Philipsen, the finisher
November 6 th 2022 - 17:29 [GMT + 9]
When it comes to the final sprint, it’s down to Jasper Philipsen to power to victory! Three months and a half after he won the last stage of the Tour de France, on the Champs-Élysées, the Belgian star wrapped 2022 with another success in the Tour de France Saitama Criterium. Philipsen got the best of Jonas Vingegaard and Geraint Thomas in a three-man sprint after Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali went on the move to say goodbye to their fans and pro cycling. Earlier in the day, Chris Froome’s Israel Premier Tech had won the team time-trial just ahead of local squads.
The crowds gathering in the streets of Saitama were graced with an action packed event. The riders representing Japanese teams were eager to bring battle against some of the biggest names of the Tour de France, with attacks from the start. But the peloton led a hard chase, providing an animated race on the 3.5km circuit through the city and the Saitama Super Arena (17 laps).
Partnering up with Jasper Philipsen and Yukiya Arashiro in the TDF Criterium Legends Team, Mark Cavendish battled for the green jersey points, while Simon Geschke (Cofidis) quickly went on the hunt for the KOM points. Their efforts were crowned with success - the British sprinter powered to another green jersey, after his successes in the point standings of the 2011 and 2021 Tour de France, and the German all-rounder clinched the polka-dot jersey that narrowly escaped him last July.
Vingegaard attacks, Philipsen wins
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma) displayed his Maillot Jaune as he attacked 24km away from the finish. But his move was caught by the bunch with 5 laps to go… the moment chosen by the icons Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) to attack in their last event as professional riders.
The stellar duo opened a duo of 25’’, but a chase group set off behind them with Vingegaard, Philipsen, Chris Froome (Israel Premier Tech) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers). Vingegaard, Thomas and Philipsen went together ahead of the final kilometre. And the Belgian sprinter got the best of the two Tour de France winners.
The action had already started before the main race, with a series of individual and team time trials featuring local talents, including young female and male riders, as well as para-cycling stars.
With the 4-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, joined by Hugo Houle, Simon Clarke and Guillaume Boivin, Israel Premier Tech dominated the team time trial in 3’48’’50, just ahead of the Japanese talents from Ustonomiya Blitzen (Abe, Onodera, Hashimoto and Kaneko, +4’’) and Special Team Japan for Saitama.
“We went in with a plan, we had checked the course and we knew who was gonna pull in every section and in the corners”, Froome explained after his team’s winning effort. “The TTT was a priority for us coming here and it feels good to win it, especially against the local teams who went really hard. It’s a great feeling on the course. You can feel the fans really love having the World Tour riders in town, especially since we haven’t had an edition here the last three years. Everyone is super excited to have it back again and you can really feel the energy from the crowd.”
A former world champion in the C3 class, Masaki Fujita was the fastest paracyclist (4’26’’). “I feel so excited”, the two-time Paralympic Champion Keiko Sugiura said after her performance, covering the 3.1km in 4’52. “There are many fans and famous riders! Today I had a better time than three years ago… for one second! And now I’m excited for the race.” The communicative smile she displayed throughout the day confirms she was delighted, and so were the crowds of Saitama.