For around thirty riders in the 100th Tour de France, the 2013 season ended on a high note when they were invited to take part in the first edition of the Saitama Criterium by Le Tour de France. Chris Froome signed off his last demonstration of the year there, Peter Sagan found stronger rivals than him on the cinder track where he fought it out with Sumo wrestlers, and Marcel Kittel put his speed into context by attending a Moto GP race for the first time! World champion Rui Costa, Frenchman Romain Bardet and the Aussies Richie Porte and Simon Gerrans all have great memories of their stay in Japan thanks to the unexpected fervour of the public in Saitama (more than 200,000 people along the route). The top riders were really impressed by the size of the event, and have become ambassadors for it in the peloton.
Since then, in the wake of the conquest of the Yellow Jersey and the other prizes in the Tour de France, riders have been chasing invitations for the second edition of the Criterium of Saitama, which will take place next October 25th. The ‘menu’ for the weekend has been modified to provide an even stronger cultural experience, and also to provide sensations that have probably never been felt before in sports events. The champions who shine in the classics are familiar with, for example, the adrenalin surge on entering the Velodrome in Roubaix, being carried along by the enthusiasm of the fans at Alpe d’Huez or, more recently, those lining the route at Butterbubs in Yorkshire. The wave of fervour they will feel in Japan is even stronger as they enter the Saitama Super Arena, the recent venue for concerts by Lady Gaga or Muse in Japan.
Passing through the Saitama Super Arena on each lap of the circuit is one of the changes made to the route. Slightly longer at 3.1 kilometres (2.7 in 2013), the main advantage is that more spectators can be accommodated. The forthcoming event aims to spread the passion for cycling, as Amaury Sport Organisation President Jean-Etienne Amaury explains: “Last year the riders were welcomed with unbelievable enthusiasm. This shows that our innovative ideas respond to people’s expectations both in Japan and in other places in the world. The new feature of entering the Saitama Super Arena is an example of our approach to all the events we organise: move the spectacle around, change the scenarios… that is one of the ways to arouse interest in our sports.”
Hayato Shimizu, Mayor of Saitama:
“It is a great pleasure for us to offer such an exciting race to the whole world. The circuit for the 2014 Le Tour de France Saitama Criterium will bring a new feature to this 100-year-plus event. It will be an impressive sight to see the riders pass through the Saitama Super Arena, the biggest indoor arena in Japan. I cannot wait to see it next October 25th.”