Podium results in Saudi Arabia and Spain
After scoring first wins at the Tour Down Under and the Saudi Tour, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS continues to perform impressively. Both at the Saudi Tour and the Tour of Valencia, the riders in orange, red and black racked up more podium results.
Following Jonathan Milan's win in the second stage of the Saudi Tour, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS continued its series of strong performances at this race. Despite featuring a steep ramp right before the finish, the third stage also got decided in a sprint of a large group. On the final ramp, it was Santiago Buitrago who reacted to a late attack by Zdenek Stybar, neutralising it as a consequence. Jonathan Milan then launched his sprint a little bit too early, allowing Norway's Søren Waernskjold to pip him to the line on the ascending finishing straight. By finishing in 2nd and scoring bonification seconds, Milan could swap the sand-coloured best young rider's jersey for the green GC leader's jersey. And the young Italian also took the lead in the points standings.
All eyes were on the 4th stage of the Saudi Tour as its finale featured a climb of 3 kilometres with an average gradient of 12 percent and ramps that pitch to over 20 percent. The last of the early attackers were brought back before this climb, and here it quickly showed who were the best climbers in the race. Santiago Buitrago was one of them, but in the flat approach to the finish, he found no way to get rid of Ruben Guerreiro and Davide Formolo. Thus Buitrago finished the Queen's stage in 3rd, moved up to the same position in the overall standings and took over the best young rider's jersey. This remained unchanged throughout the final stage. And since Jonathan Milan visibly ran out of steam in the last sprint to the line, he had to settle for 10th place and hand over the points jersey to Dylan Groenewegen.
Despite this downer on the last day of racing, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS can look at the Saudi Tour as a success. With Jonathan Milan's stage win and Santiago Buitrago's 3rd place on GC the team reached the goals that had been set out beforehand. Add to this two more 2nd places and a 3rd place in stages. The riders in orange, red and black missed out on a podium result only in one stage. And the new signings for this season blended in with the team seamlessly with the likes of Dusan Rajovic, Rainer Kepplinger and Andrea Pasqualon, the latter serving as the team's experienced road captain who kept the team together in the heat of racing and made sure it stayed focussed on the objective at hand. Throughout the entire five days, Ahmed Madan worked hard as well and was a value contribution.
At the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS fielded a very strong selection of riders. As for the first stage, the team almost single-handedly made sure that the early attackers were brought back. The second plan to eliminate as many pure sprinters as possible did not work out, however, and Fred Wright had to settle for 11th place in Altea. On the following day, it was up to the likes of Wout Poels, Matej Mohoric and Damiano Caruso to set a hard pace and bring the last attackers back. Deep in the finale, it was up to Mikel Landa and Pello Bilbao to fight for the stage win, but they both were beaten by Giulio Ciccone. By finishing in 2nd, Pello Bilbao scored yet another podium result for the team, with Mikel Landa following suit in 4th.
On the next day, a strong breakaway went up the road early in the 145-kilometre short stage to Sagunto. The finale of the stage turned into a very entertaining pursuit race, with Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS doing a lot of the pacing in the peloton. In the end, a scant 3 seconds separated the last three attackers from a reduced bunch. With Fred Wright in 6th and Pello Bilbao in 9th place, the team had two of its riders finish in the top 10. Tomorrow Saturday will see the Queen's stage of this year's edition with an uphill finish at the Alto de la Cueva Santa. Most likely, this will be the decisive stage for the overall standings of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
SAUDI TOUR, FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION:
1. Ruben Guerreiro, POR, in 20:20.04 hours
2. Davide Formolo, ITA, + 0.08
3. Santiago Buitrago, COL/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.09
YOUNG RIDER'S CLASSIFICATION:
1. Santiago Buitrago, COL/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 20:20.13 hours
2. Jonathan Milan, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.15
3. Xabier Mikel Azparren, ESP, + 0.29
STAGE 3: AL MANSHIYAH TRAIN STATION - ABU RAKAH, 159.2KM
1. Søren Waerenskjold, NOR, in 4:23.18 hours
2. Jonathan Milan, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
3. Cees Bol, NED, st
STAGE 4: MARAYA - SKYVIEWS OF HARRAT UWAYRID, 163.4KM
1. Ruben Guerreiro, POR, in 3:45.01 hours
2. Davide Formolo, ITA, st
3. Santiago Buitrago, COL/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
74TH VOLTA A LA COMUNITAT VALENCIANA
STAGE 2: NOVELDA - ALTO DE PINOS, 178.2KM
1. Giuliu Ciccone, ITA, in 4:38.59 hours
2. Pello Bilbao, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
3. Aleksander Vlasov, ROC, st
Fotos: Sprint Cycling Agency