Bonifazio hits back to conquer stage
February 5 th 2020 - 16:40 [GMT + 3]
Just a day after crashing hard during the opening stage of the Saudi Tour, Niccoló Bonifazio hit back in style. The Italian powered to the line in impressive style to claim his first win of the season in Al Bujairi. In a final bunched sprint the Total Direct Energie rider beat Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-McLaren) and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) to the line. Finishing in the pack, Rui Costa keeps the overall leader’s Green jersey with three days to go.
After yesterday’s opening stage, the 118 remaining riders of the inaugural Saudi Tour gathered by the splendid Sadus Castle for the start of stage 2. The riders took off at 11:22 for a 187-km stage heading back south-east towards Riyadh.
As soon as the first kilometre, four riders broke away: Van Melsen (Circus-Wanty Gobert), Fuentes (Burgos-BH), Holler (Bike AID) and Nicolau (Caja Rural Seguros RGA). Their advantage increased very rapidly from 1’40” at km 5 to 3’15” at km 30. The first two intermediate active sprints were claimed by Fuentes while the pack reached km 75 with a 3’45” time deficit. That was just after Mark Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren) recovered from a 10-man crash and moved back into the peloton.
The gap carried on growing and reached 5’25” at the third sprint where Fuentes again conquered the most points, comforting his lead in the Most Active Rider classification. But from then on teams UAE Emirates, Arkea-Samsic and Bahrain-McLaren moved to the front of the pack and started chasing. With 25kms to go, the gap had dropped to 1’10”. The front four were eventually caught with 12 kms remaining.
The pack remained bunched all the way to the final straight situated in Al Bujairi close to where heavy-weight boxing World champion Anthony Joshua won his rematch against Andy Ruiz last December and where the Dakar rally bivouac settled for its rest day in January. On the slightly uphill straight, Niccolo Bonifazio (Total Direct Energie) remained in the wheel of Haussler before powering to the line. The Italian competing in his first race of the season eventually beat Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-McLaren) and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea Samsic) to the line.
Comfortably established in the pack, yesterday’s winner Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) keeps his overall leader’s Green jersey while Nacer Bouhanni takes command of the points classification (red jersey) and Andreas Kron remains the best young rider.