Stage and overall for flying Merlier
February 2 nd 2024 - 17:32 [GMT + 3]
After a splendid start at the heart of the UNESCO World heritage site of Hegra, the finish of stage 4 was just as spectacular in the Ashar Valley just by the picturesque Maraya Hall. And the show was at the height of expectations on the final uphill sprint. Like on the previous stage but against different opponents, Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) claimed the win, only just beating Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Casper Van Uden (Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL). The Belgian takes the overall lead with one day to go in this AlUla Tour.
It’s hard to find a more spectacular site around the world for the start if a cycling race. The 122 riders of the AlUla Tour indeed had the privilege of all gathering at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra this morning. Only poor Dylan Groenewegen, sick for the last two days missed out on such an opportunity. After riding on the gravel paths between the spectacular tombs for the neutral start, this fourth stage started flat out as soon as kilometre 0.
FIVE MEN IN THE FIRST BREAKAWAY
Five men took off, Bonillo (EUS), Bettles, Yatan (ROI), Oka (JCL) and Aljumah (SAU). But after enjoying a 50” advantage, there was not much they could do against the hungry pack led by Orange jersey Tzortzakis in a quest for Most Active rider points. The front five were caught just before the first intermediate sprint (km 21) claimed by Vangheluve (SOQ) ahead of Oka and Bettles. After a very short moment of calm, three other men managed to break away: Bonillo, again, Batsaikhan (ROI) and Miltiadis (TSG). Their lead reached 3’50” at km 30. DSM AND
SOUDAL QUICKSTEP PUT THE PRESSURE ON
Teams dsm-firmenich PostNL and Soudal Quickstep then moved to the front of the peloton and set a fast enough tempo to keep the front men well under control. At the second intermediate sprint won by Bonillo ahead of Batsaikhan and Miltiadis, the gap had dropped to 2’25. The pace increased as the riders entered the Ashar Valley. At the first passage on the line just by the Maraya concert hall, giving out bonus seconds, Bonillo made it first in front of Batsaikhan and Miltiadis with the pack now only 1’15” behind.
MILTIADIS LAST SURVIVOR
On the long descent, Miltiadis decided to pull away on his own. While both his former breakaway companions were rapidly caught, the rider from Cyprus still had a 45” lead with under 15kms to go. With 10kms, the four-time national champion could still enjoy a 25” lead. A crash then occurred in the peloton sending the likes of Pierre Latour (TEN) and Henok Mulueberhan (AST) to the ground. Miltiadis was eventually caught with five kilometres to go.
NO STOPPING MERLIER
On the final uphill straight, a very confident Tim Merlier powered away. A perfectly timed effort although the Belgian was almost caught by Bryan Coquard who thought he had triumphed. Merlier claims his second consecutive stage success by beating Coquard and Casper Van Uden. The Soudal Quickstep sprinter enjoys the perfect day also capturing the overall lead with a 4” advantage over Van Uden. Merlier will therefore be wearing the Green jersey for tomorrow’s final and very demanding stage from AlUla Old Town to the Heights of Harrat Uwayrid. He also leads the points classification while Van Uden remains best young rider of the Tour and Atsushi Oka reconquers the Orange jersey for the most active rider.