Singapore – Sunday 30th october 2022:
Three months after his famous victory on the Champs-Elysées, Jonas Vingegaard was once again the strongest rider to win the first edition of the 57-kilometre Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium. Greeted by a chequered flag, the Danish champion beat Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali in a royal breakaway that pulled away in the final two laps.
Although Mark Cavendish couldn’t find his way into the leading group to use his speed on the Formula One race track, he did win the green jersey as he did in his last Tour participation in 2021, thanks to the intermediate sprints. Among the attackers of the day, Singapore champion Boon Kiak’s efforts saw him win the combativeness award, whilst Cofidis riders Simon Geschke, Axel Zingle, Max Walscheid and Tom Bohli won the team time trial
On the day before the first edition of the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium, the riders have been able to enjoy a day of relaxation and sight-seeing, allowing them, for example, to take time out for a short trip through Chinatown.
The weekend in Singapore signals the end of an era in modern cycling as two exceptional champions, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde, bring the curtain down on their careers at the two criteriums in Asia.
The preparations for the race were concluded by the presentation of the teams held at the finishing line of the Criterium, at the foot of the grandstand named The Float which each year also overlooks the finish of the Singapore Formula 1 grand prix. The programme for the evening included a concert by the Synthony philharmonic orchestra, who have created a fusion between classical and electronic music.
Tomorrow afternoon, sport will have pride of place, with first of all a time-trial then the Criterium, which will start at 4 pm, for a race over a distance of 64 kilometres.
THE FIRST PEDAL STROKES… IN CHINATOWN
Whilst awaiting to climb onto their bikes to tackle the circuit winding around Marina Bay tomorrow at the end of the afternoon, the riders were able to take time to visit Singapore and temporarily get away from the city centre. While photos of the city have widely made its sky-line famous as well as the three towers of Marina Bay Sands linked by its “sky-way” perched at a height of two hundred metres, the riders were able to discover a different face of the city by visiting the district of Albert Park, very close to Chinatown. In this neighbourhood, the buildings are much shorter and the champions were able to enjoy a quick taste of street food. For the inhabitants of Singapore, it is customary to take a snack with a “youtiao” which, according to Alejandro Valverde, resembles the “churros” found in his native Spain, but which Chris Froome gobbled down, with another reference in mind: “They are exactly like the doughnuts that we call “Mandasi” in Kenya. It takes me back to my childhood, because it’s exactly the type of thing that I would eat after a long training ride to recharge my batteries,” explained the four times winner of the Tour, before taking advantage of a small excursion in a “trishaw” among former wearers of the Yellow Jersey. This time, the usual chauffeurs of these traditional means of transport were sat in the passenger seat and left the handlebars to the experts. On completion of this small jaunt through Chinatown, Mark Cavendish showed himself worthy of his champion of Great Britain jersey by returning to the garage first, ahead of Vingegaard, Valverde, Nibali and Froome. The Manx sprinter is well and truly in form!
NIBALI AND VALVERDE COME TO THE END OF THEIR FAREWELL TOUR
One of them is closing in on his 38th birthday whilst the other reached the age of 42 last spring. Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde have battled for a long time on the world’s roads, both building up rolls of honour that give them pride of place in the history of cycling, with the Italian among the seven riders to have won the three grand tours and the Spaniard ready to leave the professional pack with a total of 133 victories, placing him in 6th place of the overall hierarchy, just behind Bernard Hinault (145). Both men enjoyed emotional farewells on the Vuelta and Il Lombardia, but will be fastening their last race numbers to their jerseys on the Asian criteriums, in Singapore and Saitama. “I’ve been very busy since Il Lombardia,” explained the Astana rider who has already got involved in the running of the Pro-Continental team created by Douglas Ryder for the 2023 season. “I’ve not really realised that it’s the end, because I’m going to stay involved in cycling. However, I’m delighted to come and ride on these Criteriums, which are excellent showcases for our sport”. As for the Spaniard, “Bala” is also looking to the future, having just taken part in the close season training block with Movistar in Pamplona, “with the desire to pass on as much of my experience as I can to the youngest riders”. The former world champion who is in the process of retiring is nonetheless delighted to be climbing back on his bike tomorrow morning: “I’m here to enjoy these last races as much as I can. I’ve been competitive from the beginning to the end of my career – I still finished 6th on Il Lombardia. However, I’ve come here with my family to share these farewells with them as well as with my team-mates. Perhaps now I’ll allow myself to eat a bit more!”
A CHANCE FOR A SINGAPOREAN?
The aim of the Criterium is also to combine the movers and shakers on the Tour de France with the cyclists who make the headlines in the discipline in their own region, within the same pack. As such, the 16 riders from the world’s elite will have the opportunity to measure themselves against the 28 riders selected by the four teams invited to Singapore. While the national federation has chosen four riders to fly the flag for their country, the hopes of shining on a circuit favourable to sprinters will perhaps be held by Malaysian Mohd Harrif Saleh, whose speed has already caused havoc on the Tour of Langkawi (with three stages won between 2019 and 2020), as well as this season on the Tours of Thailand and Taiwan. The crowds expected along the route will especially cast a knowing eye on his Singaporean team-mate at the Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team. At the age of 32 years, Goh Choon Huat will be participating in the last race of his career, marked by seven national titles in total, and he intends to go out with a bang: “I don’t know what I’ll be able to do on this circuit, but I’m determined to seize the opportunity to take the limelight for my farewell, by taking part in a breakaway, for example”. Finally, the Thailand Continental team will most likely try their luck with their two leaders, namely two times national time-trial champion Peerapol Chawchiangkwang and Sarawut Sirironchai, a four times stage winner on the Tour of Thailand.