The organisers of the Saitama Criterium, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), have announced that Team Sky's Chris Froome will return to the race he won last year, to be held on October 25. The inaugural Saitama Criterium was won by Froome ahead of the Tour de France's green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and World Champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).
After the race last year, Froome expressed his interest in returning to the race and has been true to his word despite not defending his Tour de France title of 2013.
"It's a wonderful way to finish off a year that has been unforgettable," Froome said after his victory. "First I'd have to win the Tour again, but of course I'd love to be back here in the yellow jersey."
Froome crashed out of the Tour de France on stage 5 with a broken wrist and hand but made his return to racing at the Vuelta a España where he finished second overall behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
The 2.6km circuit in Saitama has been extended to 3.1km so that more spectators can attend the race. It is estimated that 200,000 fans attended the race last October.
ASO President Jean-Etienne Amaury added a new feature to the 2014 parcours was the inclusion of the Saitama Super Arena, one of the biggest indoor arenas in the world.
"Last year the riders were welcomed with unbelievable enthusiasm," Amaury said. "This shows that our innovative ideas respond to people's expectations both in Japan and in other places in the world.
"The new feature of entering the Saitama Super Arena is an example of our approach to all the events we organise: move the spectacle around, change the scenarios… that is one of the ways to arouse interest in our sports."
The full start list will be announced by ASO later this week.