He proved himself to be inescapable and unsurpassable on the Tour de France 2015. After picking up his second triumph on the world’s biggest cycling race, Chris Froome will again conclude his season on the Tour de France Saitama Critérium, a race on which he is a regular since his first victory on the 100th edition of the Big Loop. Although the leader of Team Sky was forced to drop out of the Vuelta a España due to an injury, he has nevertheless reassured the organisers that his rehabilitation will be complete for his traditional journey to Japan.
Though he will not be going toe-to-toe with the country's famous Sumo wrestlers, Froome will be competing against rivals that he dominated during Le Tour, but who went on to distinguish themselves in Spain. Such is the case for Joaquim Rodriguez, winner of two stages and runner-up on the Tour of Spain, as well as for Rafal Majka, who came 1st on the Pyrenean Tour de France stage that finished in Cauterets and who climbed on to the bottom step of the Vuelta podium in Madrid, with his 3rd placed finish.
The major players of Le Tour 2015 have followed different paths, but several stage winners will come together again on the urban circuit in Saitama. Consequently, Simon Geschke, the all-rounder who turned into a climber at Pra-Loup, could also spring a surprise in Japan, even if his team-mate John Degenkolb, the winner of Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix last spring, has been showing all the necessary qualities for a burst to the finish like Marcel Kittel last year. The Tour de France atmosphere that will spread through Saitama should also provide the French riders with the panache that they showed to their supporters in July. Alexis Vuillermoz, the stage winner at Mûr-de-Bretagne, and Romain Bardet, the virtuoso descender on the road down into Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, will indeed be present. However, they will have to deal with local heroes as well: although Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu were not in attendance in July, they could simply draw inspiration from their rugby-playing countrymen, who achieved the massive scalp of South Africa for their first world cup match in England. Chris Froome had better watch out!
The main riders
Team Sky: Froome (GB), Porte (Aus)
Team Giant-Alpecin: Degenkolb, Geschke (Ger)
Team Katusha: Rodriguez (Spa)
AG2R La Mondiale: Bardet, Vuillermoz (Fra)
Tinkoff Saxo: Majka (Pol), Basso (Ita)
Team Europcar: Arashiro (Jap)
Trek Factory Racing: Beppu (Jap), Popovych (Ukr)