Sweet revenge for Milan
January 31 st 2023 - 17:20 [GMT + 3]
A year after struggling in the echelons of a similar stage on the Saudi Tour, a day after suffering a mechanical incident in the final moments of the opening stage, Jonathan Milan (Team Bahrain Victorious) concluded a windy day in style. A sweet revenge for the Italian who beat Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jayco AlUla) and Cees Bol (Astana Qazaqstan Team) in a final bunched sprint. Thanks to his second spot, Groenewegen keeps the overall leader’s Green jersey.
After a first demanding stage to the south-east of the ALUla region, the 107 remaining riders were offered another grueling test on day 2. On the menu : a rectangular course from the Winter Park to Shalal Sijlyat Rocks over 184kms. With the wind picking up and the changes in direction it would promise to be an exciting day, a frightening one for those not to used to echelons.
4 AND THEN 2 IN LEAD
While many were expecting fireworks straight from the start, the pack took off at a fairly quiet pace allowing four men to break away: Azparren (EUS), Vacek (COR), Mohd Zariff (TSG) and Ishibashi (JCL). The front four would drop down to two after 10kms, Vacek suffering mechanical issues and Mohd Zariff struggling after all his efforts in yesterday’s breakaway. At the bonus sprint (km 18,9) won by Azparren, the pack had a deficit of 6’10. The gap would grow to a maximum 7’30’’ before dropping down under the influence of teams Jayco AlUla and Bingoal WB.
ECHELONS OF COURSE
While the peloton moved closer to the escapees, three teams (DSM, Jayco AlUla and Uno X) moved to the front and “put the hammer down”. The pack rapidly broke into several echelons at km 68 leaving only 20 men in the first part of the peloton (including the likes of Groenewegen, Stybar, Milan, Formolo, Degenkolb, Walscheid, Waerenskjold). Meanwhile the front two were eventually caught at km 83.
ECHELONS PART 2
After enjoying a 30’’ lead over a group including Rajovic and Ackermann, the leading Green jersey group was finally caught and the entire peloton bunched up together after a left turn into headwind. The first intermediate active sprint (km 123) was then claimed by Walscheid (COF) ahead of Hansen (UNO) and Goikoetxea (EUS). The situation calmed down for the next 50kms before the big teams again powered to the front shattering the pack into several groups. At the front just under 40 riders took off leaving in a second echelon riders like Rajovic (TBV), Buitrago (TBV), Ackermann (UAE) and white jersey Hansen (UNO). Just after Walscheid again captured the most points at the second intermediate active sprint (km 160), the front group could enjoy a 30’’ advantage with 15kms to go.
NORSGAARD POWERS AWAY
Another change in direction saw the second group catch the leaders with just under 10kms to go. That was the moment chosen by Mathias Norsgaard (MOV) to try his luck in a solo breakaway. The Norwegian had a 10” lead with 5kms left but he would later be gobbled up by the pack. It finally all came down to a bunched sprint by the Shalal Sijlyat Rocks. With his team mate, red jersey wearer and second yesterday Dusan Rajovic (TBV) out of contention, Jonathan Milan flew to his first win of the season, the third of his career after two successes at the Cro Tour last year. The young Italian beat Dylan Groenewegen (JAY) and Cees Bol (AST) to the line.
GROENEWEGEN STILL LEADER
Thanks to his second spot, yesterday’s stage winner Groenewegen keeps his overall leader’s green jersey. He also stays in command of the points classification while 22-year-old Milan captures the white jersey for the best young rider. Marcus Hansen keeps the blue jersey for the most active rider.