Valverde also reigns in Saitama

November 5 th 2018 - 16:53 [GMT + 9]

A month after conquering the rainbow jersey, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) claimed the sixth edition of Le Tour de France Saitama Critérium. The World champion sprinted to victory after an exciting duel against the Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky). Yukiya Arashiro (Special TDF Japan Team) finished third after being one of the most active riders in a fast paced race on the 3.1-km circuit in the streets of Saitama. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) won the Green jersey and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) took the Polka-dot jersey. Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) won the combativity award.

A pack of 53 riders started the sixth Tour de France Saitama Critérium, with 19 laps of a 3.1-km circuit to be covered. Attacks flew from the start and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) quickly proved to be among the most aggressive but the pack, led first by Marcel Kittel’s Katusha-Alpecin, then by Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar Team, never let the gap grow bigger than 15’’.

Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) accelerated with 40 km to go and was joined by Vincenzo Nibali, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Yusuke Hatanaka (Team Ukyo) but Movistar kept controlling this stellar quatuor, with the support of Geraint Thomas’ Team Sky. Kristoff dominated the intermediate sprints, Nibali claimed the KOMs and Trentin was awarded the combativity award.

The pack got back with 19 km to go and Geraint Thomas initiated the winning move with a powerful attack in the last 15 km. Nibali was once again at the front, with Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu (Special TDF Japan Team) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team). As he did in Innsbruck, the World champion then powered to victory with a dominant sprint.

Kittel king of the sprint

Ahead of the Critérium race, Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) dominated the final of the Sprint Challenge in the early afternoon. After 2.1 km behind a pace-setter on a moped, the German sprinter surged in the final kilometre to claim the win ahead of Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Fumiyuki Beppu (Special TDF Japan Team) and Hayato Yoshida (Nippo-Vini Fantini). All of them won their ticket for the final in qualifying series that saw Beppu out-sprint the European champion Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) while Hayato Yoshida dominated Yukiya Arashiro (Bahrain-Merida) and Ian Stannard (Team Sky).

Local heroes master of the clock

Japanese riders Kazushige Kuboki, Masahiro Ishigami and Shoi Matsuda (Special Team Japan for Saitama) won the team time-trial with a time of 3’14’’71 over the 3.1-km circuit of the day. Team Ukyo came second (+1’’), just ahead of Shimano Racing Team (+1’’).

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