Dusan Rajovic in 2nd place in Saudi Arabia
With some fond memories and a strong selection of riders, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS returns to the Sadi Tour stage race. And at the end of the first stage, this season's fresh signing Dusan Rajovic scored a strong 2nd place in the sprint of a thinned-out peloton.
Since the Saudi Tour was introduced to pro cycling, riders such as Phil Bauhaus and Santiago Buitrago managed to win stages riding MERIDA BIKES. And the team lines up for this year's edition with ambitions both regarding stage wins and the general classification. With Jonathan Milan and Dusan Rajovic, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS has two fast sprinters in its ranks. Filip Maciejuk, Rainer Kepplinger and Ahmed Madan are riding in their support. Following his 2nd place in the overall last year, young Colombian Santiago Buitrago is the GC captain, and vastly experiences Andrea Pasqualon is tasked to make sure that the team's riders coordinate their efforts well, thus increasing the chances for success.
While the decision for the overall standings is likely to come at the end of the 4th stage, which features a selective climb up to the finish at Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid, most pundits expect the other four stages to be decided in sprints. And the opening stage was no different, leading from Al Ula International Airport to Khaybar over a distance of 180.5 km. Early on, six riders formed the day's breakaway. But as crosswinds made for a nervous peloton, these six riders were brought back pretty early. As for the final kilometres, the rough road surface with its sharp-edged reflectors provoked several flat tyres. Still, all the signs were set for a bunch sprint.
The riders of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS stuck to the plan to keep Dusan Rajovic out of the wind and at the sharp edge of the race. For quite a while, this worked out well, but in what was a messy finale, other riders forced their way into the mini sprint train in orange, red and black. Due to this, Dusan Rajovic lost a dozen positions and had to start his sprint from pretty far back. The reigning Serbian national champion still showed a strong sprint and jumped to 2nd on the stage, only beaten by Dylan Groenewegen. Thus the team got to celebrate a first podium result in the opening stage of the Saudi Tour. And the coming four days are going to serve up more opportunities.
SAUDI TOUR, STAGE 1: AL ULA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - KHAYBAR, 180.5KM
1. Dylan Groenewegen, NED, in 4:08.09 hours
2. Dusan Rajovic, SRB/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
3. Max Walscheid, GER, st
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency