In a stage that threatened in its closing stages to be split by crosswinds Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla) came through to win the hotly contested sprint against a gaggle of the best sprinters in the world.
The Jayco-AlUla rider timed his jump to perfection to best Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) to the finish.
Both the Dutchman and the Colombian had been competing for the Irishman’s wheel and while the Colombian went first the Dutchman was just too powerful for his competitors.
Brit Mark Cavendish racked-up a convincing performance in the sprint coming from a little way back but it was only enough to claim eighth spot.
After the stage Groenewegen said: “It was a hard one, it was difficult to have good timing…. The guys put me in a good position and it was a good victory.
Asked how important this win was for him he said: “Its really important, we had a good win in the Saudi Tour [earlier this month] and it’s nice to win in every race you are in.”
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal - Quick-Step) remains in the GC leader’s jersey and even lengthened his lead over Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) by two seconds after taking two bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint.
How it happened
After around 50km of riding and before the first intermediate sprint point a break of four rider formed with Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Dstny), Josef Černý (Soudal - Quick-Step), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën) and Louis Vervaeke (Soudal - Quick-Step).
The two Soudal - Quick-Step riders mopped up the lion’s share of the intermediate sprint points before dropping back to the peloton. Then Bouchard dropped back too leaving De Gendt in a familiar position, alone out front with just under 100km to race.
The Jumbo-Visma and Jayco-AlUla teams shared much of the work at the front of the peloton pulling for their sprinters Olav Kooij and Dylan Groenewegen respectively.
The Belgian breakaway master duly picked up the maximum points and bonus seconds at the next intermediate sprint while race leader Remco Evenepoel struck out of the peloton to pick up the bonus seconds for second place.
With 17km to go splits began to appear in the peloton and crosswinds below across the desert, which was strung out along the road with some of the main favourites both for the overall and the stage caught out of position teams including Soudal - Quick-Step, Boars Hansgrohe and Bahrain Victorious began to push hard.
Ineos Grenadiers who had second place on GC, Luke Plapp, in their ranks, found themselves in the second group and chased hard but the gap yawned open to 25 seconds at one point.
Their pressing did bear fruit eventually as the they, battling a headwind now, dragged the second group back to the front with 9km to go.
All that action burned out many of the sprinters lead outs and it was Bora Hansgrohe that probably did the best job for their sprinter but unfortunately for them Groenewegen was just on his wheel waiting to pounce.
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