Oct 24, 2015 – A day after outperforming his rivals in archery, John Degenkolb also left the likes of Tour de France champion Chris Froome in his wake to win the Criterium de Saitama on Saturday.
The German, who had said somewhat tongue-in-cheek on Friday that he had come to Japan looking for a “great revenge” after his failure to win a stage at July’s Tour, proved quickest in a sprint finish between the Criterium’s star attractions.
Three laps from the end of the 57km race, the six main draws broke clear of the field with Degenkolb and Froome joined by French climber Romain Bardet, Spanish puncher Joaquim Rodriguez and Japanese pair Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu. From there it seemed to be a genuine race and Paris-Roubaix winner Degenkolb proved too strong for his rivals, beating Beppu into second with Froome third.
Twenty-four hours earlier, during a demonstration of traditional Japanese archery, called Kyudo, Degenkolb had been the best of the bunch, outshining Froome, Bardet and the hapless Rodriguez, who needed four attempts just to hit the target.
Degenkolb proved a popular winner in Japan where the riders’ hotel was often swamped with autograph hunters, including those waving cardboard cut-outs of the German. The 26-year-old has been a publicity success in Saitama, with a beaming smile etched almost constantly across his face.
“It’s super impressive, everything is so well organised here,” he said. “It’s just great to get such a warm welcome here, it’s really a pleasure to be here.” Earlier on Saturday, Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz, a stage winner during July’s Tour, which is organised by the same company, ASO, that runs the Criterium de Saitama, won the 21km points race while Japan’s Hideto Nakane took the 3km timetrial title — Froome finished a disappointing ninth at 13sec.
There was also a women’s time-trial, won by Yumena Hosoya, and a paracycling race against the clock, in which Masaki Fujita triumphed.