2015 Tour de France Saitama Criterium News
The 3rd edition of the Tour de France Saitama Criterium looms large for the riders, most of whom have completed their journeys. They now have a day to acclimatise and explore before race day: Saturday 24 October.
FROOME, FEELING SLIGHTLY JETLAGGED
There is already a new-term feel in the huge lobby of the Rafre Hotel, where the riders in the 2015 Tour de France Saitama Criterium are staying. They turned up at a variety of times, some of them flying in from Paris, others from Frankfurt, Barcelona and Amsterdam. The vast majority of the cyclists arrived in Japan late in the day, but the Yellow Jersey from the 2015 Tour travelled from London overnight from Thursday to Friday. For this third race in Saitama, Chris Froome was forced to change routine slightly because his wife Michelle, pregnant with their first child, has not travelled.
THE FRENCH AT HOME… AT THE EMBASSY
Nearly all the French riders in the Saitama Criterium were received at the Embassy of France in Tokyo, at the invitation of the president of the Franco-Japanese chamber of commerce, Nicolas Bonnardel. Accompanied by Bernard Hinault and Jean-Etienne Amaury, among others, Perrig Quemeneur, Yohann Gène, Angelo Tulik, Blel Kadri, Mikaël Chérel, Alexis Vuillermoz and Romain Bardet had the chance to meet with French entrepreneurs, whose expertise is in high demand in Japan. In Tokyo, the ambassador’s cocktails were laced with Breton cider and served with buckwheat galettes, which have become a feature of many menus in the capital.
ARASHIRO AND BEPPU, STAR TURNS
The two leading standard-bearers for Japanese cycling are headline news at the Saitama Criterium, and big things will be expected of them this year given their very encouraging recent results on home tarmac. Fumiyuki Beppu won the last criterium, the Japan Cup, beating Yukiya Arashiro into 3rd place. His team Europcar, whose jersey he will wear for the last time in Saitama, has made its goal clear. According to Perrig Quemeneur, “we’ll do everything to help Yukiya win, that’s what we’re here for”.
THE COMEBACK RACE FOR MIKAEL CHEREL
The last we heard from Mikaël Chérel was quite disappointing, as he had to withdraw from the Tour of Lombardy after colliding with a car in training. The three ribs he broke in the impact put an end to his season and forced him to bring forward his winter break. Now recovered, the AG2R La Mondiale rider will line up in Saitama with, unlike his fellow members of the peloton, a return to training on the horizon: “I was back on my bike for a cyclo-cross last Sunday in Jablines, in the Seine-et-Marne region. It was a pretty intense hour-long effort, quite violent!”.
LIVE ON TV: A WIDESCREEN CRITERIUM
The media impact of the Tour de France Saitama Criterium continues to grow: pictures will be broadcast in 171 countries (vs 121 in 2014). Of the 22 channels that will cover the event, ten will be bringing the race to their viewers live. The most comprehensive coverage will naturally be provided by Japanese channel J-Sports, which also broadcasts “Tour Night”, a live one-hour show with a studio audience, the day before the Criterium.