Philipsen triumphs in Saitama with an audience delivered to the stars

Three years of waiting was too long for the fervent Japanese public, that after the outbreak of the pandemic he had not returned to enjoy several of the best runners on the planet on Japanese soil. In this way, the eighth edition of the Saitama Criterium was held, and the victory went to the Belgian Jasper Philipsen (24 years old). The one from Alpecin, who in Saitama ran within the ‘Legends of the Criterium’ team, completed with Mark Cavendish and host Yuyika Arashiro, was imposed in the vicinity of the Saitama Arena. He did it after being the strongest in a reduced sprint ahead of Jonas Vingegaard, who wore his yellow jersey won in the last Tour de France, and Geraint Thomas.

The big stars, in the front row for the start in Saitama

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The big stars, in the front row for the start in Saitama

Fourth was Alejandro Valverde, who came to attack forming a nice escape with Nibali, both retired this year. The Murcian was supported by his teammate Enric Mas, Imanol Erviti and José Joaquín Rojas. In total, there were seven Spaniards present at the Criterium: In addition to the four mentioned, three who run in Japanese teams such as Paco Mancebo, José Vicente Toribio and Benja Prades. In each step inside the Saitama Arena (a total of 17 in a circuit of 3.5 kilometers), Japanese fans burst into applause, as did those outside the pavilion. Saitama was a party and the riders enjoyed riding the bike: the German Simon Geschke, with the mountain polka dot jersey, also won in Japan in this category. Regularity went to Mark Cavendish for the points added in the different intermediate sprints, while Movistar was the best team.

Erviti, Mas, Rojas, Valverde, Mancebo, Toribio and Benja Prades in Saitama

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Erviti, Mas, Rojas, Valverde, Mancebo, Toribio and Benja Prades in Saitama

It was a day of celebration, for many the final point, despite the fact that it is not an official competition, of their careers, like Valverde and Nibali, who competed for the last time in Lombardy, and the end of the season for others, like Vingegaard. Of course, Bala, tireless, still has a trip to Costa Rica in November to participate in the Giro de Rigo. He is lengthening his final goodbye. “I want to thank all the public and fans who treated us so well during our visits to Japan. I hope he returns, not as a runner, but as a tourist to learn more about your country”, said Valverde on the podium after receiving a tribute together with Nibali. The Shark is also very loved by the Japanese. In fact, the local runners also had their leading role, with tests throughout the day through the streets of Saitama, and after a weekend the runners participated in various activities and visits to the area. This time, the Japanese trust that everything will continue normal and next year they will have the great stars of the Tour back in their territory.

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Saitama Criterium Awards

2013: 1st Chris Froome 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Rui Costa

2014: 1st Marcel Kittel 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Alexander Kristoff

2015: 1st John Degenkolb 2nd Fumiyuki Beppu 3rd Chris Froome

2016: 1st Peter Sagan 2nd Sho Hatsuyama 3rd Chris Froome

2017: 1st Mark Cavendish 2nd Fumiyuki Beppu 3rd Yusuke Hatanaka

2018: 1st Alejandro Valverde 2nd Geraint Thomas 3rd Yuyika Arashiro

2019: 1st Yuyika Arahsiro 2nd Egan Bernal 3rd Primoz Roglic

2022: 1st Jasper Philipsen 2nd Jonas Vingegaard 3rd Geraint Thomas

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