Saudi Tour: stage win for Jonathan Milan
He who laughs last laughs best: As echelons formed in the final hour of racing in stage 2 of the Saudi Tour, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS looked like the big loser of the day for a long time. But in the very end, the groups merged again, and Jonathan Milan timed his sprint to perfection to win the stage.
After Dusan Rajovic had finished the opening stage of the Saudi Tour in 2nd, stage 2 from Winter Park to Shalal Sijlyat Rocks looked like another opportunity for the fast men. But due to strong winds, there was a serious risk that echelons could form. For this reason, the prime objective of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS was to keep its GC leader Santiago Buitrago out of the wind and far up in the peloton. The initial 80 kilometres saw little commotion as the day's breakaway consisted of just two riders, and the wind direction did not allow for any attempts to force the formation of echelons. But when the race route took a left-hand turn with 30 kilometres to go, the situation changed entirely within the blink of an eye.
A number of teams recognised the opportunity right away, upped the pace drastically and put the race on edge. Unfortunately, one of the teams to be caught out was Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS: With the sole exception of Jonathan Milan, all riders in orange, red and black found themselves in the second half of the peloton and had no choice but to go all out in an effort to get back to the race leaders. When the gap between these two groups grew to more than 30 seconds, the race seemed to be decided, and Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS looked like the big losers of the day. But the team's strong effort finally got rewarded as the two groups merged again with 6 kilometres to go. This meant that the prime objective of the day to avoid any time losses for GC captain Santiago Buitrago had been achieved.
But there still was a second objective in this stage. Since Jonathan Milan had managed to stay in the first part of the peloton and did not have to work in that group, the legs of the young Italian were still relatively fresh. Deep into the finale, Andrea Pasqualon piloted him to the sharp end of the race and onto the rear wheel of Dylan Groenewegen. When the race hit the final kilometre, the first rider to open up the sprint was Cees Bol, just fractions of a second before Jonathan Milan started his attack. Groenewegen latched onto his wheel and tried to come around on the last 100 meters, but Milan's speed was simply too high to do so. The race jury had to take a look at the finish foto before granting the win to Jonathan Milan. Thus the team also achieved the second goal of the day.
From tomorrow Wednesday, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS will line up for its first race of the season in Europe. Looking at the line-up of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS for the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, you could almost think that the management had been drawing from unlimited resources. Pello Bilbao is the GC captain for the five-stage race, with Wout Poels as his backup. Damiano Caruso has to make sure that the orders from the team car are put into action correctly, and with Mikel Landa, Gino Mäder, Matej Mohoric and Fred Wright in supporting roles, this indeed is a very strong selection for the racing debut in Europe. But a look at the start list of the race shows that there will be no lack of equally strong competitors.
SAUDI TOUR, STAGE 2: WINTER PARK - SHALAL SIJLYAT ROCKS, 184KM
1. Jonathan Milan, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 4:53.35 hours
2. Dylan Groenewegen, NED, st
3. Cees Bol, NED, st
Fotos: Sprint Cycling Agency