Saudi Tour: info with one day to go
January 29 th 2023 - 18:02 [GMT + 3]
Hard at work among the beauties of AlUla since Saturday, the 16 teams entered for the third edition of the Saudi Tour (January 30-February 3) are ready and the Colombian Santiago Buitrago, second last year, is the hot favorite for the general classification in spite of the threat of the Portuguese Ruben Guerreiro.
Stage 1 ending in Khaybar, an exceptional UNESCO World Heritage site, suits the sprinters, first and foremost Dylan Groenewegen, double stage winner last year, or Pascal Ackermann in a very high leveled field.
Saudi Arabia thinks big
Before taking part in the opening ceremony in front of the Elephant Rock of AlUla, where the tourists who flock to the region like to pose, top sprinter Dylan Groenewegen, Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb and Hassan Aljumah, figurehead of the Saudi Arabian national team, took part in a press conference with Phillip Jones, representing the Royal Commission of AlUla, Abdulaziz Al-Shahrani, from the Saudi Arabian Cycling Federation, and Jean-Marc Marino, the technical director of the event.
“We believe that AlUla has the potential to become the cycling capital of Saudi Arabia”, Jones said. “We’re investing a significant amount of money in infrastructure to support cycling on a year-round basis. Having the visibility and the exposure in partnership with ASO to really bring this to a global audience is something we are very proud of. Obviously we have a little bit of a soft spot for Jayco-AlUla because we sponsor them but many of the teams are top notched. In the coming five days, we’ll see some amazing racing taking place with some of the world’s most stunning backdrops.”
Dylan Groenewegen: “At least one stage win”
Five-time stage winner of the Tour de France and double stage winner of the Saudi Tour last year, Dylan Groenewegen realized how much he was awaited at AlUla. “I came back with some great memories from last year but it’s been very nice to visit the old town again”, the Dutchman said. “It was a great to see the number of people there who were interested in cycling, touching our bikes. Our expectations this year are to hopefully win a race, at least one and then go for more. I want to have a really good start tomorrow and take it from there to see what happens in the rest of the week. We came here with a really good team. We want to show ourselves and make our sponsors happy.”
The main rivals of the top sprinter of Team Jayco-AlUla will be the Germans Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates), John Degenkolb (Team DSM) and Max Kanter (Movistar), Italy’s Simone Consonni (Cofidis), Erlend Blikra (Uno-X) from Norway, Dutchman Cees Bol (Astana Qazaqstan), Belgian recruit of Human Powered Health Sacha Weemaes, Serbian champion Dusan Rajovic (Bahrain Victorious) and watch out for Malaysian Harrif Saleh (Terengganu Polygon)! Jayco-AlUla will put its new train to the test in the service of Dylan Groenewegen. It includes Luka Mezgec and newcomers Lukas Pöstlberger, Elmar Reinders and Zdenek Stybar while youngsters Felix Engelhardt and Alexandre Balmer will go for the general classification.
Buitrago wants his first GC victory
Back to AlUla, Santiago Buitrago went training to Maraya, the new venue on the route, from where stage 4 will start and that will be the queen stage leading to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid, and where the last stage will arrive. Amazed during his reconnaissance, he filmed the concert hall recognized as the largest building covered with mirrors in the world. For the Colombian, like the vast majority of the 112 competitors in contention, this is the first competition of the year. It includes a large part of the unknown concerning the physical form of each other, but the climber from Bahrain Victorious is touted to being in good condition already.
A stage winner then trapped in the echelons of the queen stage of the Saudi Tour last year, the rider from Bogotá, who has since had a stage of the Giro d’Italia and a stage of the Vuelta Burgos to his credit, is looking for his first overall success in a stage race at the age of 23. His main presumed opponent is the Portuguese Ruben Guerreiro, best climber of the 2020 Giro d’Italia and winner of the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge last year. Team Movistar is counting on him in its reconstruction after the retirement of Alejandro Valverde. Davide Formolo and Felix Grossschartner (UAE Team Emirates), Rubén Fernandez (Cofidis), Jacob Hindsgaul (Uno-X) as well as Joe Rosskopf (Q36.5) are among the protagonists in the general classification and the experts will also monitor the progress of Mongolia’s Jambaljamts Sainbayar (commonly known as “Elo”), a very good climber winner of the Tour of Thailand 2021, 9th and best Asian rider of the 2022 Tour of Langkawi.
On TV in 190 countries
The third Saudi Tour is broadcast on TV in 190 countries on five continents, by 46 broadcasters (41 in 2022) including 15 live. In Saudi Arabia, the two hours of live daily coverage on SSC Extra 1 (the first four stages from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. local time, and the fifth from 3 to 5 p.m.) are preceded by a thirty-minute show and then followed by another of forty-five minutes in the studio as well as highlights and a special report at midnight. In Europe, the race is broadcast live on Eurosport 2 (from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. CET, except on the last day from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.) and rerun for one hour around 8 p.m. CET on Eurosport 1.
In France, La Chaîne L’Équipe will show the first two stages delayed on January 31 from 1:35 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. CET, the third and fourth stages live from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. as well as the fifth from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Among the other broadcasters are beIN Sports (Middle East), Dubai Sports, Planet TV (Slovenia), Sport 5 (Israel), Super Sport (Sub-Saharan Africa), FloBikes (Canada), Global Cycling Network (USA), Claro Sports (South America), Eurosport Asia, SBS (Australia), Sky (New Zealand) and JSports (Japan).