Tour de France Saitama Criterium: the info with 2 days to go
November 4 th 2022 - 17:59 [GMT + 9]
Jonas Vingegaard, Mark Cavendish, Vincenzo Nibali as wel as Marcel Kittel… The stars of the Tour de France are back in Japan to take on the 8th edition of the Tour de France Saitama Criterium. “It means a lot for me to be able to continue this tradition”, said the German star, winner of the event in 2014 and now an ambassador for the Criterium. Ahead of Sunday’s packed racing action, the riders will already engage in diverse activities on Saturday to engage with the Japanese fans.
SAITAMA REUNITES WITH THE TOUR
The Tour de France Saitama Criterium should have celebrated its 10th edition this week-end, nine years after the inaugural success of Chris Froome with the Yellow Jersey on his shoulders. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, local star Yukiya Arashiro is the last winner, in 2019, but the Japanese city is once again welcoming the heroes of July, most of whom arrived mid-week. “The borders are opening up and we are happy to be back at this event”, explains Franck Perque, race director. “This is the same course as in 2019. Its great particularity is to cross the Saitama Super Arena. It is a technological feat with a specific surfacing to ensure good safety conditions. Then, we are in the districts of Saitama, where we always meet large crowds.” The riders will first take to the circuit in the form of time trials involving para-cyclists, Junior talents, female riders and professional Asian and international men's teams, before the road race over 17 laps.
KITTEL: “GREAT TO BE BACK”
Winner of 14 stages of the Tour de France and of the 2014 Tour de France Saitama Criterium, Marcel Kittel couldn’t miss the return of the event, where the now retired German sprinter is an ambassador. “I’ve been here every year since the first edition, apart from 2015”, he recalled on Friday. “It means a lot for me to be able to come back and to continue that tradition. Saitama loves cycling, they are really big Tour de France fans and it’s special to be on the other side of the world and to find the same atmosphere as in France. I love that and it’s great to be back.” Ahead of the week-end activities, Kittel visited a school to discuss cycling and his experience as an elite sportsman with teenagers. “I can see how schools in Japan work, how the kids are learning here. We have a lot of opportunities to get in touch with the Japanese traditions, the culture, the people… It’s very open.”
SATURDAY’S PROGRAM: SAITAMARCHÉ, CYCLE FESTA, YUKATA…
On Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s racing action, the pedalling stars will already engage in diverse activities, cycling related or not, strengthening the relationship between the Japanese public and the Tour de France. The likes of Jonas Vingegaard, Alejandro Valverde and Mark Cavendish will enjoy art exhibits in Cocoon City, a visit to the Saitamarché and the activities of the Cycle Festa (including a kids bike race featuring some of the pros). Then, everyone will head to the Saitama Super Arena for a live TV show on J Sports, the official Japanese broadcaster of the Tour de France. In front of the crowds and cameras, riders will participate in games while wearing Yukata, a traditional clothing.