AlUla Int.Airport – Khaybar – 181 Km
1 GROENEWEGEN Dylan NED TEAM JAYCO-ALULA 04:08:09
2 RAJOVIC Dusan SBA BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS 00:00
3 WALSCHEID Max GER COFIDIS 00:00
4 WÆRENSKJOLD Søren NOR UNO-X PRO CYCLING TEAM 00:00
5 KANTER Max GER MOVISTAR TEAM 00:00
6 OLIVEIRA Ivo POR UAE TEAM EMIRATES 00:00
7 BOL Cees NED ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM 00:00
8 FREDHEIM Stian NOR UNO-X PRO CYCLING TEAM 00:00
9 TIZZA Marco ITA BINGOAL WB 00:00
10 MEZGEC Luka SLO TEAM JAYCO-ALULA 00:00
11 VAN UDEN Casper NED TEAM DSM 00:00
12 NORSGAARD Mathias DEN MOVISTAR TEAM 00:00
13 CÔTÉ Pier-André CAN HUMAN POWERED HEALTH 00:00
14 GROSSSCHARTNE Felix AUT UAE TEAM EMIRATES 00:00
15 GUERREIRO Ruben POR MOVISTAR TEAM 00:00
After a spectacular opening ceremony yesterday evening, there were more fireworks at the finish of stage 1 of the Saudi Tour. As expected the pack made it bunched to Khaybar where Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jayco AlUla) flew to his first success this year in his opening race. The Dutchman who carries the colours of AlUla where this tour is staged comfortably beat Dusan Rajovic (Team Bahrain Victorious) and Max Walscheid (Cofidis) to the line and captures the first overall leader’s red jersey.
Before even the first pedal strokes, the third edition of the Saudi Tour started with a bang on the eve of the first stage. Fire dancers, over 600 drones in the sky, 16 teams gathered on five different stages, a mapping show on the magnificent Elephant Rock: the opening ceremony was bigger, greater and ever more spectacular than ever. Never had a team presentation been so impressive, and that was just an appetizer of what the race had to offer. After the opening festivities, it was time to battle it out for the first day of racing: a 180.5-km stage from the International Airport of Al Ula to the city of Khaybar. 111 riders took off shortly before noon and would have to deal with a fairly strong head wind as they headed to the south-east.
6 IN THE LEAD
After 3kms of racing six riders powered away: Hansen (UXT), Goikoetxea (EUS), Van Der Bekken (BWB), Iacchi (COR), Mohd Zariff (TSG) and Takeyama (JCL). Their advantage grew rapidly over a rather quiet pack: 2’50’’ after 10kms, 4’10’’ after 20. The first Intermediate average sprint (km 62) was claimed by Hansen while the gap reached a maximum 5’20’’. Under the influence of Team Jayco AlUla of Dylan Groenewegen, the pack moved closer to the escapees.
HANSEN, LAST SURVIVOR
Just before the second intermediate active sprint, Peio Goikoetxea pulled away in his quest for the most active rider’s blue jersey. Just after making it first to the line, the Spaniard was caught by his mail rival Hansen. At the bonus sprint (km 135), Hansen outsprinted his opponent to conquer the blue jersey. The Dane would eventually be the last man standing as Goikoetxea stopped his efforts due to cramps. With 25kms to go, Markus Hansen could still enjoy a 2’ lead but his solo adventure stopped just under 15kms from the finish.
BUNCHED SPRINT AS EXPECTED
Despite timid attempts and a crash, the pack remained bunched all the way to the final straight in Khaybar. Perfectly led out by his blue and white train including the precious likes of Luka Mezgec, Dylan Groenewegen comfortably conquered his first win of the season. The Dutchman who had already won two stages in Saudi Arabia last year beat Dusan Rajovic (TBV) and Max Walscheid (COF) to the line.
GREEN JERSEY FOR GROENEWEGEN
The five-time Tour de France stage winner naturally takes command of the general classification and will be wearing the leader’s Green Jersey for tomorrow’s second stage that heads to Shalal Sijlyat Rocks. He also leads the points classification while Marcus Hansen will be wearing the best young rider’s white jersey.
The Saudi Tour, launched in 2020 under the aegis of the Saudi Ministry of Sport and Saudi Cycling Federation, is returning in 2023 for its third edition. Sixteen teams in the international peloton will battle it out in five stages held from 30 January to 3 February. The 2023 route is a new opportunity for the field to discover AlUla, an oasis city in north-western Saudi Arabia, long a major stopover on the incense route and the road to Mecca. As well as bringing the unprecedented promise of a trip back in time, it will pull back the veil on a desert that only a few lucky tourists have got to explore so far. AlUla showcases the heritage of a 7,000-year-old civilisation, jaw-dropping rock formations and natural canyons, an array of adventure sports activities, and contemporary art facilities boasting unique architecture, such as Maraya, which will host the finish of the race. AlUla is also famous for its monumental tombs from the Nabataean period, carved into red sandstone cliffs: Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site awaiting the peloton in the final stage.
The iconic sights of the 2023 Saudi Tour:
Khaybar: an ancient oasis within an extraordinary landscape, born from desert volcanic activity
The carved tombs of the Nabataean city of Hegra, the first place in Saudi Arabia designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
AlUla Old Town: a 12th-century elaborate mud brick settlement along the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Mecca, today Old Town is an active tourism hotspot
Maraya, the largest mirrored building in the world
Harrat Uwayrid, a volcanic plateau overlooking the entire AlUla valley and the biggest of AlUla’s five nature reserves
As usual, the 2023 Saudi Tour, scheduled to take place from 30 January to 3 February, will be one of the first professional cycling races of the year and kick off the season for quite a few riders. The five stages on the programme trace a star-shaped route around AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s little-known archaeological gem.
The opening stage will take off from AlUla Airport and set course for the gorgeous Khaybar oasis.
AlUla International Airport, inaugurated in 2021, is is a beautifully designed piece of architecture that blends into the landscape and now offers direct international flights from Dubai, Cairo and Paris. The finish line of this stage will be set up in Khaybar, which is also known for its long history on the incense route. The city, planted in the heart of a volcanic field against the backdrop of majestic mountains, aspires to become a premium tourist destination.
Stage 2 will come to an end at the majestic Shalal Sijlyat Rocks after a 184 km journey.
Stage 3, which is 159.2 km long, will depart from Al Manshiyah Train Station, once an important stop on the legendary Hejaz Railway, a 1,300 km single-track line stretching from Damascus to Medina. Completed in 1907, the station saw thousands of travellers and pilgrims go through, some of whom stayed to create new local communities.
Stage 4 promises to be breathtaking, with a flying start from Maraya towards the incredible panoramas of Harrat Uwayrid. Maraya means ‚mirrors‘ in Arabic. The building serves as a multipurpose concert, entertainment and conference venue in AlUla. A brainchild of the Italian designer Florian Boje from Giò Forma, located in the Ashar Valley, Maraya has already hosted world-famous artists such as OneRepublic, John Legend, Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli, to name but a few, as well as local and regional artists. Maraya will also bring down the curtain on the race the next day.
The closing stage of this Saudi Tour will get under way from AlUla Old Town and give riders the opportunity to feast their eyes on the Nabataean site of Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of Seven Wonders of the World for 2023.
Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Marketing Officer at the Royal Commission for AlUla said:
“With some of the top professional cyclists and teams competing here over five days, the Saudi Tour puts the eyes of the sporting world on AlUla.
“For those watching and participating, the route will highlight the truly unique and ancient landmarks of AlUla, and also emphasise AlUla and Saudi Arabia’s strong credentials as host for world-class international sporting events.
“AlUla’s links to cycling can only grow stronger, and we hope the tour will act as an inspiration to the population at large, showcasing the huge benefits that cycling has in terms of environment, health and fitness.”
About AlUla Moments:
AlUla Moments is AlUla’s new home of events. The brand was launched at the end of 2021 and introduced four new festivals to celebrate and unlock AlUla’s stories, uncover its secrets and celebrate local and international cultures. With 7000 years of civilisations and home to some of the most sophisticated ancient Kingdoms of antiquity, AlUla is no stranger to social gathering and cultural celebrations. The four festivals introduced were Winter at Tantora, which returned to celebrate heritage, culture and music, in addition to the AlUla Skies, AlUla Arts and AlUla Wellness Festival. The festivals offered a selection of experiences in art, culture, music, nature, wellness, equestrian, food and astronomy. All of which were celebrating the culture, history and legacy of AlUla and the civilisations that once called the land of AlUla their home. In 2023, AlUla Moments presents five major festivals and six marque events, including the return of Winter at Tantora, AlUla Wellness Festival, AlUla Arts Festival, AlUla Skies presented by Saudia, AZIMUTH, Richard Mille Desert Polo, Endurance Cup Race, and the Ancient Kingdoms Festival.
For more information please visit experiencealula.com/en/alula-moments
Located 1,100 km from Riyadh, in North-West Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. The vast area, covering 22,561km², includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years to when the Lihyan and Nabataean kingdoms reigned.
The most well-known and recognised site in AlUla is Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 52-hectare ancient city, Hegra was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom and is comprised of 111 well-preserved tombs, many with elaborate facades cut out of the sandstone outcrops surrounding the walled urban settlement. Current research also suggests Hegra was the most southern outpost of the Roman Empire after the Roman’s conquered the Nabataeans in 106 CE.
In addition to Hegra, AlUla is also home to ancient Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms and considered to be one of the most developed 1st millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula, and Jabal Ikmah, an open air library of hundreds of inscriptions and writings in many different languages. Also AlUla Old Town, a labyrinth of more than 900 mudbrick homes developed from at least the 12th century, and Hijaz Railway and Hegra Fort, key sites in the story and conquests of Lawrence of Arabia.