Cavendish sprints to victory in Japan

Saitama (Japan) (AFP) –


Britain's Mark Cavendish produced a blistering late surge to win the Tour de France's Saitama Criterium on Saturday, overshadowing crowd favourite Chris Froome in a sprint finish.

The Olympic medallist and 30-time Tour de France stage winner pipped Japanese riders Fumiyuki Beppu and Yusuke Hatanaka to claim victory in the fifth edition of the criterium, held just north of Tokyo.

Froome, who captured his fourth Tour de France title this year, had no response as Cavendish broke away from a peloton that also included Marcel Kittel and Greg van Avermaet to win the 19-lap race over a three-kilometre course.

"It was a flat course so I was expecting it to be a sprint," said Cavendish, who finished runner-up in the morning's keirin-style event.

"I tried to save my energy for the final and lucky I did because when the breakaway went, I was fortunate to get them before the end."

Cavendish's Japan victory follows back-to-back wins by world champion Peter Sagan, who was disqualified from this year's Tour de France after barging into the Briton and leaving him in a crumpled heap.

Froome, who this year became the first rider since 1978 to win the Tour and the Vuelta a Espana double in the same year, failed to finish inside the top 30 but has already set his sights on further glory in 2018.

"One thing is for sure -- I will target the Tour de France," said the Briton, who won last week's inaugural Shanghai Criterium.

"I'll aim to join a very select group of people who have won five Tour de France titles previously."

Another victory in cycling's most prestigious race would see Froome join only France's Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx of Belgium, and Spain's Miguel Indurain.