Valverde and Nibali seen in Japanese style at the Saitama criterium

Watch the Tour de France Saitama Criterium today from 4:45 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. AEDT on SBS On Demand!
Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali’s ride through the streets of Saitama will be their last demonstration as professional runners whose careers have had a strong impact on their sport.

For a pair of cyclists renowned for their exploits on the bike, it was a journey of off-bike responsibilities that paved the way in importance, but perhaps that’s fitting as they move on to the next stage of their lives.

Nibali and Valverde did the usual tourist photoshoots, first guided by Marcel Kittel, through the food stalls of the Saitama market. They continued to dress up in traditional Japanese costumes and headed to the Saitama Super Arena, where they did more happy snaps in various costumes alongside Jonas Vingaard and Chris Froome.
“It has been a very important, very intense season as well with many tifosi to carry me,” said Nibali as he prepares to embrace a new role as technical adviser.

“I’m very happy to be here to finish my last season,” Valverde confirmed. The Spaniard won the Criterium in 2018 and is now expected to join Movistar’s staff.

Jonas Vingaard was the other big draw, the new Tour de France champion famous for his shyness in the spotlight but seemed quite comfortable as he wore colorful kimonos and kabuki masks, even taking his young family along for the trip.
“It’s my first time here, I’ve been here since Monday and enjoyed my time with my family,” Vingaard said. “There are so many fans, it’s important to give them a good show tomorrow.”
Racing should be a fast and fun affair, but without the fierce competitive nature of the WorldTour.

Watch the Tour de France Saitama Criterium today from 4:45 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. AEDT on SBS On Demand!

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