Santiago Buitrago finished 3rd on the Queen stage of the Saudi Tour, which took the riders from Maraya to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid. The first 150km of the stage went by quickly, with the peloton not giving much away to the day’s breakaway, with the main GC contenders focused on the brutal 2.9km climb averaging 12% gradients up to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid.
As soon as the climb started, the peloton broke into three small groups, with many riders falling behind. Buitrago was in the first group, and at the halfway point up the climb, there were only 3 riders with him. Santiago attacked twice, but Guerreiro (Movistar), Formolo (UAE), and Grossschartner (UAE) followed. They all reached to top with a 35-second gap to group 2 and managed to keep them away for the last flat 8km stretch to the line. In the sprint Guerreiro and Formolo edged Buitrago to the finish line, putting Buitrago in third place in the GC and moving into the best young rider jersey. Jonathan Milan put a valiant effort up the climb and is 5th overall and leads the points classification.
Santiago Buitrago: “I would like to thank the whole team for a very good job today. I really felt good on the climb, and in the sprint, I got 3rd place. I’m very happy with the young jersey and the podium in GC. Tomorrow is the last day. We’ll try again, as always. One more time, thanks to all the guys; they did a really good job today.”
SD Enrico Poitschke: “The queen stage was a big fight, and we tried everything to win the stage with Santi. He did it well, he was with the best riders on the climb, trying to catch 3 bonus seconds on the top of the hill, but Guerreiro was stronger. In the finish he did right, he didn’t work too much, and was concentrated to win the stage. In the end, the two guys were stronger, and he finished 3rd. He’s also 3rd in the General Classification. He gave everything as well as the whole team, but some riders were stronger, and we have to accept that.”
Meanwhile, at the Volta a La Comunitat Valenciana, Team Bahrain Victorious showed their strength again, dominating at the front on possibly the toughest stage of the week. Day 2 included 7 categorised climbs in all, and finished at the Alto de Pinos which followed the category 1 Cumbres del Sol – a familiar climb from the Vuelta a España.
A breakaway of 5 were given a maximum gap of 7 minutes, but they were swallowed up 3.8k from the finish thanks to the work of Damiano Caruso, Matej Mohorič, and others, as TBV pulled the bunch with Ineos Grenadiers.
Just before the final corner, Mikel Landa attacked, trying to drag GC leader Pello Bilbao into position for the finishing sprint, but Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) got between them and took the victory. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) followed the Italian but was adjudged to have sprinted across Pello’s line so he was relegated by the commissaires.
Bilbao was frustrated at the finish having battled hard for a second win of the year:
“I couldn’t quite get onto the wheel, so Ciccone had already taken a few metres, and there was so little space it wasn’t possible to get back to him. I know the time bonuses will be important, so in the last few metres, I tried everything to finish second.”
The jury’s decision gave our leader 2nd place today and moved him into 2nd overall, with 3 days racing left. Tomorrow the peloton face 145kms between Bétera & Sagunto, backloaded with climbing before the GC is decided on Saturday
Sports Director Franco Pellizotti was pleased with the performance of the team if disappointed with the result:
“The boys worked very well again today, as everyone could see. At the end, there was a slight miscommunication which meant Pello couldn’t do the sprint he wanted, but we’re very proud of what the team showed.”
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