Groenewegen, almost on home soil
January 30 th 2023 - 17:28 [GMT + 3]
After a spectacular opening ceremony yesterday evening, there were more fireworks at the finish of stage 1 of the Saudi Tour. As expected the pack made it bunched to Khaybar where Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jayco AlUla) flew to his first success this year in his opening race. The Dutchman who carries the colours of AlUla where this tour is staged comfortably beat Dusan Rajovic (Team Bahrain Victorious) and Max Walscheid (Cofidis) to the line and captures the first overall leader’s green jersey.
Before even the first pedal strokes, the third edition of the Saudi Tour started with a bang on the eve of the first stage. Fire dancers, over 600 drones in the sky, 16 teams gathered on five different stages, a mapping show on the magnificent Elephant Rock: the opening ceremony was bigger, greater and ever more spectacular than ever. Never had a team presentation been so impressive, and that was just an appetizer of what the race had to offer. After the opening festivities, it was time to battle it out for the first day of racing: a 180.5-km stage from the International Airport of Al Ula to the city of Khaybar. 111 riders took off shortly before noon and would have to deal with a fairly strong head wind as they headed to the south-east.
6 IN THE LEAD
After 3kms of racing six riders powered away: Hansen (UXT), Goikoetxea (EUS), Van Der Bekken (BWB), Iacchi (COR), Mohd Zariff (TSG) and Takeyama (JCL). Their advantage grew rapidly over a rather quiet pack: 2’50’’ after 10kms, 4’10’’ after 20. The first Intermediate average sprint (km 62) was claimed by Hansen while the gap reached a maximum 5’20’’. Under the influence of Team Jayco AlUla of Dylan Groenewegen, the pack moved closer to the escapees.
HANSEN, LAST SURVIVOR
Just before the second intermediate active sprint, Peio Goikoetxea pulled away in his quest for the most active rider’s blue jersey. Just after making it first to the line, the Spaniard was caught by his mail rival Hansen. At the bonus sprint (km 135), Hansen outsprinted his opponent to conquer the blue jersey. The Dane would eventually be the last man standing as Goikoetxea stopped his efforts due to cramps. With 25kms to go, Markus Hansen could still enjoy a 2’ lead but his solo adventure stopped just under 15kms from the finish.
BUNCHED SPRINT AS EXPECTED
Despite timid attempts and a crash, the pack remained bunched all the way to the final straight in Khaybar. Perfectly led out by his blue and white train including the precious likes of Luka Mezgec, Dylan Groenewegen comfortably conquered his first win of the season. The Dutchman who had already won two stages in Saudi Arabia last year beat Dusan Rajovic (TBV) and Max Walscheid (COF) to the line.
GREEN JERSEY FOR GROENEWEGEN
The five-time Tour de France stage winner naturally takes command of the general classification and will be wearing the leader’s Green Jersey for tomorrow’s second stage that heads to Shalal Sijlyat Rocks. He also leads the points classification while Marcus Hansen will be wearing the best young rider’s white jersey.