'Tour de France' reportedly heading to Japan next October
ASO said to be in talks to host star-studded criterium in city close to Tokyo
Tour de France organisers ASO are planning reportedly celebrate this year’s 100th edition of the world’s biggest annual sporting event by staging a race almost 10,000 kilometres away from Paris, in the Japanese city of Saitama, just north of Tokyo.
According to Channel News Asia, which cited a report in the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, the race, a criterium, will be held in October under the Tour de France name. ASO and local authorities in Saitama are said to be close to reaching an agreement, after which a formal announcement will be made.
Saitama is claimed to have the highest levels of bike ownership in Japan – three for every four people – and the initiative, which is planned to become an annual event, reportedly follows the city’s mayor visiting the Tour de France last year.
While post Tour de France criteriums are a long established feature of the late summer in France and elsewhere in Europe, letting the public get up close to the riders and usually following some kind of script – local hero goes up against star sprinter for the win is one typical variation – the planned event in Japan seems to be on a different scale, with a field comprising 50 riders drawn from leading teams.
Although there’s no details of the proposed date as yet, the UCI WorldTour race the Tour of Beijing takes place from 16 to 20 October, so all the top tier teams will have riders in the Far East during the month.