Van Uden: a star is born
January 30 th 2024 - 16:58 [GMT + 3]
A bunched sprint was expect at the end of stage 1 and that’s exactly what happened on the opening day of the AlUla Tour. In a hectic final straight with a lot of candidates to victory, Casper Van Uden (Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL) proved to be the fastest. The young Dutchman only just captures his first major success by beating compatriot Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jayco AlUla) and Belgium’s Tim Merlier (Soudal Quickstep). Thanks to his victory, Van Uden takes command of the general classification and will be wearing the green jersey for tomorrow’s stage 2.
After a spectacular opening ceremony staged at the Maraya Concert Hall yesterday evening, the 126 riders of the 2024 edition of the AlUla Tour all gathered together by the AlManshiyah Train station for the official start of the race: a 149kms loop around AlUla with no major difficulty. Under a bright sunshine, it only took one kilometre for five men to pull away from the peloton: Zubeldia (EUS), Bettles (ROI), Yamamoto (JCL) and two riders from the Saudi Arabia National team, Al Ibrahim and Al Shaikhamed.
The front group saw their lead reach 3’ as soon as km 8 before the sprinters’ teams (Team Jayco Alula, Tudor Pro Cycling Team, Soudal Quickstep) took command of the pack. At the first Most Active rider sprint (km 81) won by Zubeldia ahead of Bettles and Yamamoto, there were only four men left in the breakaway, Al Ibrahim failing to keep up with the pace. Meanwhile the gap had dropped down to 2’30”.
Bettles and Zubeldia, the last survivors
At km 104, Bettles and Zubeldia powered away dropping their companions. Both men reached the 120km mark with a lead of 1’20” on the peloton. While Bettles suffered a puncture, Zubeldia was left alone at the front. The Spaniard managed to reach the second Most Active rider sprint (km 127) clear from the pack earning him the Orange Jersey for tomorrow. He was eventually caught with just under 20kms to go.
Expected bunched sprint
Well controlled by teams Jayco AlUla and Soudal Quickstep the pack remained bunched. The bonus sprint (at the second passage on the line, with 10kms to go) and the three bonus seconds going with that was claimed by Sobrero (BOH) ahead of Wright (TBV) and Dversnes (UNO). It was then a question of being well positioned for the final straight. Perfectly led out by his DSM-Firmenich PostNL men, Casper Van Uden flew to the line only just outsprinting Dylan Groenewegen and Tim Merlier. The 22-year-old sprinter from Schledam captures his first professional success after several promising wins in the amateur ranks.
Van Uden in command
Thanks to this stage 1 success, Van Uden leads the GC and will be wearing the Green Jersey on stage 2 between Winter Park and the Sharaan Nature Reserve. The Dutchman also takes command of the points and best young rider classifications.