• Phew, he's back! Richie Porte during the criterium at the 2017 Japan Cup (Getty)Source: Getty
Fans and Manga watched over a wet day of racing at the Japan Cup's opening criterium where Richie Porte made a welcome return to racing.
Cycling Central

BMC Racing
22 Oct 2017 - 8:35 AM  UPDATED 22 Oct 2017 - 9:51 AM

Porte's teammate Bram Welten finished third behind Marco Canola (NIPPO Vini Fantini) and second-placed Juan Lobato (LottoNL-Jumbo). 

The race featured a flurry of attacks - and crashes - throughout the 15 laps of the 2.25 kilometre circuit on the wet streets of Utsunomiya before Canola triumphed in the inevitable bunch sprint. 

“After a mechanical problem I changed bikes then I came back to the bunch again and I stayed on the wheel until the last lap," Canolda said.

"So I took the last corner in the first four positions and outside the corner I went for the sprint so far to the finish line but fortunately the power on the legs was enough to remain in the front until the end”. 

Welten described some of the chaotic action. 

"On the last corner, it was so fast," Welten said. "I lost Michael Schär's wheel, so I was going for it on my own. Not long after, there was a couple of crashes and it was a hectic final.

"(Canola) was already ahead when I launched my sprint, and the podium was definitely the best I could do today."

"It was a totally different kind of racing today. We started full gas, and even though it is a loop with just two corners, you are almost standing still when you go round them. It was a crazy race and the slippery conditions added to this."

Porte was popular with the fans, but they were as popular with him.

"The fans here are incredible!" the Tasmanian said. "They love cycling and you don't come across fans like it anywhere else. It's been a good way to ease back into it."

"It was a fast criterium and the weather wasn't the best but it was nice to get back on the bike and ride with the guys."

Contador too was a welcome sight for fans, briefly out of retirement just for the Japan Cup:

This video is in Spanish but it should be easy to understand how much swag Contador will be taking home from generous fans: 


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