Home Sports Valverde and Nibali, a 2.0 farewell to the Japanese delirium

Valverde and Nibali, a 2.0 farewell to the Japanese delirium

Valverde and Nibali, a 2.0 farewell to the Japanese delirium

The central streets of Saitama, next to the subway station (Shintoshin) were crowded on the streets on Saturday. Hundreds of cycling fans gathered at the Saitama Arena, that also hosted in another of its parts a concert by the band Guns N’ Roses. That is to say, the town, practically on the outskirts of Tokyo, vibrated on all sides, and especially with the cast of cycling stars that gathered for this year’s Criterium, the first that the pandemic allows in Japanese lands since 2019. This Sunday it will be held (6:45 in Spain, TDP), but before, on Saturday, the runners had a day of enjoyment, leisure and visits to the area, with two cyclists with many lights: Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali.

The two, of the great highlights especially of this century, officially retired last October at the Giro de Lombardia. Now, even if it’s not in competition, they keep pedaling, they refuse to end the season, in any way… although there is less and less left. Despite the fact that Valverde (in Japan he is together with Enric Mas, Erviti and Rojas) will go to Costa Rica in a few weeks for the Giro de Rigo, for both the Colombian and the Sicilian this is a new farewell. Both, accompanied by Marcel Kittel, also retired but ambassador of the event, toured local food stalls, trying all kinds of food and drinks. This is how they spent the morning, although Valverde preferred to eat an ice cream to finish off. Meanwhile, others like Vingegaard, Kuss and Kruijswijk came to visit the Cocoon City, and others like Cavendish and Geschke they enjoyed riding bikes with kids at Cycle Festa.

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Participants in the Saitama Criterium, dressed in the Japanese yukata

A whole morning of relaxation and smiles that continued in the afternoon, in the presentation: all the participating runners put on the yukata, the typical clothing of the area, and the event was especially dedicated to Vingegaard and Froome, on the one hand, and Valverde and Nibali, on the other. Both, in a small competition with various games (guess stages of the past Tour, guess on a map where the 2023 edition starts, drawing himself celebrating a victory and even making cotton candy) and the victory went to the Italian-Spanish duo, although Bala recognized it: “We won thanks to Vincenzo”.

A good atmosphere that will continue this Sunday, in which thousands of fans are expected, as predicted by the local idol, Yuyika Arashiro, winner of the last edition in 2019: “It was a long wait of three years, but all of Japan will vibrate with the test,” warns the Bahrain. The main test will consist of 17 laps of a 3.5 kilometer circuit. “It is very nice to close this cycle here”, agree Valverde and Nibali. Surely this Sunday they will have their dose of prominence again. “We will attack as a duo”, they both said between smiles. Which doesn’t mean it’s a lie…

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