The eve of the Saitama Tour de France Criterium was marked by the usual spectacle of professional cyclists dipping their toes in Japanese culture, with karate on the menu on Saturday along with – somewhat less traditionally – football-darts.
After riding with local children in the morning, the riders attended the team presentation in Saitama’s Super Arena in the afternoon, where they were called on stage in front of a crowd of guests and fans.
Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin, Marcel Kittel Lilian Calmejane and Yukiya Arashiro then donned white robes for a demonstration of the martial art of karate. After being taken through a couple of the defensive and offensive moves, they all punched through a sheet of polystyrene.
"I think I’m ready now for the real brick," exclaimed Kwiatkowski, to the crowd’s delight.
Next came football darts, a game where you kick a soft football at a giant velcro dartboard. Egan Bernal, Primoz Roglic, Romain Bardet, and Jakob Fuglsang were up against a selection of players from the Urawa Red Diamonds team.
With Bardet – socks pulled up over his knees a la Thierry Henry – and Roglic both hitting trebles, the riders beat the footballers at their own game as the Pet Shop Boys’ Go West, a tune heard on terraces throughout Europe, rang out across the arena.
The footballers then tried to beat the riders at their own game, going head to head in a 500-metre sprint on a static bike. An under-saddled Fuglsang and an over-geared Bardet were roundly beaten but Roglic and Bernal showed no mercy and peddled at full pelt to turn it around.
Click or swipe through the gallery above for a selection of photos from the event.
😁 Smiles, Fun, Sharing moments with the fans. That was the program for today at the #SaitamaCriterium. ⏪ Throwback to the Media Day.😁 Des sourires, de la joie et des moments de partage avec les nombreux fans au programme aujourd'hui au #SaitamaCriterium. pic.twitter.com/qtoBYEadQPOctober 26, 2019