Jasper Philipsen takes the spoils at the Saitama Criterium

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Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) received the honors of victory in Saitama Criterium on Sunday.

The 60km criterium around the Japanese city is the second in a series of two post-season exhibition events organized by Tour de France organizer ASO in Asia this winter. The yellow jersey, Jonas Vingaard (Jumbo-Visma) had the chance to claim victory in the first event in Singapore.

While the Singapore Criterium was new for this year, the Saitama race has become a post-season staple. Huge crowds gathered on the side of the road to see their favorite cycling stars, although the conclusion should not have been a surprise.

Philipsen, who won the final stage of this year’s Tour de France, beat Vingaard and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) in a three-way sprint after a late start from the front of the peloton to take the exhibition race.

“It’s a really nice feeling, it’s been a while,” Philipsen said. “In front of so many people here in Saitama, it’s a really cool atmosphere. I had good legs today and this kind of criterium suits me well, so I was happy with how it went.

Runners line up at the start line in Saitama

Outgoing riders Vincenzo Nibali (Astana-Qazaqstan) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had their moment in the sun as the pair attacked with five laps to go.

They were allowed a small gap of 25 seconds on the peloton before being caught by a five-man chasing group consisting of Vingaard, Thomas, Philipsen, Enric Mas (Movistar) and Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) .

Following a series of late attacks, the group of Thomas, Philipsen and Vingaard emerged on the last lap. Vingegaard launched a crowd-pleasing attack in the final mile, but a Philipsen win was still on the cards.

Valverde led the chase group across the line, with Mas right behind him, to end his career. Mark Cavendish took the sprint from the main peloton behind, who crossed the line just under 30 seconds later.

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