Rui Costa storms to glory on opening stage of Saudi Tour 2020

A chaotic day of racing in crosswinds closed out in a full-gas finish after a sharp climb

Rui Costa stormed back to winning ways on the opening stage of the Saudi Tour after an unpredictable finish.

The former world champion kept out of trouble as crosswinds split the peloton throughout the day, before he launched his final attack in pursuit of the breakaway on the sharp final climb inside 1km.

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Bahrain-McLaren put in a formidable show of strength throughout stage one of the inaugural edition, with Mark Cavendish tucked safely at the tail of their train, but it was Costa and UAE Team Emirates who won the day, taking the first race leader’s jersey in the process.

How it happened

The first day of racing in Saudi Arabia kicked off with a 173km run from the capital Riyadh to Jaww, with two gradual climbs early before a mostly flat final 50km.

But the finish was to prove unpredictable, owing to a short and sharp uncategorised climb inside the final kilometres that had the potential to dispatch any sprinters lacking in form.

The race settled into an early rhythm around 20km into the stage as six riders went clear to form the first breakaway.

Pablo Guerrero (Burgos-BH), Stephen Bassett (Rally Cycling), Maral-Erdene Batmunkh (Terengganu Inc-TSG), Jesse de Rooij, Nikodemus Holler (Bike Aid) and Brit Oliver Moore from Ribble-Weldtite made up the initial move and pulled out a 4-30 gap.

With around 65km to race, the desert winds came into play and split the bunch into two large groups, with Mark Cavendish making it into the front group.

The lead half of the peloton swept up the day’s breakaway and pulled out a 50-second gap on the chasers.

With around 20km to race, a new breakaway had formed consisting of Bert De Backer (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Andreas Kron (Riwal Readynez), Evaldas Šiškevičius (Nippo Delko One Provence) and Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-McLaren) escaped the peloton.

Into the final kilometre and the peloton were still chasing the late break, as Haussler kicked on the final climb.

The Australian faded as Costa surged from the peloton and hit the front as the road levelled out, holding on to claim victory ahead of Haussler.

Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) fought hard to close out the podium.

Saudi Tour 2020, stage one: Riyadh to Jaww (173km)

1. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, in 3-52-12
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-McLaren
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
4. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
5. Carlos Barbero (Esp) NTT Pro Cycling
6. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-McLaren
7. Andreas Kron (Den) Riwal Readynez
8. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie
9. Matteo Malucelli (Ita) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, all at same time

General classification after stage one

1. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, 3-52-02
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-McLaren, 1s
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at 6s
4. Andreas Kron (Den) Riwal Readnez, at 9s
5. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, at 10s
6. Carlos Barbero (Esp) NTT Pro cycling
7. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-McLaren
8. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie
9. Matteo Malucelli (Ita) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, all at same time