Two riders on the podium in Ritten
The Tour of the Alps packs plenty of tough climbs in the Eastern Alps and Dolomites in just five stages, making for a real test of form in the lead-up to the Giro d'Italia. Both Jack Haig and Santiago Buitrago showed proper fighting spirit throughout the first two stages, and each were rewarded with a podium result.
From the perspective of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, there was no reason to celebrate after the one-day races Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold Race. The next race on the team's calendar was the stage race Tour of the Alps. Ridden in both the Tyrol and Southern Tyrol regions, this race packs an aggregate of 15,000 meters of ascending in only five stages. So this race, which is often seen as a test of form before the Giro d'Italia, clearly favours good climbers. For that reason, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS is riding for Jack Haig as its GC captain and Santiago Buitrago as his backup and shadow captain. These two riders can rely on the support of Hermann Pernsteiner, Jasha Sütterlin, Edoardo Zambanini and young Nicolo Buratti, who has only been joining the team a few days ago.
With the Kerschbaumer Sattel and the final ascent to Alpbach, the finale of the first stage offered up a formidable challenge already. But before that, a six-rider breakaway took charge of things, but these riders were brought back with 17 kilometres to go and before the Kerschbaumer Sattel climb started for real. On this demanding climb that averages over 10 per cent in gradient over a distance of more than 5 kilometres, Team Ineos Grenadiers was setting a fast pace, reducing the first group to less than 25 riders. When the speed dropped, Jack Haig decided to go on the attack and managed to create a small gap right away. While he got caught and passed by Jefferson Cepeda on the way to the KOM sprint, he gave the Colombian some of his own medicine on the following twisting descent.
But Haig's advantage was not sufficient on the final ascent to Alpbach, and deep into the finale, Santiago Buitrago could not attack anymore either, so the two riders crossed the finish line in 9th and 10th, respectively. The two captains of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS rode into the spotlights in the finale of stage 2 again: After the day's early attackers had been caught, it was Santiago Buitrago's turn to attack. While the young Colombian could not enforce a decisive gap, less than ten riders could keep up with his pace. As for the twisting finale, Jack Haig was the only rider to stay on the wheel of double-stage winner Tao Geoghegan Hart while Santiago Buitrago won the sprint for 3rd place in their wake.
Before tomorrow's Queen's stage leading from Ritten to Brentonico San Valentino, Jack Haig and Santiago Buitrago have moved up to 6th and 7th place on GC in the Tour of the Alps, respectively. As the second race of this Wednesday, Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS is competing at the semi-classic Flèche Wallonne in the French part of Belgium. As the team's captain, Mikel Landa can rely on the support of Pello Bilbao, Filip Maciejuk, Gino Mäder, Fran Miholjevic, Matej Mohoric and Wout Poels.
46TH TOUR OF THE ALPS, STAGE 2: REITH IM ALPBACHTAL - RITTEN, 165.2KM
1. Tao Geoghegan Hart, GBR, in 3:57.42 hours
2. Jack Haig, AUS/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
3. Santiago Buitrago, COL/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.02
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency