After two third-places and a fifth in the opening three stages, Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) got his win at Saudi Tour, Friday. The Frenchman launched a powerful sprint on stage 4 to beat Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Energie) and Yevgeniy Gidich (Astana).
“I needed this victory because otherwise you start to doubt,” said Bouhanni after netting his first win since August 2018.
The race had kicked into life with 40km remaining as UAE-Team Emirates split the bunch for GC contender Rui Costa, however, Bahrain-McLaren and other sprint teams brought the action back together ten kilometers later.
The danger wasn’t over for Bahrain-McLaren however, with their captain and race-leader Phil Bahaus puncturing with 25km to go. Costa, sensing his moment to return to the top of GC having slipped three seconds behind the German on stage 3 Thursday, piled on the pressure and went clear with a small group of other escapees.
Costa remained out front with one other rider until the final three kilometers, at which point a huge effort from the entire Bahrain-McLaren team brought the race together and put Bauhaus back in contact with his GC rivals.
Direct Energie led the race into the final straight as they looked to set up Bonifazio for the bunch kick, while Arkea-Samsic moved up late, with one man in front of Bouhanni as they ducked and dived through the bunch. Bouhanni was well maneuvered into position by his leadout man and launched his move with 200 meters to go to take the victory that he had come so close to in earlier stages.
Bouhanni, Costa, and Bauhaus all finished on the same time, but the bonus seconds awarded to the stage winner place Bouhanni at the top of the GC with only Saturday’s flat stage remaining.
“Today, my teammates did an incredible job,” said Bouhanni. “By being launched in that way, I could only win. Now let’s defend this jersey!”
Stage 4 results:
- Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea Samsic): 03:21:55
- Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Enegie) S.T.
- Yevgeniy Gidich (Astana): S.T.
GC after stage 4:
- Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea Samsic): 14:34:49
- Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain McLaren): +00:00:02
- Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates): +00:00:05