Vincenzo Nibali and the cheers of applause at the Saitama Criterium on the day professional cycling returned to Japan

The strength of a legend finds expression on every occasion. Vincenzo Nibali and his career received the highest acclaim on an unforgettable day for cycling fans in Japan.

On 6 November 2022, the 8th edition of the Saitama Criterium brought professional cycling back to the Land of the Rising Sun. For sure, the spirit of the great races has never been lost in Japan and a clear example is 2021, the year that marked the 100th anniversary of Shimano Iron Works. But hosting the Tour de France Criterium on the roads of the Saitama Prefecture was a truly extraordinary moment.

Mr Hiroshi of Puntorosso Wilier Triestina in Tokyo isn’t hiding his enthusiasm: “After the long, hard Covid period it was very exciting to see such great riders on Japanese roads. Of course, for us at Wilier Triestina the biggest thrill was welcoming Vincenzo Nibali to Saitama and spending some time with him during his two-day stay, here.

We did however realise that this feeling wasn’t just within the Wilier Triestina team: wherever you turned, all the most passionate ovations were for Vincenzo. It looked like a celebration organised in his honour. It is truly incredible how his undertakings are etched in the memories of Japanese fans and I can’t deny that it was quite an emotional experience, for all of us”.

The excitement reached its peak when Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde launched their attacks with only a handful of laps to go to the finish of the Criterium.

“It was as if, for a moment, time had stopped or indeed had gone back through the years. It was incredible to watch Vincenzo’s sprint and the group engrossed in the hunt. It’s difficult to describe the public’s excitement when they saw him attack again. And I can’t imagine what would have happened if the chasers hadn’t given their all and if Vincenzo and Alejandro had been alone on the final stretch to the finish line”.

Vincenzo Nibali’s long farewell to his fans is further proof of how cycling and its heroes can leave a mark on the soul of people. Intense emotions develop regardless of the place and are identical whether you are in Lombardy or the Saitama Prefecture, just slightly north of Tokyo, in Japan.

Nothing more than one of the many miracles that can be performed by a bike and its beloved sport.

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