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Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France: an exciting programme


© Presse Sports

The leading lights of the 2014 Tour de France, including Chris Froome, Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel, will be in Japan from October 25 to explore Saitama. They will be in their element when meeting local journalists, but not so much when they come up against sumo wrestlers for introductory lessons! They will be back in their comfort zone the day after, when they hop onto their bicycles for quite a few laps of the city circuit. Race director Jean-François Pescheux goes into the details of the last fixture of the season.

Mr Pescheux, your challenge consists of imbibing a race held in Japan with the flavour of the Tour de France. How do you do that?
The idea was to set up an urban circuit right in the heart of Saitama, just like when the Tour peloton rides a few laps of the final circuit in the stage to the Champs-Elysées. Of course, the environment is different, but the 2.7 km course also includes very wide avenues which can give rise to similar race situations.
The format of the Criterium was also designed with the Tour de France in mind...
Indeed, we have three races which could be viewed as three stages. The first two will be points races, with points on offer at the end of every other lap, while the third one will be a road stage on a circuit. The 54 km course will feature intermediate sprints, which will determine the points classification, as well as a small climb at the top of which riders will vie for the mountains classification. Finally, we will have a young rider classification and a teams classification, while a jury will award a combativity prize at the end of the race. Just like in the Tour!
The idea of points races is also a nod to track cycling, a favourite of the Japanese...
They invented keirin, most notably. Our points races, with several sprints each, borrow from this concept. It is a way of blending our cycling cultures while making sure the result is an exciting show. The Japanese never get to see such a star-studded field, so it is important to let them enjoy the performance for quite some time.
And a succession of sprints is a sure way of guaranteeing such a show...
What is for sure is that we will see short and nervous stages with multiple rewards on offer, which will promote movement and non-stop attacks. The Tour riders will be here for their last race of the season and a rare appearance in Asia, will want to pull off a performance worthy of their status and their jerseys. But I am quite sure that they will face a fierce challenge from the Japanese riders we invited.

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© Presse Sports

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