Saudi Tour S5: Simone Consonni kicks to win, Ruben Guerreiro secures GC

Five days of racing closes out with a stage for Cofidis and a morale-boosting GC victory for Movistar's newest star.

Photo: Alex Broadway/Getty Images

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ALULA, Saudi Arabia (VN) — Simone Consonni (Cofidis) kicked to victory Friday in an uphill finale to close out the five-day Saudi Tour, with Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar) wrapping up the GC.

Consonni powered past a gasping Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUlla) on the short but steep kicker to snag his third career pro win.

A gold medalist in the team pursuit in the 2021 Olympic Games on the track, Consonni timed his sprint perfectly.

“We came here with a strong team, and today to finish this incredible week with a victory, it was really hard, but I am very happy,” Consonni said. “For me it’s hard to beat guys like Groenewegen or Milan, so I am very happy today. Last season was the first year I could make the sprints on my own, and I proved I can win.”

Guerreiro, a winner of Thursday’s mountaintop finale, finished safely in the bunch to secure the GC for Movistar.

“We are very happy with this victory, and we can manage it to the finish,” Guerreiro said. “The final kilometer was tricky and technical, and I didn’t have the legs to finish in the top-10. I just finished safe on the wheel, and it’s the victory.”

A break nearly held clear, but the last rider was swept up as the bunch hit the approach toward the finish in front of the Maraya building, a large concert hall covered in mirrors.

The victory bodes well for Guerriero, who will race the Tour de France later this season. 

“It’s special to win this race. In modern cycling it’s so hard to win a stage race,” he said. “To have this first race and the first victory of the season, it means a lot.

“I am 28, but I am born again in cycling. I feel like 20, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and I am stronger than ever,” he said. “I have big goals this season.”

Movistar’s Will Barta started his 2023 season off on a good note with a solid eighth place overall.

Racing in the Middle East continues later this month with the Oman Tour, where Mark Cavendish is expected to make his debut in Astana-Qazaqstan colors, and the UAE Tour, where Tadej Pogacar will open his 2023 campaign.

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Ruben Guerreiro tames the rest

Ruben Guerreiro
Ruben Guerreiro (Photo: Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Ruben Guerreiro out-foxed his rivals to win Thursday’s fourth stage and snag the overall lead with one stage remaining at the Saudi Tour.

The Movistar newcomer out-kicked Davide Formolo and Santiago Buitrago in the race’s only climbing finale to double up with the stage win and the leader’s jersey.

“It was truly a hard day, just like the climb. We were not sure how the legs would respond after three days of flats,” he said. “This Saudi Tour has been waiting, waiting, waiting, with the wind, and changing tempo constantly.

“UAE went with two, and they knew how to play their cards and make this ‘poker,'” he said. “I had to know how to play with the them. I had the legs to overcome them and I am very happy.”

Guerrero picked up time bonuses yesterday to put him in pole position for the jersey coming into Thursday’s 163km stage from Maraya to Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid high above the AlUla desert landscapes.

Will Barta was fifth and climbed into seventh overall with one stage left to go.

“I wasn’t thinking that I was going to take the lead,” he said. “We have a great group here, and there’s only one stage left to go, so for sure we’ll fight to defend the lead.”

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S3: Uno-X delivers big win with big U23 world TT champ

Soren Waerenskjold
Soren Waerenskjold (Photo: Getty Images)

ALULA, Saudi Arabia (VN) — Uno-X kept knocking at the door, and it finally opened Wednesday on stage 3 at the Saudi Tour.

After two fourth places in the opening stages of the five-day race, Søren Wærenskjold out-kicked the WorldTour pros to roar to his first pro victory.

The U23 world time trial champion opened up the afterburners at the end of the punchy final 3km and relegated yesterday’s winner Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) into second in the reduced bunch sprint.

“I knew it was a little of a steep climb, I surfed the wheels because I thought there would be some wind,” Wærenskjold said. “Today we went on the right side, and we have learned from the past few days when the wind was a factor in the finales.”

Wærenskjold’s win is a boost for Uno-X, which earned its bid to start its first Tour de France in July. 

That’s still months away, and Wærenskjold was soaking up the glory that came with his inaugural pro victory.

“It’s fantastic for me to win here. I waited for this for a long time. I have been close in the U23 ranks, and it’s wonderful for the team,” he said. “We have two fourth places on the first stages, so to win here, it’s good for the morale. Tomorrow is Jakob’s turn and he can do well in the climb.”

The stage ended with a short but stinging climb, and overnight leader Dylan Groenewegen could not match the pace. Zdenek Stybar and Santiago Buitrago attacked, but the reduced bunch caught them under the red kite.

Milan slots into the overall lead, with Thursday’s climbing finale set to shake up the GC even more.

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S2: Jonathan Milan squeaks in for the win

Jonathan Milan
Jonathan Milan celebrates victory. (Photo: Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part of a race.

Jonathan Milan stood on a desolate highway in the middle of the Saudi desert Tuesday. The young Italian didn’t want to celebrate too soon. It was too close to call with Dylan Groenewegen at the line.

After a few anguishing minutes, the call came through: Milan was the winner in a bike throw.

“This victory means a lot for me and the team,” Milan said. “Last year, I won two races in Croatia, and I really wanted to come out of the Saudi Tour with a victory. It was very close in the end. Last year was my first year here, and it was goal to win, and I am happy that I made it.”

Milan held on to fend off Groenewegen at the end of a very windy stage across the Saudi desert in stage 2 at the Saudi Tour. Cees Bol (Astana-Qazaqstan) kicked through in third.

The stage was the sum of many parts. The first part of the stage was with a belting tailwind. A U-turn and it was a full-block headwind of 45kph. The bunch trundled along at 20kph.

Once the course turned left, the peloton faced the full brunt of crosswinds and quickly fractured into bits.

On Monday, Bahrain Victorious kicked to second yesterday behind Groenwegen, and Tuesday it was Milan’s turn in the rotation. A winner of a gold medal in the team pursuit in 2021 on the boards in Tokyo, Milan is one of the highly touted younger riders coming up in Italy.

Groenewegen could only stew at a missed chance, but he retained the leader’s jersey as consolation.

“We are disappointed of course,” Groenewege said. “I started my sprint too late, and Milan came past me, and I tried to come back, but Milan was first. The boys did a good job today and did a great leadout. It was a big mistake on my part.”

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S1: Groenewegen overcomes late puncture to win

Groenewegen celebrates stage 1. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Dylan Groenewegen wasn’t about to let a late-race puncture derail his mission to win the opening stage of the Saudi Tour.

With new co-sponsor AlUla emblazoned on the jersey and with the opening stage driving south across the wide-open expanses of the AlUla region, Groenewegen was a man on a mission Monday.

Crosswinds and a pair of punctures made the opening stage more dramatic than the Jayco-AlUla sprinter would have liked. His teammates towed him back and he finished off the job to win in his 2023 season debut.

“This is a really important race for us to make our sponsor proud, so we can be really happy with today,” Groenewegen said. “It was really hectic in the final, and I had a flat tire in the wrong moment. With 10km it was still two minutes and the team was really working, but the team was really motivated to show our blue line.

“We waited for a good moment and then we went, and I saw nobody around me, so I knew I won.”

The win comes as a relief for Groenewegen, who was perhaps the only rider in the entire peloton with pressure to deliver.

The third edition of the Saudi Tour is drawing a solid mix of WorldTour and other level teams, but the five-day romp across the Saudi desert region has more of a spring training camp vibe.

Most of the bunch were debuting their respective seasons, and all eyes were on Jayco-AlUla.

The tourism board that promotes the AlUla destination stepped up in 2023 from partner to co-sponsor status. Not that leaving the race without a win would have been a disaster, but getting one certainly will make everyone breathe easier.

“We worked on the sprint train a bit during the camps. We have some new guys who are strong, and ‘Stybie’ is really strong from Quick-Step. I know if I stay on the wheel of Mezgec I will be OK,” Groenewegen said.

The stage didn’t come without its drama. Crosswinds kicked up and Groenewegen punctured twice, including a late-stage flat that put the team under pressure with 10km to go.

“The peloton split up, but the whole team waited for me, and they did a good job to bring me back,” he said. “We are really happy to win the first win of the season with the new blue train.”

The Saudi continues Tuesday with the 184km second stage from Winter Park to Shalal Sijlyat Rocks.

With one win in the pocket for Jayco-AlUla, the other sprinters here will want their turn.

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