Info with one day to go
January 29 th 2024 - 22:18 [GMT + 3]
Hard at work amidst the beauty of AlUla, the 18 teams taking part in the fourth edition of the AlUla Tour (30 January-3 February) eye the succession of Portugal’s Ruben Guerreiro.
Simon Yates, fourth in the 2023 Tour de France, is the hot favourite for the overall classification, which should be decided on the final day at the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid.
The battle of the sprinters looks set to be very close, with Dylan Groenewegen, already a regular winner in Saudi Arabia, Tim Merlier, Juan Sebastian Molano, Bryan Coquard, Soren Waerenskjold...
Simon Yates: “I’m here to win the last stage and the overall”
Having arrived from Australia a few days ahead of schedule, after he finished seventh overall in the Tour Down Under – an indicator of his already advanced form and the advantage he will have over his main rivals in having a stage race in his legs – Simon Yates distilled his advice to the riders of the Saudi Arabian national team, including Hassan Aljumah, who also accompanied him to the press conference to announce his intention to “show the country’s colours well”. “It’s great to be here”, Yates declared. “It’s my first time in Saudi and AlUla. I managed to be here for a couple of days more than the rest of the guys, so I already could see more sites. I’m really enjoying my time so far. Of course the team has been here before in the last couple of years and had some great success with Dylan [Groenewegen]. My team-mates were telling me: “you need to come because the climb [Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid] is perfect for you and you’ll enjoy it.” We’ll see what happens on the last day of the race. The climb is so steep and so hard. I saw it yesterday and the day before. There can really be some very big gaps there but there are some guys who can be also very good. I’ll do my best. To win the stage and the overall, that’s what I want.”
Second last year, Formolo wants to step up
Last year’s runner-up behind Portugal’s Ruben Guerreiro, whom he replaces this time around as leader of Movistar, his new team, former UAE Team Emirates rider Davide Formolo warned of the pitfalls that could lie in wait for the favourites in the first four stages. “In my opinion, the AlUla Tour is a really nice race. It’s perfect for me to start a new season and my new adventure with Movistar Team. We know from the past there can be crosswinds in the first four stages. If it happens again, we have to be all together with the team to the front at the right moments. The last climb on the last stage will all be about the legs. It’s gonna be twelve minutes flat out. One step up from my second place last year is the goal. Simon Yates is the big favourite but we’re ready to fight.”
Max Schachmann: “AlUla is beautiful”
The grand finale of the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid, with its 2.8km climb at an average gradient of 12.5% and 17% sectors, is on everyone’s mind. Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), the two-time winner of Paris-Nice (2020-21), reckoned the hill ahead of his first participation in the AlUla Tour: “It’s a hell of a climb”, the German reacted. “It’s short but steep, properly steep. It’s beautiful. From the top, we have a beautiful view of the area. It’s my first time here. It’s breath-taking. I had a good winter. I feel ready. I’m looking forward to start the season here.” The same goes for Rafal Majka. The two-time King of the Mountains of the Tour de France (in 2014 and 2016) marvelled at his discovery of the area: “It’s really great weather and the roads are perfect for riding bikes”, the Pole said. “The race organisation is excellent for us. Here, we start the season well placed. We’re here for GC. We have Finn [Fisher-Black] and myself for the final, [Juan Sebastian] Molano for the sprints and a few guys for the flat sections. The race can be lost in the wind.” This is also the parameter that Molano’s rivals will have to take into account ahead of the possible sprint finishes, for which the field is particularly strong with Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jayco-AlUla), Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step), Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Soren Waerenskjold (Uno-X Mobility), who scored his first pro victory last year on stage three of the Saudi Tour.
Merhawi Kudus on the comeback trail
Terengganu Cycling Team, the leading team in the UCI Asia Tour for the last three years and therefore a yearly guest at the Saudi Tour now rebranded as the AlUla Tour, will have a Grand Tour experienced climber on the start line at AlManshiyah railway station. He has competed in nine of them, including the 2015 Tour de France, the year in which South African outfit MTN-Qhubeka made its debut at the Grande Boucle: Merhawi Kudus, 30, has since moved on to the Astana and EF Education-EasyPost teams. With the latter, he only clocked up 37 days of racing last year. “I was supposed to do the Giro, but at the last minute I wasn’t selected, and then the same for the La Vuelta”, explained the multiple Eritrean national champion, whose contract was not renewed. He jumped at the chance to relaunch his career with the Malaysian continental team, where he replaces Mongolian Jambaljamts Sainbayar, who stood out on the Saudi Tour last year, earning him a move to Burgos BH among other performances. “I’m still just as keen to race and get results in tough stage races, and there are some very interesting ones on the Asian calendar,” noted Kudus, known in Malaysia since his second-place finish overall in the 2014 Le Tour of Langkawi, when he emerged as one of the biggest hopes in cycling worldwide after a stint at the UCI World Centre.
AlUla - Winner of the Arab Bike City Award 2024
AlUla has received the Arab Bike City Award, recognising the work carried out to make AlUla one of the leading cycling destinations in the Middle East. The award recognises cities that make a positive contribution to the development of cycling infrastructure and the promotion of cycling culture in the region. It recognises AlUla’s substantial investment in the region’s cycling infrastructure, unique natural landscapes, strategic location with excellent access and world-class event hosting capabilities. AlUla is a crossroads for all types of cycling: gravel, road, mountain bike... riders of every discipline are well catered for. It is also a host to international events, as demonstrated by the organisation of the AlUla Tour since 4 years (previously Saudi Tour), a UCI race, but also by AlUla’s ambition to organise the World Championships and the UCI Gravel Series. AlUla’s location is a real draw for cyclists, with low population density, excellent air quality and a robust mobile network guaranteeing optimum safety for riders. Located in the north-west of Saudi Arabia, AlUla offers strategically easy access via an international airport.
On TV in 190 countries
The AlUla Tour is broadcast on TV in 190 countries on five continents, by 44 broadcasters including 13 live. In Saudi Arabia, stage 1 will be live from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. (Saudi Time) on SSC Extra 1 and SSC 3, stage 2 live from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on SSC Extra 1 and SSC 3, stage 3 live from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on SSC 3, stage 4 live from 2:30 to 4:30 on SSC 3, stage 5 live from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on SSC 3. In Europe, the race is broadcast live on Eurosport 2 (from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. CET for the first three stages, stage 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., stage 5 from 12.35 to 2.30p.m.). In France, La Chaîne L’Équipe will show the show the race integrally on its digital platform L’Equipe Live. Among the other broadcasters are Eurosport Asia, Abu Dhabi Sports and Dubai Sports Channel (Middle East), Planet TV (Slovenia), Super Sport (Sub-Saharan Africa), FloBikes (Canada and USA), Claro Sports (South America), SBS (Australia) and JSports (Japan).