Rui Costa first ever winner in Saudi
February 4 th 2020 - 15:08 [GMT + 3]
After a breathtaking day highlighting some of the beauties of Saudi Arabia, Rui Costa claimed the first “windy” stage of the inaugural Saudi Tour. The Portuguese made the best of the final uphill kilometre to conquer his first victory of the season beating Heinrich Haussler and Nacer Bouhanni to the line in Jaww. The former road World Champion becomes the first leader of the 5-day event and will be proudly carrying the green jersey on tomorrow’s stage.
The inaugural Saudi Tour took off under a perfectly blue sky and a bright sunshine from the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee. On the day’s menu: 173kms of racing all the way to Jaww, south-west of the nation’s capital Riyadh. Perfect conditions and an entertaining wind for the 123 riders registered for this brand-new 5-day event.
It only took a few kilometres for six men to break away: Guerrero (Burgos-BH), Bassett (Rally-Cycling), Batmunkh (TSG Cycling Team), De Rooij, Holler (both Bike AID) and Moors (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling). Not too concerned by this group, the main bunch let the gap increase. The escapees could indeed enjoy a 4’50” advantage at km 25 and a maximum 7’ at km 55. From then on, several teams including Arkea-Samsic and Bahrain-McLaren started chasing and the gap dropped. As the bunch entered the feeding zone, the front men only had a 1’45” lead. Making the best of a change of direction and strong enough wind, the Bahrain-McLaren team powered to the front and managed to break the peloton into several groups. 17 riders including Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) Gasparotto (NTT Pro Cycling) and Slagter (B&B Hotels - Vital Concept) broke away leaving the likes of Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) and Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) stranded behind. They eventually caught the escapees at km 101. After a fantastic battle between the big guns of the race, things settled down and the dropped groups bunched up together again.
At the Most Aggressive Rider sprint (km 126), Paaschens (Wallonie Bruxelles) conquered the most points ahead of Soupe (Total Direct Energie) and Bassett. With 20kms to go, four men managed to take off: Haussler (Bahrain-McLaren), De Backer (B&B Hotels - Vital Concept), Siskevicius (Nippo Delko Provence) and Kron (Riwal Readynez Cycling Team). Five kilometres later it was looking good for the breakaway riders enjoying a 30” advantage. They still had a 15” lead with 5kms remaining.
But in the final kilometre just after going through Jaww, the front men saw the pack move closer and closer. They were eventually caught with under 500m to go. Making the best of the finishing climb, Rui Costa flew to victory. The Portuguese from the UAE Team Emirates who hadn’t won a race since 2017 during the Abu Dhabi Tour starts his season in style. His first race day of the season is a glorious one as he beats Haussler and Bouhanni to the line.
The 2013 World Champion conquers the overall leader’s Green jersey and will start day 2 of the race with a 1” lead over Haussler and 6” over Bouhanni. Meanwhile Haussler takes command of the Most Aggressive Rider classification while Andreas Kron will be wearing the best young rider’s White Jersey.