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The World Of Pro Cycling Criteriums | Behind The Scenes At Saitama

The World Of Pro Cycling Criteriums | Behind The Scenes At Saitama

– I’ve come all the way to
Saitama in Japan and who is it? It’s the man himself, Deity the Devil. – Hey, yeah, yeah–
– Wie gehts du? Gut? – Saitama good time, yeah Saitama! – He’s still the same. – Alles gut. – Yeah, alles gut yeah? – Yeah, yeah. – He’s crazy. Now I was lucky enough
to be invited to Japan for the sixth edition of
the Saitama Criterium. What is it though? Well it’s an event organized by the Amery Sports Organization,
who also organize events such as the Tour de
France, the Vuelta Espana, Paris Roubaix, and many more. This event is actually
called the Le Tour de France, Saitama Criterium. And it’s to celebrate and showcase some of the biggest names in the cycling world by having them race in front of the passionate Japanese crowd. And at the same time, immerse them in Japanese cultural experiences over an action packed couple of days. Now the atmosphere here in Saitama is absolutely buzzing. There’s loads of people
around already and it’s only 9 o’clock in the
morning which kind of surprises me really
because well, in the UK most people would probably
still be in bed, let’s face it. However, the race organizers
have organized a heap of different events as well
to entertain people’s time including, get this, a French
market, Japanese style. (music) So just over my shoulder,
we’ve got Alberto Contador on the stage here in Saitama, now he’s not making a comeback just
yet, or well I don’t know if he is going to
at all in the future, but he is in fact giving
his opinion on next years Tour de France route. Well, a two time winner
of the Tour de France, he certainly knows a
thing or two about it so he has got a massive following here, a massive fan base here in Japan. There’s people here with
flags, banners, all sorts to celebrate him returning to Saitama. It’s absolutely wonderful to see. I’m trying to keep my voice down because everyone is listening intently
to what he’s got to say. It’s great. (energetic music) There’s no time for the team presentation, and this is absolutely fantastic. The crowd, some of them
have been waiting here since the early hours of this morning. When I went out for a
quick run I did in fact see people making sure they
could have the first rung of the barrier to make sure
they could see their stars, because this is one of the
only times of the year, in fact it is the only
time of the year when the actual public get to
see the World Tour riders up close and personal
like they can right now. And well, wait until your
hear some of the cheers these riders get when they appear on stage, It’s absolutely wild. They love cycling here. Fantastic. (crowd applause) (music) So I was walking around
this French Japanese market type thing. I’ve got Marcel Kittel just
over there, eating himself a bowl of noodles,
presumably carbo loading for tomorrows race, I
don’t know, but he looks to be getting sucked in
and enjoying himself. I might go and see if
he’s got any spare for me in a minute, cause I’m a
little bit peckish myself. I’ve just been accosted by some gents, I don’t really know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to go and sit next to him, so I am going to do that. – (speaking in Japanese) – Okay. – (speaking in Japanese) – I don’t know what I’m doing. – (speaking in Japanese) – Again? It’s like a game, like tennis. Okay, it’s starting to grow a bit. I am just copying what he’s doing. They grabbed me, they pulled me in here and I thought I’ve got to do it. Oh look, look, look. Look at this. It’s like a cracker of some sort. Aw, he’s not letting me have a go anymore. I don’t think he trusted me. – (speaking in Japanese) – Yeah, okay, I’ll do it again. I am sort of doing it. Wrong, I think. Oh no, I’ve burnt it. – Aww. – (speaking in Japanese) – Yeah, a little, okay,
a little, a little. This okay? – (Japanese language) – No! That’s okay. – One more, one more. – One more. I can’t believe I did
that, after all that. (music) There are so many
different events going on for the riders as they part in here. Just looking at the
media schedule for them, they are literally
here, there, everywhere, and it all runs absolutely like clockwork. And the riders are being mobbed almost, but in a really, really,
really polite way. I’ve never seen anything
like it at a sporting event. It’s silent almost to the
fact where all you can hear is just footsteps and then the rider stops and gives the autographs and carry on. It’s fantastic. I never realized that
Japanese fans were quite so passionate about cycling. Now the type of events
that riders have been taking part in are
absolutely wild and wacky. For instance, right now
there’s riders about to go on stage and learn how to bang some traditional Japanese drums, as well as learning
how to throw a baseball with a famous Japanese baseball player. Getting kids to ride
bikes, as well as visiting children in a local red cross hospital. (light Japanese drums) So, it’s race day here in
Saitama and it’s 8 o’clock in the morning so sun
hasn’t quite come through quite yet, but the crowds
here, well they have been packing out for hours on end. When I was up at 6 o’clock this morning, I saw the laying down
their towels, actually. At the side of the road,
in chairs and such like so they can reserve
those spots at the side. It’s super exciting. The buzz here is absolutely
out of this world. Just over there behind my good camera man, well yeah, I’m speechless
I’m so excited for it. So, once on the other side of the road, we’ve got the French market set up. Over here we’ve got a
cycling village set up where it has everything available. So here, I’ve got myself
a fan souvenir card and a bag involving some
sweets and stuff like that, but also there’s a huge variety of different cycling
vendors here selling sort of cut price end of
season deals on clothing. As well as events. I’ve just actually been
invited to the Tour of Japan for next year, so hopefully
I can be sent there as well because this is absolutely great. Also there’s things involving children so there’s children’s
activation projects on cycling. Yesterday I saw Geraint
Thomas and Alberto Contador having a little race against
some kids around there too. And how many times a year
do you get to race in Japan? – I think, only this period, like October. – So not national championships or? – Maybe I will try, because
not I did every year, so maybe I do next year
because for the Olympic Games for the selection team,
important race for me, yeah. – And the crowd here,
I’ve got to say, they are absolutely incredible aren’t they? The crowds, they are huge. – Yeah. – And they know every rider
and everything about them. – In Japan is huge because people know the riders history, and
their family situation. Our Japanese mentality,
that’s really kindness, respect for the people, that’s amazing. – Now the teams have just
arrived, and behind me quite lively in the
background on the stage, got a couple of presenters who are in fact going to present the teams
for the team presentation. And then the riders are
going to have to race a sprint qualifying race. Now, I’m a little bit worried here because a few of the riders
last night were actually at a Japanese game show
that I was lucky enough to be at too. And it was quite a late
evening and they were getting them to do some
quite weird and wonderful things on stage, but I’m
overly excited to see exactly how they are going to get on
that sprint qualification. (energetic music) So just over my shoulder, the
riders are being introduced, ready for the sprint qualification here. Now, what exactly does that mean? Well, we’ve got a guy who’s riding around on an electric type Derny bike. It’s got a big Yamaha engine on it if you are really interested, and it has got a tiny sprocket in the rear and a massive chain ring. Now he is pacing the riders
around the three kilometer circuit for about two and
a half thousand meters before pulling off, and
then it’s really a game of cat and mouse between the four riders in each heap to sprint to the line. Let’s see how they get on. (music) So the start of the sprint
final is about to begin, well, there goes the
Derny pacer behind me. Now the final includes Marcel
Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, as well as Beppu himself from Japan, and also a local rider as
well from Nippo Fantini, so we are going to see
exactly how it pans out. Could there be an upset
for the World Tour guys? Who knows? I’m excited though. (race announcing) And they’re off, in three
kilometers we will know who is the sprint champion
this year in Saitama. Go on lads, get stuck in. (crowd and announcer cheering) – There we are, Kittel over Kristoff. (upbeat music) It is deadly silent here. I’ve never been at a bike race
where it was quite so quiet. Um, now the race is
actually about to start and as you can see the front
of the race is lined up with Geraint Thomas
and Alejandro Valverde. Well, they’ve got 20 laps of
a three kilometer circuit. Who’s your money on? (energetic music) There’s currently one
rider out ahead on his own. He’s actually got a
light fitted to his bike. I don’t think he realizes
that the race isn’t going to be an all
nighter, or maybe it’s just for the crowds, but he’s got a light on the front and rear, but, well, the World Tour boys behind, I don’t think they are going to let him stick out there for long. So a lap later it’s all back together and as you can see, they’re
in full sprint mode here because there are some points on the line. We’ve got Alexander Kristoff
up against Marcel Kittel, and well, a close one,
I couldn’t actually see who got it but there are a
few raindrops in the air now, and with this tight twisty
cities end of circuit that could be treacherous. (uplifting music) There’s just two laps to
go and well, in the Front group we’ve got Alejandro
Valverde and Geraint Thomas, and it’s between four
or five riders there, who are actually going to be
battling it out for the win. I’m super interested
to see who’s gonna win the battle of that lot in a sprint because there is no
pure sprinter in there. (music) Well and the race is
just finished and with a two up sprint between Geraint Thomas and Alejandro Valverde, I was
really surprised actually, that a wily track rider
such as Geraint Thomas, okay I know he’s not been on
the track for a while now, but he decided to actually
lead out from the bottom corner where it was a surprise
like I say for Valverde. He put them away in the sprint. But what a finish to that race. (energetic music) Now I really hope you have enjoyed this look around the Saitama Criterium. To be honest I had no idea what to expect when we arrived here in Japan because I’ve never been here before, and I didn’t really know
about the cycling culture when it came to racing. But I have been really
pleasantly surprised by the way that all the
fans know everything about every single rider
there appears to be here. And just look at the reaction
that’s going on behind me as Marcel Kittel walks by. Now, do remember as well to let me know what you think about this video down there in the comments section below. And as ever, like and share this video with your friends too. But don’t forget, check out the GCN shop. Head on over to where we have a whole heap of goodies for you to check out. And now, for another great
video, click just over here. And I’m gonna go and meet
these really lovely fans.

74 comments on “The World Of Pro Cycling Criteriums | Behind The Scenes At Saitama

  1. We hope you enjoyed our behind the scenes look into professional criterium racing. Have you ever been to one of these crits or do you want to go? Let us know 👇

  2. Nice one Jon great to see more off the bike content. The videos are super slick, ace production. Got to love the Japanese people.

  3. Really cool video there Mr Cannings! I definitely think that Jon has to be GCN's reporter for the 2020 Olympics in Japan… he just really seems to love the place and I think that its a good excuse to go to Shimano HQ as well! Really interesting to see what the Saitama Criterium is like, a really well run event and those Japanese fans were amazing! different to European fans but no less passionate and I think that we could do with other fans taking note of there respectful nature! Would make climbs a little safer for riders… think Nibali might agree there!! Excellent video and I look forward to seeing any other videos from this Japanese adventure!! Bring it on!

  4. I really love the longer videos of the last weekends, especially Jon's content on the different aspects of the cycling sport & culture (Koers museum, Keirin racing) His love and enthousiasm for cycling is very infectious!

  5. Suggestion, a series on the different fan cultures from country to country. If they were rated I think the US would come in last. <sigh>

  6. Why treat this "race" as an actual competition? It's fixed, like the post-TDF crits in France. It's a cycling entertainment rather than a race. That's fine, just be honest about it GCN. Why pretend it's something that it isn't?

  7. Great to see the Japanese folk being so keen and interested in cycle racing. Is there a Tour of Japan race? There should be.
    Thanks for vid.

  8. Thank you for this video. Been exploring the Cycling Culture in Japan for about 2 years now, and it is fantastic! Next time, hope you get to do some riding while you're there: try the Arakawa Cycling Road on a sunny Sunday, or the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road as it island-hops across the Seto Inland Sea. Or, if you fancy a bit of hillclimbing, turn inland from the seacoast — you WILL be going UP (and up … and up). Thanks again. Cheers!

  9. THIS IS NOT A RACE. I'm incredibly disappointed to see GCN go fake-news and obscure the fact that the winner is pre-determined and it's all theatre. I had to search after reading some comments – apparently all "TdF Criteriums" are non-races. I'm new to the sport and this is a confusing, misleading video promoting this unofficial event without mention that it's not a real race. Why does this exist? Wouldn't the sport be better served just doing a regular race? How am I supposed to trust regular season results knowing that the pros do these wink-nudge fake races and get payed to let popular jersey-wearers win?

  10. I bet Didi was paid by Japan to be at Saitama Crit! I would lose my mind if I got the chance to see Didi in the flesh. He’s like the Santa Clause of cycling

  11. Jon, you really need to just go for a ride next time you're in Japan (just not in the summer). I'm sure there are plenty of viewers who would be interested in how well riders are treated over there.

  12. Reading the title I expected a video about how pro criteriums are fixed and what's really going on 'behind the scenes with money and so on.

  13. The guy with the light on he has it on because he can recognize himself later on when he is re-watching it at home/hotel room

  14. Opening this vid and to be welcomed by Matt Stephens voice certainly caught my attention, until I realised it was a Zwift ad 😒

  15. I am pretty sure the rider with the light is Junya Sato from Matrix Power Tag. I've seen him in person. He's got massive legs.

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