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Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X Mobility) scored his first victory of the 2024 season, coming out on top in a much-reduced bunch sprint on the uphill finish on stage 2 of the AlUla Tour.
The Norwegian led the charge towards the line at Sharaan Nature Reserve, beating Henok Mulubrhan (Astana Qazaqstan) and Nils Eekhoff (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) to the finish after the group caught late solo attacker Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) inside the final 200 metres.
The Frenchman had attacked 1.5km from the line, pulling out a few seconds’ lead before Bora=Hansgrohe, Uno-X and DSM led the group across just 150 metres out from the finish, setting up a swift sprint finish.
Wærenskjold, who won stage 3 at the race last year, now takes over the green leader’s jersey heading into a flatter finish on stage 3. He lies level on time with stage 1 winner Casper van Uden (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) thanks to his first and fourth places in comparison with the Dutchman.
“I seem to perform well when I’m far from home,” Wærenskjold said after his win. “It was a tailwind in the sprint so that suited me better because I’m a tall guy. It’s nice to get a good start to the season – you’re always curious with how it will start but it seems like the winter has been OK, at least.
“It was a little bit easier than the one we had last year which was really steep. This one was a bit better for me. We wanted to stay at the front but not too far up in the last 4km, so we did perfectly. Then we just tried to gather at the top and keep the momentum in the last 500 metres because it goes a little bit uphill, so you don’t want to lose the power. We timed it perfectly.
“It’s a lot of sprint stage so it’s a little bit tiring for the head to be turned on mentally every stage. Luckily, in the last stage I can take it a bit easier up the last climb, but there are two more chances for me and then we go for Anders [Halland Johannessen] on the last stage.”
Wærenskjold had come through a crosswind battle earlier in the stage as the peloton split in the high desert winds at 120km to go. However, the wind didn’t blow for too long, letting the 23-year-old and other dropped riders make their way back to the front.
Afterwards, five men hit the front of the race in a renewed breakaway attempt, with Enekoitz Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Andreas Miltiadis (Terengganu), Polychronis Tzortzakis, Tegsh-bayar Batsaikhan and (Roojai Insurance) and Atsushi Oka (JCL Team Ukyo) making the move.
The quintet built a lead of almost four minutes on the largely flat parcours, though they wouldn’t make it to the end as the peloton reeled them back in with 35km to run.
There was plenty of time for the big teams to set up a major battle on the uphill ride to the line, then, though Movistar were thrown off somewhat as team leader Davide Formolo was forced to chase back on after two punctures inside the final 20km.
Led by DSM and Tudor, the peloton reached the start of the climb at 7km to go still largely intact, though the high pace on the way up saw riders quickly drop away as Cofidis joined in the pacemaking.
Rafał Majka and Finn Fisher-Black attempted to put UAE Team Emirates’ stage-winning plan into action 2.5km from the finish, but both men were brought back fairly swiftly. At 1.5km out, it was Latour’s turn as the Frenchman broke into clear air on the right-hand side of the road.
He got a decent gap of a few seconds and held on to it well into the final kilometre, but with several quick finishers surviving in the reduced peloton, his time out front was also numbered, and he was forced to settle for ninth place as the sprinters shot by within sight of the line.
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