Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and newly-crowned world champion Alejandro Valverde will headline the sixth edition of the Saitama Criterium, which takes place on November 4. Vincenzo Nibali, Marcel Kittel and Alexander Kristoff have also been confirmed for the Japanese event, which is run by Tour organiser ASO.
Thomas took part in the inaugural Saitama Criterium in 2013 and will line out in the yellow jersey of Tour winner in Japan, alongside Sky teammates Ian Stannard, Wout Poels and Jonathan Castroviejo.
Valverde will make his first appearance in the rainbow jersey at Il Lombardia next week and will also wear the bands in Saitama. Like Thomas, Valverde rode in the maiden event in 2013. This time around, he will be joined by Movistar teammates Imanol Erviti, Ruben Fernandez and Antonio Pedrero.
Vincenzo Nibali's last competitive action of the season will come at the Giro dell’Emilia, Tre Valli Varesine and Il Lombardia over the coming week, but the Italian will travel to Japan on the first weekend of November with Bahrain-Merida teammates Antonio Nibali, Franco Pellizotti and Matej Mohoric.
European champion Matteo Trentin has also been confirmed among the participants in Saitama, with Damien Howson, Carlos Verona and Luka Mezgec joining him on the Mitchelton-Scott squad.
Trentin's predecessor in the jersey, Alexander Kristoff, will travel to Japan with UAE Team Emirates companions Sven Erik Bystrom, Vegard Stake Laengen and Marco Marcato.
After ending his 2019 season early due to fatigue, Marcel Kittel headlines the Katusha-Alpecin quartet, which also includes Rick Zabel, Nils Politt and Marco Haller.
Local favourites Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo) and Yukiya Arashiro (Bahrain-Merida) will again participate in Saitama under the banner of 'Tour de France Japan team.'
In 2009, Beppu and Arashiro became the first Japanese riders to complete the Tour de France – previous starters Kisso Kawamuro (1926 and 1927) and Polti's Daisuke Imanaka (1996) had both failed to reach Paris – and their accomplishment triggered an upsurge in coverage of the race in Japan, which prompted ASO to create the end-of-season criterium in Saitama.
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