· Top sprinters in contention: Dylan Groenewegen, Pascal Ackermann, John Degenkolb, Andrea Pasqualon, Cees Bol.
Colombia’s Santiago Buitrago who had his breakthrough at the Saudi Tour last year wants to avenge himself on GC.
Before winning the first two editions of the Saudi Tour, Phil Bauhaus (2020) and Maxim Van Gils (2022) did not yet have an overall stage race victory to their credit. AlUla Saudi Arabia is a new El Dorado for cycling, where dreams of greatness take shape.
The other sensation of the 2022 edition, the Colombian Santiago Buitrago, kept a feeling of unfinished business. Winner of the second stage in Abu Rakah, the final victory had eluded him on echelons. Since then, he raised his profile by winning stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia (12th on GC) then stage 1 of Vuelta a Burgos. He wants to take revenge on the Saudi Tour, so his team Bahrain Victorious has enrolled him again. He will be the hot favorite on the start line at AlUla International Airport on January 30.
The teams of the Arabic Gulf are particularly motivated by the idea of making a name for themselves in the region. Bahrain Victorious has also called up very fast men for the stages likely to arrive in a sprint: Jonathan Milan, Andrea Pasqualon, Dusan Rajovic and Heinrich Haussler. Similarly, UAE Team Emirates is aiming for bunch sprint finishes with Pascal Ackermann and the general classification with Davide Formolo, supported by new recruit Felix Grossschartner.
Two teams established for some time in professional cycling have recently concluded partnerships in Saudi Arabia: Movistar, with the national cycling federation, hence the designation of its versatile new rider, the Portuguese Ruben Guerreiro, as leader for this race, and Australia’s only WorldTour squad, now named Team Jayco-AlUla. The latter returns in AlUla with Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen after he won two stages last year. “We’ve got a couple of options with some younger guys for the general classification but the big focus is to build the sprint train around Groenewegen”, Team Jayco-AlUla’s sport manager Matt White explained. “Every race is important but obviously when your team’s sponsor hosts the event as well, it adds some motivation. We’re going there to win stages and showcase our sponsors in a good way.”
The youngsters in question are European u23 road champion Felix Engelhardt and former mountain biker Alexandre Balmer. Other young guns to watch out for include u23 world time trial champion Soren Wærenskjold (Uno-X) while the sprinters’ category includes John Degenkolb (DSM), Cees Bol (Astana Qazaqstan), Simone Consonni (Cofidis), Erlend Blikra (Uno-X), Matteo Malucelli (Bingoal WB) and Algeria’s Youcef Reguigui (Terengganu Polygon) who finished 4th in the 2020 Saudi Tour.
As part of the Asia Tour, the event also aims to provide access to the top level to the best squads of the continent, namely Terengganu Polygon from Malaysia and Team Ukyo from Japan. This time around, the national team of Saudi Arabia will ride at home !
The 16 teams and main riders of the 3rd Saudi Tour, from January 30 to February 3rd:
· Astana Qazaqstan Team (Cees Bol)
· Bahrain Victorious (Santiago Buitrago, Andrea Pasqualon)
· Cofidis (Rubén Fernandez, Simone Consonni)
· Movistar Team (Ruben Guerreiro, Gregor Mühlberger)
· Team Jayco AlUla (Dylan Groenewegen, Felix Engelhardt)
· Team DSM (John Degenkolb, Casper van Uden)
· UAE Team Emirates (Davide Formolo, Pascal Ackermann)
· Bingoal WB (Matteo Malucelli)
· Euskaltel-Euskadi (Xabier Mikel Asparren)
· Human Powered Health (Gijs Van Hoecke, Pier-André Côté)
· Uno-X Pro Cycling Team (Soren Wærenskjold, Erlend Blikra)
· Q.36.5 Pro Cycling Team (Alessandro Fedeli, Jack Bauer)
· Team Corratec (Etienne van Empel, Karel Vacek)
· Terengganu Polygon (Youcef Reguigui, Jambaljamts Sainbayar)
· Team Ukyo (Raymond Kreder, Benjamin Prades)
· National team of Saudi Arabia