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Tour de France stars in Japan ahead of Saitama Criterium - gallery

Image 1 of 29

Chris Froome takes aim

Chris Froome takes aim
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Joaquim Rodriguez goes for the bullseye

Joaquim Rodriguez goes for the bullseye
(Image credit: Koen de Kort)
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Chris Froome is greeted by adoring fans

Chris Froome is greeted by adoring fans
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Froome with Japanese riders Fumiyuki Beppu and Yukiya Ayashiro on a high speed train

Chris Froome with Japanese riders Fumiyuki Beppu and Yukiya Ayashiro on a high speed train
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Frooem and the riders enjoy a chuckle at the media event

Chris Frooem and the riders enjoy a chuckle at the media event
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders pose with people from the school

Riders pose with people from the school
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The riders receive some guidance from locals

The riders receive some guidance from locals
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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John Degenkolb was the sharpest archer of the lot

John Degenkolb was the sharpest archer of the lot
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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John Degenkolb lets rip

John Degenkolb lets rip
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Joaquim Rodriguez gives it another go

Joaquim Rodriguez gives it another go
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Joaquim Rodriguez missed with all three of his arrows

Joaquim Rodriguez missed with all three of his arrows
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Romain Bardet had a good eye

Romain Bardet had a good eye
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Joaquim Rodriguez draws the arrow back

Joaquim Rodriguez draws the arrow back
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Froome takes aim

Chris Froome takes aim
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Joaquim Rodriguez and Jacopo Guarnieri pose together in front of an old train

Joaquim Rodriguez and Jacopo Guarnieri pose together in front of an old train
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The riders went to a train museum

The riders went to a train museum
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders on stage at the race presentation

Riders on stage at the race presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Local students hold up a Saitama Criterium banner

Local students hold up a Saitama Criterium banner
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Romain Bardet and John Degenkolb make their way inside

Romain Bardet and John Degenkolb make their way inside
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders pose outside the Japanese school

Riders pose outside the Japanese school
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders and media are treated to a traditional Japanese harp performance

Riders and media are treated to a traditional Japanese harp performance
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders and media are treated to a traditional Japanese harp performance

Riders and media are treated to a traditional Japanese harp performance
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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John Degenkolb on target again

John Degenkolb on target again
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Joaquim Rodriguez looks for the target

Joaquim Rodriguez looks for the target
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Froome fires off another arrow

Chris Froome fires off another arrow
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Joaquim Rodriguez strikes a pose

Joaquim Rodriguez strikes a pose
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Froome in his archery gear lines up alongside local pupils

Chris Froome in his archery gear lines up alongside local pupils
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Froome with Japanese rider Ayashiro

Chris Froome with Japanese rider Ayashiro
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Froome tries his hand at Japanese archery

Chris Froome tries his hand at Japanese archery
(Image credit: ASO)

The Saitama Criterium takes place on Saturday and, as has been the case since the event launched in 2013, riders were encouraged to broaden their cultural horizons with a taste of traditional Japanese customs on the eve of the race.

The event is organised by Tour de France organisers ASO in an attempt to export that great sporting tradition to a growing market in the far east, and they kept up the two-way cultural exchange on Friday. Chris Froome's skeletal frame crouched before a 20-stone sumo wrestler in 2013 is an image that will struggle to be forgotten by many, but this time the riders took on activities in more dignified attire. 

On Friday morning they went to a school in Saitama to watch a Japanese harp performance followed by a Japanese archery display. After a demonstration from three local students, Froome, John Degenkolb, Romain Bardet, and Joaquim Rodriguez stepped up to give it a go, clad in Japanese dress and Tour-themed headbands. 

Degenkolb was the only rider of the four not to win a stage at this year's Tour, but he comfortably got the better of his adversaries with bow and arrow in hand, hitting the target with each of his three attempts. Froome and Bardet weren't as quick to get the hang of it but did register a score, while Rodriguez missed with all three arrows and had to be given a fourth chance, whereupon he jokingly took aim at the gathered media. 

The riders later visited the railway museum in Saitama, where they had the chance to take a seat in the first ever high speed train ever produced.