Three punctures can't prevent Dylan Groenewegen from victory at Saudi Tour

Jayco AlUla rider pays his sponsors back with a stage one win

Dylan Groenewegen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every cyclist knows the sense of frustration that comes with a flat tyre. To have two on a single ride is outrageous, madness, too much misfortune for a Shakespearean tragedy, but three is too much. 

This is what Dylan Groenewegen had to put up with on his way to victory on stage one of the Saudi Tour. The first was a tragedy, the second was a farce, so it's difficult to know what a third puncture meant. 

"I had three flat tyres," the Dutch sprinter explained. "There were a lot of stones on the road. We knew that before though. The team brought me in perfect position, and also brought me back after the punctures. I think it was the same for every team, there were a lot of punctures. It was nothing special for me."

This might be true, but then it took the effort of all seven Jayco riders to pull him back repeatedly, especially the one which happened at the same time as the bunch split, and none of the other riders with punctures won the stage. 

"I saw the peloton was split and then got a puncture, and I was like 'oh no'," Groenewegen said. "But the boys were waiting for me, the team was strong, and we saw it today.

"They did a really good job to put us back in position and then we had to pull full gas to take the leaders back. So I had only three guys left in the final, but the timing was key today."

In the end, it was easy, as he managed the hectic final few kilomètres perfectly, guided expertly by his Jayco AlUla teammates Zdeněk Štybar and Luka Mezgec, and won in the end by a bike length, able to sit up, look back, and then throw his arms up in celebration. 

It was the victory his team needed at this race, effectively one on home soil thanks to the sponsorship from AlUla, a tourism drive for the area in north Saudi Arabia where the race is happening. 

On Sunday, Groenewegen had said there was no pressure on him or his colleagues, but there likely was. However, now a stage win has been achieved, the squad can relax, and perhaps deliver more this week. 

"Everyone was ready for today," he said. "The only thing we wanted was the victory. I also wanted to make the sponsor proud and I knew that we have a really good training camp, so the shape was really good."

The recipient of both the leader's green jersey and the red jersey for the points completion, Groenewegen was keen to praise his teammates while being reticent to talk up his own shape, despite clearly being the best sprinter in the field on Monday. 

"We learned a lot from last year," has said. "We watched a lot of videos back this winter. We had a lot of meetings with the sprint train, we had some new guys there, and I think we saw today that we're ready for this season. The victory was really important today, but we want to do it again tomorrow."

"I haven't seen the video [of the win] back yet, but I knew it was enough for the victory. I know the shape is good for everyone, and Luka is full of confidence in me, I know he's the best lead out, I only have to stay on his wheel and he brings me into the right position. I just want to say thanks to the team."

If punctures and a lack of a full sprint train can't stop the Dutchman, then it is difficult to know what could during his week in the desert. 

His team's new sponsor would be very happy to have all the screen time they can get over the next four stages, and the way this is going, they might have AlUla front and centre in AlUla for the remainder. 

"There is at least two more [sprint] chances, so hopefully we can take them," Groenewegen said. "First we celebrate this one, with apple juice, but it will taste really good after today. We will see, and we are looking forward to tomorrow."

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.