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Saitama Criterium 2019

photo credits @ Le Tour

Yukiya Arashiro sprinted to victory in today’s Saitama Criterium in Japan. 

The Japanese rider, who has been competing from the event’s first edition, beat Tour de France winner Egan Bernal and Vuelta a Espana champion Primoz Roglic in the run-up to the finish.

“It’s great to have this victory here,” Arashiro said. “I don’t know when last I won in Japan. Maybe in 2016.”

He said he came second in this year’s national cycling championships so to have won the race today made him extremely happy.

Bahrain–Merida’s Arashiro said his win was “very special” to him.

“This was my seventh time that I’ve raced this event. I’m almost like a pioneer for Japanese cycling and, hopefully, in 10 to 20 years people will be talking about me so I’m really happy.”

Race Highlights

Arashiro found himself in a elect group of riders with 16 kilometers remaining, later attacking and going solo with 3 kilometers to go. 

Initially, he was in a move with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott), Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Ineos), and Kohei Uchima (Team Ukyo). 

Seven kilometres later, Bernal and Roglic bridged across, along with Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott).

Total Direct Energie launched a futile chase, with full commitment shown by Anthony Turgis, who emptied his bidon across the road in a desperate attempt to lighten the load. 

With five kilometres to go, Arashiro went clear with Fuglsang, while Bernal and Roglic set about chasing them down. Fuglsang fell away with three kilometres to go, leaving Arashiro out front against the Grand Tour winners. 

He maintained his slim advantage all the way to the line, slowing to celebrate to huge cheers from the local crowds. 

Bardet, wearing the polka-dot jersey he won at the Tour de France, won the mountains classification thanks to his presence in the early breaks, while Trentin similarly claimed the green points jersey. 

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