John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) sprinted to victory at the Saitama Criterium, beating local rider Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek Factory Racing). Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) rounded off the podium after leading out the sprint in the final metres.
The 60-kilometre criterium rounded off a day’s racing that included a time trial and points race earlier in the day.
There was plenty of action throughout the criterium with an early break of four going off the front. Each of the big-name rider in the race made an attack off the front during the 19 laps before the successful move of six riders went clear.
Froome, Degenkolb, Beppu, Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Yukio Arashiro (Europcar) and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) rode off the front with just a handful of laps remaining. Arashiro was particularly active, hovering up the points available after each lap. As they neared the line to begin the penultimate lap the Japanese rider attacked, much to the delight of the crowd who let out a huge cheer as he passed through the Super Arena Saitama. Arashiro managed a lap out front before he was caught by the other riders.
The six riders came into the final kilometre together, with Froome taking up the sprint first. Degenkolb eased around him to take the victory with Beppu stuck firmly to his wheel. Rodríguez slotted home in fourth, Bardet was right behind him in fifth, while points classification winner Arashiro took sixth.
“It was a very great race, with so many spectators. They are super emotional, especially in the final the crowds were so loud and you can almost compare it to the Champs Elysees from the atmosphere and the noise on the said of the road,” said Degenkolb. “Now the season is really finished for me and now the preparation for the new season starts.”
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