All four of this year’s Tour de France jersey winners will be present at the Saitama Criterium at the end of next month. Race winner Chris Froome (Team Sky), best young rider Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) five-time green jersey victor Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and his teammate Rafal Majka, who won the mountains classification, will travel to Japan for the event.
Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), who finished on the podium at the Tour de France and is a regular at the season-ending event, and sprinter Marcel Kittel will also ride. Japan’s two WorldTour riders Yukia Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu will race in the one-off Team Tour de France for Japan. Last year’s winner John Degenkolb will not be in Saitama, however.
This year will be the fourth running of the Saitama Criterium, which is run by Tour de France organisers ASO. The event consists of three races, ending with the centrepiece criterium. Riders also spend a day appearing at a number of photo opportunities, which have in the past included sumo wrestling and archery.
Froome and Bardet have been to each of the three previous editions of the exhibition event, while Sagan returns after choosing to skip it last year following a long season. Froome beat Bardet to his third Tour de France title in July with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) taking third after a disappointing showing. Sagan, meanwhile, stormed to his fifth consecutive points classification success, putting him just one victory behind Erik Zabel.
Froome will be joined by Wout Poels, who competed last season, Ian Boswell and Michal Golas. In AG2R-La Mondiale colours, along with Bardet, will be Alexis Vuillermoz, Samuel Dumoulin and Mikael Cherel.
Majka is making his second appearance at the event after missing it last year. The Polish rider last appeared at the Saitama Criterium in 2014, when he won his first mountains classification title. He repeated the success this year with a commanding victory over Thomas de Gendt, beating the Belgian by 79 points. As well as Majka and Sagan, Tinkoff will send Juraj Sagan and Pawel Poljanski.
Yates will be a debutant when he races in Saitama after securing the biggest success of his career so far, the young riders’ jersey and fourth place overall at the Tour de France. Simon Gerrans will make the trip with him as will Chris Juul-Jensen and Christian Meier.
Kittel will head an Etixx-QuickStep team that consists of Fabio Sabatini, Petr Vakoc and Julien Vermote. Giant-Alpecin will also send four riders in Simon Geschke, Zico Waeytens, Koen de Kort and Georg Preidler.
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