February 4th, 2020 – It’s been 18 years since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosted a cycling race. The inaugural Saudi Tour kicked off from the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee in Riyadh, finishing 176km away in Jaww.
The race had its first breakaway of six riders 20km in; however, it was around 65km in, that strong desert crosswinds split the peloton into two groups. We were sat in a strong position with five of our riders in the front group, with our debutant Mark Cavendish tailing our train. The lead group closed down the early breakaway and put nearly a minute gap between the chase group.
With 20km to the finish, another breakaway formed by Haussler and three other riders. One km out, the peloton closed the gap on the breakaway, and a late kick on the final climb almost saw Haussler take the victory. However, UAE Team Emirates rider Rui Costa surged from the peloton to take the win.
Despite not winning the race, it’s a promising start for the team, with Haussler taking a podium finish and jersey for the most active rider and Phil Bauhaus taking 6th place.
Haussler talked us through how he felt after a challenging day of racing: “Even though it was completely flat today, I fell on the ground after the finish line. The first 99km was pretty much straight forward, pretty easy, then we got into the crosswinds, and the group just split”. Speaking about how he approached the difficult conditions at the end of the race, Haussler said ” I just decided to go. I took three guys with me. We looked good and had 20 seconds in the last km, but the last 600m was really steep uphill, and I just got beat by Rui Costa at the end. But we had a great team spirit, and great team effort for the first race, new team, new colours and I’m really happy with the way the whole team worked.” Asked if this is good motivation for the stage tomorrow, he said: “Obviously, we are here to win, we are not here to get second or third. It’s also good for the confidence as we know we have good legs, we are working well together as a team. Hopefully, it will only get better from here on.”
Our Sports Director Vladimir Miholjevic had some concerns: “The team really worked very well, although we didn’t reach our objective regarding GC. They all raced very aggressive, took the initiative and showed character, so at the end, Haussler’s result is well deserved. We are looking forward to tomorrow and next stages as we have a good team that works well together, so in next days we should reach a victory.”
Without an uphill finish, tomorrow’s stage is another flat stage, and it’s expected to be sprinter’s stage fitting for Cavendish.
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