I enjoyed watching the Saudi Tour in 2022, and with the current weather forecast, this year should be even better. There’s four sprint stages and one GC day, but as most of the race takes place in the desert, the wind can play havoc with the peloton.
Should be a sprint, but with 25km/h crosswinds, it could end up getting blown to pieces.
The current prediction is for 30-40km/h wind. If this is true, the peloton could be very small at the finish.
Another stage with crosswinds of 25km/h. The finish isn’t flat either, there’s 1km at 7% which crests with 1km to go. Even without the wind, some of the sprinters wouldn’t challenge for the win, it’s a tricky finish.
The big GC day with a wall climb at the end. It’s 3.2km at 11.2% and crests with 8km to go. Last year we saw Van Gils take the win, but in the second group were the likes of Mezgec, Declercq and Danny van Poppel. Considering the climb, that was some shift by the big guys.
The final stage looks like a nailed-on sprint, it should be the easiest stage of the race, but there is a gravel/off-road section.
Santiago Buitrago – was second last year and starts as the favourite to take home the jersey. The Colombian has the punch required to be the fastest up the wall climb in stage 4, and he has the sprint to take some bonus seconds in the other stages. The issue for him could well be the wind, I’m not sure how he’ll get on if it blows a gale.
Luca Mezgec – you might raise your eyebrows at this one but give me a minute. In the wall stage last year, he was 2nd, it’s a strange climb, one where raw power can get you a long way. If we do see echelons in the opening stages, he’ll be right at the front and in the mix. I don’t think the team will start with a plan of trying to drop the climbers, but that will come naturally if the race is put in the gutter.
Ruben Guerreiro – his first race for Movistar, he’ll want it to be a good one. Technically speaking, he’s the best climber in the race, so he must be one of the big favourites. The problem for him is the same as all the climbers, will he survive if the wind blows?
Jacob Hindsgaul – the little climber from Uno-X is one to keep an eye on. Over the last couple of years, the team have punched above their weight and surprised a few, particularly at the start of the year. He’s a good shout for a top 5.
UAE – despite having one fewer rider than the rest, they start with the strongest GC team. Formolo, Gibbons and Großschartner will lead the squad, and that’s a very strong trio for the rest to deal with. At this point, I have no idea about team leadership, but Gibbons is a rider who always likes to start the year in good form. They went to recon the big stage and Gibbons clocked a time 1 minute slower than the time Buitrago produced in last year’s race. Considering he wouldn’t have been going full gas, I think he might fancy his chances of challenging for the win.
The wind to blow and the climbers to suffer. To win the race you need to survive the echelons and be good enough on the wall climb to stay near the front.
I’ll take a win for Ryan Gibbons.
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