What's Cool In Road Cycling

Between two Tours… Saitama

The day after the presentation of the route for the 2015 Tour, the riders first head to the 2014 Tour de France Saitama Critérium to form a star-studded peloton on Saturday morning. Ahead of the start, the French riders attended a reception at their embassy in Tokyo…

A little bit of the Tour de France, in Japan. The destination didn’t feature on the official map unveiled by Christian Prudhomme at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. And yet a fair number of the men expected to contest the 102nd edition immediately set off for Saitama, where they will be able to get back into their July groove for their last test of the season. Vincenzo Nibali, whose Tour win was constructed partly in the mountains and partly on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles, won’t necessarily find a course profile that suits him on Saturday morning. Nonetheless the Italian has been very sharp in his appearances at the post-Tour criteriums, in the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, and will be aiming to show he’s a match for Chris Froome, who won the first edition. To do that he’ll have to beat the sprinters, who will be reduced in number next July but should take a liking to the three-kilometre city circuit they will complete twenty times. Alexander Kristoff, winner of two stages on the Tour, might well have another chance to test himself against Marcel Kittel, while green jersey-winner Peter Sagan will go in search of the win that eluded him on several occasions in the summer. That is, if he can shake off the German master of the discipline. “I hope it comes down to a sprint at the end”, said Kittel after he’d left the plane. “What I do know is that I’ve had enough rest to arrive in Saitama as fresh as I need to be!”

Having been particularly prominent on the last Tour, the delegation of French riders started their stay in Japan with a visit to the French embassy. National champion Arnaud Démare finished third on the stage into Lille, but would love to be able to hand a winner’s bouquet to his mother, who has travelled with him to Saitama to visit Japan as a family. “It’s a last key goal for the season, because her birthday is on the very day of the race. But there’s a great line-up, and I’ve already done plenty of walking since we landed in Tokyo two days ago, which is perhaps not ideal”. Jean-Christophe Péraud arrived in Japan with his wife and two young children, and along with teammates Romain Bardet and Blel Kadri and compatriot Arnold Jeannesson was introduced to Ambassador Thierry Dana. “I can’t wait to experience this Criterium, and to visit Japan”, said the man who finished second in the 2014 Tour de France. During a friendly and enjoyable ceremony, also attended by the French-Japanese cycling club, Bernard Hinault, who has also made the trip, presented a yellow jersey to his host. Tomorrow, the hotel that serves as the riders’ base will welcome the late arrivals, including Chris Froome, Peter Sagan and Alexander Kristoff. Before they get down to business, they have a relaxing schedule but may find there’s a surprise or two in store…

saitama_map

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