Le Tour de France Saitama Critérium: D-1 Infos

November 3 rd 2018 - 11:14

The stars of Le Tour de France Saitama Critérium already enjoyed a rich Saturday with food tasting, activities with fans of all ages, baseball and music initiations… Now they’re ready to take on the race.


As a self-proclaimed lover of Japanese food, Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) was more than happy to walk around the 100 stands of the Saitamarché, an open-air market held weekly where he shared a moment with fans and cheered them along with El Diablo. “My favorite is a sort of schnitzel”, the German sprinter explained while enjoying some noodles, fried chicken and local foie gras. “And nobody knows about it in Germany! If you like Japanese food, you have to come here to truly enjoy it.” Good for him: Kittel is participating in Le Tour de France Saitama Critérium for the fifth time (out of six editions). “I was there when the event began and I always enjoy coming back. It’s a different World, and one I love. You can see people are big sports fans and love cycling. The Criterium will be a special moment.”


Alberto Contador is a very active young retiree. After visiting Thailand for L’Étape by Le Tour de France, the Spanish icon is in Saitama as an ambassador of the Critérium. This Saturday, he participated in a visit to hospitalised children, shared his experience of double winner of the Tour de France in a public presentation of the route of the 2019 race (“it’s good for the climbers, I would have enjoyed it”), couldn’t help but attack from the start in a short race with kids and then played baseball in a front of an already conquered crowd, “It’s a tight schedule but I can do it now that I don’t have the same obligations for training”, Contador explained. “I feel really good here. We try to share a bit of the atmosphere of the Tour de France, of the highest level of racing, and on a personal level I want to give back a bit of love to the fans I don’t often get the chance to see.”


Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Alpecin) and Alberto Contador had never played baseball before hitting the ball with local stars Tomoki Hoshino, Yu Kato and Yukari Isozaki. But they sure showed a contagious enthusiasm and sported with style their special outfits. After a sequence of catch and throw, it was time to hit some signed balls to the fans… Geraint Thomas and Alberto Contador proved to be the most performant, while Alexander Kristoff appeared to (involuntarily) target Marcel Kittel. “I wanted to injure him before tomorrow’s race but obviously the balls are too soft, he’s still laughing”, the Norwegian sprinter joked. “We would make a good team”, Thomas claimed… “But we need some training, and now I have free time”, Contador added.


The organisers of Le Tour de France Saitama Critérium also tried to initiate their stars into the art of taiko, Japanese percussions. “I hope I can find a rhythm”, Marcel Kittel said at the beginning… and he didn’t appear convinced he did so afterwards. “I was better at stretching than playing”, he laughed after 15 minutes of trying to catch the vibe from the troop of 11 players playing drums and flutes. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) earned himself an ovation from the fans. Japanese riders Yukiya Arashiro (Bahrain-Merida) and Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo) stated they didn’t have much more experience than their foreign partners. But they sure made up for the lack of experience with enthusiasm and also got huge cheers from the crowd!

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