Peter Sagan emerged as the winner of the fourth edition of the Saitama Criterium, outsprinting Japanese champion Sho Hatsuyama at the end of a fast race.
With the event run by Tour de France organisers ASO, Sagan was wearing the green jersey he won in July - rather than the world champion's rainbow jersey he retained a fortnight ago. Tour de France champion Chris Froome, wearing his yellow jersey, took third place after being part of the late four-man break, along with white jersey Adam Yates.
"It was a very fast start," said Sagan. "A breakaway got caught, another one started. Eventually the race became a bit more quiet so I waited for three or four laps to go to make my move because I knew I'd suffer too much if I bridged the gap on all the attackers. We rode strongly at the end. I was the fastest of the four so it went well for me."
Japanese cyclists had their moments of glory with junior rider Kento Omachi setting the best time in the opening time trial ahead of the first professional Petr Vakov (Etixx-Quick Step). Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida), racing with Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek-Segafredo) as the Tour de France-Japan team, then won the points race.
The criterium itself - the main event - started on a fast note with six riders breaking away: Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step), Michal Golas (Team Sky), Taisei Kobayahsi (Japan), Kazushige Kuboki (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Hideto Nakane (Aisan). Bardet went solo with 23km to go and was replaced at the front by his team-mate Alexis Vuillermoz, who saw an opportunity to get cheered as he took off with the two local stars Beppu and Arashiro - the first Japanese cyclists to complete the Tour de France in 2009.
"With these two guys, it felt like being at the front on the Champs-Elysées - they're so popular!", Vuillermoz told Cyclingnews.
The trio led the race from 15km to 5km to go. As they got reined in, Froome, Sagan, Hatsuyama and Yates made the winning move. An average speed of 41.7km/h was recorded in the 57km long race, which is quite high for professional cyclists during their off-season.
"I didn't expect the race to be that fast - it was certainly a long lasting effort," added Vuillermoz. "The finale was a bit similar to stage 11 to Montpellier with Sagan. I didn't want the race to end with a sprint so I attacked with two laps to go but he came across to me straight away. The crowd was absolutely amazing, as always in Japan. They're so knowledgeable about the sport. They follow everything so closely. It's special to finish the season here."
The Saitama Criterium is set to welcome Tour de France champions for the next three years at least.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team||1:22:02|
|2||Sho Hatsuyuma (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange||0:00:05|
|5||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:12|
|6||Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Shimpei Fukuda (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Takeaki Ayabe (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Hayato Okamoto (Jpn) Japan||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Daisuke Kaneko (Jpn) Matrix Powertag||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Eiya Hashimoto (Jpn) Japan||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Kazuki Kobayashi (Jpn) Japan||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Hideto Nakane (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-Alpecin||0:00:18|
|22||Ryohei Komori (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Mikaël Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Yuya Amikaru (Jpn) Shimano Racing Team||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Ian Boswell (USA) Team Sky||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Michael Kolar (Svk) Tinkoff Team||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Tinkoff Team||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-BikeExchange||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Christian Meier (Can) Orica-BikeExchange||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Lampre - Merida||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Kohei Uchima (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Ryu Suzuki (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Yuri Kobashi (Jpn) Shimano Racing Team||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Yuma Koishi (Jpn) Nippo - Vini Fantini||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Ryota Nishizono (Jpn) Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Taisei Kobayashi (Jpn) Japan||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Kazushige Kuboki (Jpn) Nippo - Vini Fantini||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Manabu Shibashi (Jpn) Nippo - Vini Fantini||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Marino Kobayashi (Jpn) Nippo - Vini Fantini||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Shigetomo Nakanishi (Jpn) Korail Cycling Team||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Keisuke Kimura (Jpn) Shimano Racing Team||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Kosuke Aso (Jpn) Korail Cycling Team||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Kenji Itami (Jpn) Korail Cycling Team||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Satoshi Nakagawa (Jpn) Matrix Powertag||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Ryosuke Hashimoto (Jpn) Matrix Powertag||Row 50 - Cell 2|
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