The Slovak kept the momentum going to charge full steam ahead. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo–Visma) joined the three-time world champion a lap later, with 7 km to go. Cofidis set a frantic pace at the front of the peloton to close the gap, but it was not to be. Not fancying his prospects in a sprint, Kuss tried to outsmart his fellow escapees with an attack from 2.5 km out. Sagan had no answer to this and had to settle for third, but Pogačar held on and came around the American to ride to victory and into the gorgeous sunset.

Arashiro’s clique beats the clock

The day had got under way with a time trial that put the spotlight on homegrown talent and the stars of para-cycling, as well as giving the pros the chance to warm up and get a feel for the circuit, lined by massive crowds. „It was mind-blowing, there were spectators everywhere, not just at the finish“, said a happy Thomas Champion, third in the team time trial with Cofidis. Yukiya Arashiro’s Bahrain Victorious outfit took the spoils in 3′43″42‴, three seconds faster than Tadej Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates. „In Singapore, we finished third, behind UAE Team Emirates and Cofidis. We were determined to win today“, explained the 39-year-old Japanese, who had planned the turns with his teammates Pello Bilbao, Matevž Govekar and Kamil Gradek in painstaking detail. It was Arashiro’s maiden win in the team time trial and his second overall in Saitama, following his triumph in the road race in 2019. The local hero, who has not missed a single edition of the event since its launch in 2013, has good reason to be proud. „Winning in front of the Japanese crowds means the world to me. Doing so once was already great, but doing so twice is even better!“


Key points:
 The Tour de France riders will be travelling to Japan for the eighth time for the Tour de France Saitama Criterium, led by the Yellow Jersey of the 2022 edition, Jonas Vingegaard, who also won the Polka Dot Jersey last summer. The Danish rider will be in attendance for a day of sport and entertainment that will take place on 6th November.
 In addition to a considerable amount of the movers and shakers on last July’s race, the Japanese crowds will also be able to see the elite riders who are regulars on this race: Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, Geraint Thomas, Alejandro Valverde, Mark Cavendish… and of course Yukiya Arashiro, winner of the last edition in 2019.

This race had not been held since 2019 due to the covid health crisis, but this year Japan has regained its place in the late season cycling calendar. A selection of riders from the Tour de France have come forward to extend the season’s competition for an escapade that several of them will be experiencing for the first time, starting with the winner of the Tour de France in 2022. After shedding tears of emotion in Copenhagen at the team presentation and then experiencing the enthusiasm of the crowds on the Col du Granon, Alpe d’Huez and Hautacam, Jonas Vingegaard will be readying himself to meet the tens of thousands of spectators who traditionally gather along the 3.5-km urban circuit (which the riders will race around 17 times in the main event) that winds through the heart of Saitama, very near to Tokyo. As regards other newcomers to city, the Japanese television viewers who were able to marvel at Simon Clarke’s show on the cobbles on the way to Arenberg, Hugo Houle’s solo finish in Foix or the cannon-ball finishes of Jasper Philipsen, will be able to cheer them on in the flesh.

The reunion with this miniature pack from the Tour de France will also allow them to reacquaint themselves with some of the most faithful riders to the Japanese Criterium: four times winner Chris Froome and his former team-mate Geraint Thomas, who has also written his name onto the Tour de France roll of honour, will be present as will future retirees Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali, who will be making their last competitive appearances. Although he will not be climbing back onto his bike for the occasion, Marcel Kittel will again be serving as an ambassador for the Criterium in which he took part in previous editions. The former German sprinter will no doubt have plenty of memories to share with the joint record holder for stage wins on the Tour de France (34), Mark Cavendish, who also triumphed on its “22nd stage” in 2018 and who may want to have the last word of the season!

Riders participating (as of 05/10):

Jumbo-Visma: Jonas Vingegaard (Dnk), Steven Kruijswijk (Nld), Sepp Kuss (Usa)

Cofidis: Guillaume Martin (Fra), Simon Geschke, Max Walscheid (Deu), Tom Bohli (Che)

Israel-Premier Tech: Chris Froome (Gbr), Simon Clarke (Aus), Hugo Houle, Guillaume Boivin (Can)

Movistar Team : Alejandro Valverde, Enric Mas, Jose Joaquin Rojas, Imanol Erviti (Esp)

Astana- Qazaqstan Team : Vincenzo Nibali, Antonio Nibali, Samuele Battistella, Gianmarco Garofoli (Ita)

Ineos Grenadiers: Geraint Thomas (Gbr), Magnus Sheffield (Usa), Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp)

Legend Team: Mark Cavendish (Gbr), Jasper Philipsen (Bel), Yukiya Arashiro (Jap).

Arashiro, emperor of Saitama

October 27 th 2019 – 09:58
Kriterium (59,5 km)
1 61 ARASHIRO Yukiya 00″ TDF JPN
3 21 ROGLIC Primoz TJV SLO
4 44 MEZGEC Luka 05″ MTS SLO
5 84 UCHIMA Kohei 06″ UKO JPN
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”.
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.

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”.


Key points:
 The riders on the Tour de France Saitama Criterium enjoyed a day’s relaxation on the eve of the three races on the programme for the 7th edition. In different guises to their usual outfits, Michal Kwiatkowski was particularly convincing at karate, whilst Primoz Roglic revealed to the crowd at the Super Arena Saitama that he has a particularly skilful right foot.
 However, tomorrow it will be question of pedal power separating the winners from the rest of the pack, especially in the 59.5-km main race (with 17 laps of a 3.5-km circuit). Beforehand, the team-time trial and sprint competition will already have produced some of the day’s winners.

To open the programme, tomorrow morning on its 3.1-km route, the Criterium circuit will host a team race against the clock in which the riders will set off in groups of three. The fourth rider in each team will be taking part in a two-legged sprint competition: the winners of the four qualification races will take part in a four-rider final. For each of these races, the sprinters will set off behind a derny that will set the pace before peeling off 800 metres from the line, at which point the titanic battles will commence

After reconnoitring the route of the time-trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games, Michal Kwiatkowski showed a certain amount of skill in another discipline that has been additionally included in the Olympic programme for next year. The Polish rider was invited to take part in a karate lesson given by the leading pupils at the Saitama Sakae High School alongside Lilian Calmejane, Marcel Kittel, Matteo Trentin and Yukiya Arashiro, initially displaying the most determination and announcing that his kimono made him “feel stronger”. Indeed, thanks to his level of concentration, he put in the most credible performance, whilst the German sprinter and Calmejane found themselves hampered by a strange affliction of confusing their left and right hands! Although all the novices then successfully passed the exam involving breaking a plank (made of polystyrene, of course), Kwiato did not refrain from reminding those present that, once he had passed the initiation, he felt ready to honour the black belt knotted around his waist, with a bold “bring me a real wooden plank, please!”

Egan Bernal, Romain Bardet, Primoz Roglic and Jakob Fuglsang enjoyed a brand-new experience when they tried out a session of foot-darts, which involves hitting a giant target not with darts but with a football. In theory, the safe bet to win should have been Romain Bardet, the only man present to have played before, at the Vieille Brioude football club, or perhaps Egan Bernal, whose football version of the Yellow Jersey made it almost look like Angel di Maria had put on a Colombian football top by mistake. However, even though both of them got very close to the 50-point bullseye at the centre of the target which would have given them victory, Primoz Roglic combined talent with success to score a triple 19, demonstrating that he was right to have accepted this last minute invitation in Saitama. In the end, the winner of the Vuelta beat the winner of the Tour de France in the final classification, which may not necessarily be the case when they climb back onto their bikes.

Foto: Gerhard Plomitzer
The four-time winner of the Tour de France, who fell heavily on the most recent edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné will be back on his bike again tomorrow but only to take part in the team time trial, in the company of his Ineos team-mates Egan Bernal and Jonathan Castroviejo. With his physical rehabilitation work still underway, the British rider has preferred to miss out on the pack race, which he won in 2013 during the first edition of the Japanese race: “At the moment, I’m capable of getting on the bike and riding, but not racing within the pack. If I have to follow the changes in rhythm or kick after bends, I just won’t be able to keep the pace. I still need to build up my strength to reach that level”.

The Japanese delegation, which tomorrow will be competing alongside the 24 riders from the Tour de France teams in the main race, welcomed a special guest: Yukiya Arashiro, who has participated seven times in the Tour de France and has finished the 12 grand tours in total that he has started. At the age of 35 years old, the pioneer of Japanese cycling on the international scene should be able to hold his own against his country’s young emerging riders, including, for example, Shotaro Iribe from the Shimano Racing team, who recently beat him in a two man sprint for the title of Japanese champion. The Ukyo team, led by 2017 Japanese champion Yusuke Hatanaka and his counterpart in the young riders category, Kosuke Takeyama, will also be jerseys worth watching in the pack (in red and black). As for the time-trial, the Bridgestone Cycling team is expected to make it difficult for the elite squads, given that they have several track specialists capable of demonstrating their explosive power on the dynamic format on the programme

2019 Saitama Criterium: Bernal will be there

Key points:
 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)
Text: @ASO
Fotos: Gerhard Plomitzer –