Phil Bauhaus proved the perfect understudy as he took two sprint wins on his way to sealing the overall victory at the inaugural Saudi Tour.
The German beat Nacer Bouhanni in the sprint finish in Riyadh, taking 10 bonus seconds to overtake him in the general classification.
As the two riders pulled clear of the rest of the pack in the final few hundred metres, the German was edging ahead. Bauhaus then derivated from his sprint line by the finest of margins and Bouhanni threw his hands in the air, even though by that point he was well beaten. The Frenchman’s swift visit to the commissaires after the finish was also in vain, before stepping up to the podium to take his consolation prize of the sprinter’s jersey.
On stage three, Cavendish had drawn attention away from Bauhaus to help the German to victory but this time he worked as the second-to-last man in the sprint train. In the finish line photo above the world champion can be seen raising his hands in celebration - a new sensation for the former world champion - watching a team-mate finish off the job up ahead.
Although the team arrived in Saudi Arabia ready to kickstart the season of their marquee sprinter, they soon found themselves with a chance of overall victory with Bauhaus and Bahrain-McLaren would not be celebrating their first overall victory as a team without the Manxman who proved pivotal during their two stage wins.
"Mark just did awesome on the last 400m and I could start the sprint from the first position [in the race] and that was the key today. It really means a lot to me, he's a former world champion, he's one of the best sprinters in the world and I really appreciate that he worked for me," Bauhaus said after the race.
Bouhanni's stage four win and second place on stage five saw the French sprinter finish second to Bauhaus in the GC, two seconds down, while Rui Costa, who led the race for the first two days, finishes third, 13 seconds behind.
How it happened
The fifth and final stage of the 2020 Saudi Tour was set up for a showdown between two of the bigger teams who had ventured to the Middle East in preparation for the start of the season proper.
Nacer Bouhanni's stage four victory saw him leapfrog Phil Bauhaus, and with only two seconds separating the riders the winner on the line would take all the spoils.
Rolling out from the female-only Princess Nourah University, the peloton would complete the flattest parcours of the week over a 144km course finishing in the centre of Riyadh.
The group of four that were allowed up the road were Ribble Weldtite's Richard Jones, who had been suffering all week after a crash on stage one, Rally Cycling's Nigel Ellsay, Jon Irisarri (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) and Vuelta a España stage winner Ángel Madrazo.
They had taken out an advantage of two and a half minutes with 70km, and would decrease by 30 seconds over the next 15km.
Mark Cavendish punctured with 65km to go, which was sorted seamlessly, unlike the previous day when Rod Ellingworth jumped out to assist the mechanic as Phil Bauhaus punctured and accidentally took the replacement wheel away.
There was a small crash with 45km, which resulted in no major injuries, while the breakaway held their gap over the main field. In fact, over the next 10km they even took their advantage back out to two and a half minutes.
It was only in the final 15km that the WorldTour teams decided enough was enough and started to put the hammer down. Soon the gap was down to 1-30, and as it kept creeping down Ellsay attacked with 7.5km remaining. Jones was subsequently dropped and eventually was the final man to cross the line four minutes down, paying for his effort on this stage and over the whole week.
Madrazo then sat up with 6km to go as Ellsay continued to try and get the escapees to work together. This proved futile as they were soon swept up and Total Direct Energie led the bunch hurtling into the centre of Riyadh with 2km to go.
Under the flamme rouge and Bahrain-McLaren took over on the front. A traffic cone was stopped as it was nearly flung into the middle of the pack as the sprint trains started to wind up and launch their fast men.
Mark Cavendish led the race with 400m to go, providing Bauhaus' lead-out, before unleashing the German and despite Bouhanni's efforts, the Frenchman couldn't peg him back. Bauhaus won the sprint and took the overall victory.
Saudi Tour 2020, stage five: Princess Nourah University to Al Masnak (144km)
1. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-McLaren, in 3-18-57
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
3. Arvid de Kleijn (Ned) Riwal Readynez
4. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Circus-Wanty Gobert
5. Imerio Cima (Ita), Gazprom - RusVelo
6. Matteo Malucelli (Ita) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Youcef Reguigui (Alg) Terengganu Inc. TSG
8. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (RSA) NTT
9. Carlos Barbero (Esp) NTT
10. Jetse Bol (Ned) Burgos-BH, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-McLaren, in 17-53-38
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at two seconds
3. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 13s
4. Youcef Reguigui (Alg) Terengganu Inc. TSG, at 22s
5. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-McLaren, at 23s
6. Carlos Barbero (Esp) NTT, at 24s
7. Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo, at 25s
8. Andreas Kron (Den) Riwal Readynez, at same time
9. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie, at 26s
10. August Jensen (Nor) Riwal Readynez, at same time
Final points classification
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, 51 pts
2. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-McLaren, 48 pts
3. Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie, 27 pts
Final youth classification
1. Andreas Kron (Den) Riwal Readynez, in 17-54-03
2. Orluis Aular (Col) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA, at 16s
3. Connor Swift (GBr) Arkéa-Samsic, at 19s
Final teams classification
1. Riwal Readynez (Den), in 53-42-33
2. Total Direct Energie (Fra), at 16s
3. Astana (Kaz), at 30s
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