Top billing for Thomas and Valverde...

October 5 th 2018 - 12:00

He already left his mark on the French Alps by winning two consecutive stages at La Rosière and then Alpe d’Huez. Geraint Thomas went on to complete his journey along France’s roads in the finest position and is now readying himself to finish his season with the Criterium de Saitama. It was five years ago when the Welshman enjoyed his first and sole experience of racing in Japan as he took part in the first edition of the Criterium. At the time, “G” was among the ‘bodyguards’ of Chris Froome, who had just won the Tour de France for the first time. This time, Geraint Thomas will be wearing the Yellow Jersey as he reacquaints himself with the Japanese crowds, who, since 2013, have been loyal to the race along 3-kilometre long circuit that winds through the city centre. Another rider renewing acquaintances will be Vincenzo Nibali, who discovered Japan in yellow following his victory on Le Tour in 2014.

Alejandro Valverde has won the great majority of his 122 victories in Spain. He also boasts three stage victories on the Tour de France, a race on which he finished third in the general classification in 2015. What’s more, he sealed his greatest triumph last weekend in Austria, where he won for the first time at the World Championships. As a result, the Spaniard will be donning the Rainbow Jersey as he returns to the Criterium de Saitama, which he already competed in, like Thomas, for the first edition in 2013. At the time, “Bala” was the team-mate of World Champion Rui Costa, behind whom he finished third at the World Championships. How times change…

Main contenders (on 5/10)

Team Sky: Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, Wout Poels, Jonathan Castroviejo ; Katusha-Alpecin: Marcel Kittel, Rick Zabel, Nils Politt, Marco Haller ; Movistar: Alejandro Valverde, Imanol Erviti, Ruben Fernandez, Antonio Pedrero ; Bahrain-Merida: Vincenzo Nibali, Antonio Nibali, Franco Pellizotti, Matej Mohorič ; UAE Emirates: Alexander Kristoff, Sven Erik Bystrom, Vegard Stake Laengen, Marco Marcato ; Mitchelton-Scott: Matteo Trentin, Damien Howson, Carlos Verona, Luka Mezgec ; Tour de France Japan Team: Fumiyuki Beppu, Yukiya Arashiro

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