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TOKYO (VN) — Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won a sprint finish ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) to claim the Criterium de Saitama on Saturday.
The 60km race around a 3km circuit is held by Tour de France organizers ASO. The “Criterium de Saitama by La Tour de France,” to give it its full title, is a publicity event aimed at attracting Japanese investment to the Tour while boosting the profile of road cycling in the Asian country.
Last year’s inaugural race was won by 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome (Sky), in front of 200,000 spectators.
The winner of this year’s Tour, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), got a break going early with Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo). The two were overhauled at midrace by a move led by Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Tinkoff’s Michael Rogers.
With three laps to go Nibali went it alone, just a few seconds up on a chase group including Kristoff, Sagan, Kittel, Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr), and Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu, riding as the Tour de France Japan team.
The two Japanese riders took the lead as the last lap approached, but they couldn’t hold off the chasing sprinters. In the final straight, the man who won four stages of the 2014 Tour took the victory ahead of Sagan and Kristoff.