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Tadej Pogačar made his debut in the event alongside Mark Cavendish (Astana), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) and Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech).
According to the organisers’ press release, the Vuelta a España champion, Sepp Kuss, showed a flair for Japanese calligraphy (shūji), drawing the katakana characters for the color red while Tour de France mountains classification winner Giulio Ciccone drew the symbol for the mountains. “Did I get it right? Did I get it wrong? I don’t know, but it was hard,” Ciccone said.
Mark Cavendish turned in the crowd-favourite piece of artwork in the drawing contest, drawing a cartoon version of Saitama’s emblem, a little green dragon, while Pogačar drew a bullet train.
Guillaume Martin, attending with Cofidis teammate Victor Lafay, revealed his connections to Japan.
“My father taught aikido for forty years”, Martin said. “He lived in Japan while he learned this martial art. I actually practised it myself for ten years when I was younger.”
He took a tour of the island before arriving in Saitama. “There was a bit of everything. We went for quite a few hikes and pleasure rides. We visited temples and samurai homes. And Japan is always an adventure for the taste buds!”
On Sunday, riders will compete…