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Groenewegen was the first to launch his sprint after his lead-out man Luka Mezgec peeled off with less than 200 meters to go.
A late surge from an out of position Caleb Ewan [Lotto-Soudal] looked like it might trouble the Dutchman, but he ran out of road before the line and was pipped into second place by Dan McLay (Arkea-Samsic).
Race leader Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) finished safely in the bunch to keep his place at the top of the GC standings. However, his advantage has been cut to just three seconds thanks to the bonus seconds on the line for Ewan.
“It’s really amazing in the first race. We also tried something on the first day, but it didn’t work well. Everyone is really strong, and we made a new plan,” Groenewegen said. Today was really hard, but in the end, everyone was there in the small group and we did a really good lead-out and I only have to sprint for 100 meters.
“It was really crazy [at the start] but the guys put me in a really good position. With the headwind, it came back together. It was also good for us to have the full team for the final. We made a really good plan, it was amazing today, and everyone did a good job.”
It’s a team effort! 💙 pic.twitter.com/DKgxtNvpju
— Team BikeExchange-Jayco (@GreenEDGEteam) February 3, 2022
The race blew apart almost immediately as crosswinds battered the peloton from the start. With just over 20 kilometers covered, the front group had been reduced to a mere 27 riders.
Chaos ensued as echelons formed along the flat, exposed roads, and sand whipped up with the gusts. As riders jostled for position, there were multiple crashes within the small groups along the road.
The big-name sprinters all made it into the select front group, but overnight race leader Buitrago found himself out of position and was forced to chase back. With a touch of help from other teams and a strong headwind, the Colombian was able to make it into the leading group.
Amid the carnage, three riders jumped clear of the bunch with Edward Planckaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), and Benjamin Declercq (Arkea-Samsic) going up the road. The breakaway group wouldn’t survive too long after Turgis decided to attack and go solo. Nicolo Bonifazio (TotalEnergies) and Iljo Keisse (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) tried to jump the gap to Turgis but were reeled in by the bunch with 50km to go.
With 20km to go, Turgis still had 1:40 on the bunch behind, which was exhausted after a day battling crosswinds. Just four kilometers later, that gap would be less than 30 seconds. Long shadows were being cast as the sun set while the bunch was close to an hour behind schedule due to the challenging weather conditions.
Turgis was eventually brought back with just under 14km to go and the reduced peloton lined up for the expected bunch sprint finish. It would not be a straightforward run to the line as the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl got a whiff of another crosswind with 11km to go and put the hammer down on the front. It didn’t pay off for the Belgian team, however.
The reduced bunch rolled into the final kilometer with Mezgec taking up his role as lead-out man for Groenewegen. After a disappointing first sprint Tuesday, the Dutchman had it pitch-perfect today.
Saudi Tour Stage 3 results
- Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) 05:11:22
- Dan McLay (Arkéa-Samsic), at s.t.
- Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), at s.t.
- Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) 13:36:55
- Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), at :03
- Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), at :13