Guerreiro tops Formolo and Buitrago to win Saudi Tour stage 4
By Stephen Farrand,
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Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar) beat Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) and Felix Großschartner (UAE Team Emirates) in a sprint to win the Queen stage of the Saudi Tour up to Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid platform.
The four riders got away on the climb up to the plateau and held off a determined but fractured chase.
Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) was part of the third chase group and finished just 28 seconds down on Guerreiro but he lost the overall race lead to the Portuguese rider. Milan is now fifth overall at 24 seconds.
Guerreiro now leads Formolo by eight seconds, with Buitrago third at nine seconds. He will have to defend the green leader’s jersey during Friday’s final rolling 142.9km stage, where the sprinters are expected to return to the fore.
The climb to the finish was always going to be decisive for the stage victory and the overall classification. An early break was allowed to open a two-minute gap on the circuits of AlUla in the valley and Canada’s Nickolas Zukowsky (Q36.5) was the last to be caught at the foot of the climb but the peloton was all together as the road climbed out of the shadows.
Formolo made a number of surges on the 12% gradient but Buitrago joined him and Großschartner, with Guerreiro latching on as the gradient eased over the top. They then rode together on the plateau road, holding off the chasers.
Formolo tried to control the sprint but Guerreiro got ahead of him and held off the Italian.
Guerriero moved from EF Education-EasyPost to Movistar for 2023 and immediately used his climbing skills to land an early-season but significant win for the Spanish team. Movistar are working with the Saudi Arabian Cycling Federation and could secure funding from the region in the future.
"Today was really hard, really tough. We know this climb, we did it training but we didn’t know how the legs would feel after the stages in the wind and with so much stress,” Guerreiro explained.
"I think the secret to winning was to wait and wait. It was a nervous stage, either full gas or really slow because of the wind. You needed to wait during the week and during the stage because there were three hours before the final climb.
"I was watching the UAE guys and Santiago Buitrago. He had a poker face. I had to watch him because he’s quick. I was lucky to have the legs for the sprint. I have to thank my teammates and staff, they’re amazing. This win is for them and for my family. This is my first year in the team and I immediately felt welcome here.”
The overall race lead came as a bonus for Guerreiro but now he and Movistar are keen to wrap up overall victory.
"I was focused on crossing the line first rather than the leader’s jersey. We’ve got a good team, with just one stage to go, I think we're ready and focused,” Guerreiro confirmed.
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