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Tour of Saudi Arabia - a look behind the scenes of an undiscovered country

Wednesday, Feb 12, 2020 in Pro Cycling

Five days of cycling on the Arabian Peninsula have been a successful start into the season for BIKE AID in the middle of a high-class peloton surrounded by fascinating sceneries.

When the organizer of the Tour de France invites to a bike race, it is a huge honor for a UCI continental team and in the same way you can expect that the rest of the peleton is of highest quality.In that sense, the invitation also means a certain responsibility on the part of the team and expectations towards the riders to fulfill the expectations following the invite.

At the start of the season, the Tour of Saudi Arabia is still quite a challenge for our team. How did the riders get through the winter, how will the new riders integrate into the team? But what our boys delivered during the following 760km, however, surprised us and gives big confidence for the upcoming races.

The races were characterized by the duel between the World Tour Teams Bahrain - McLaren for Phil Bauhaus, Heinrich Haussler and the thirty times Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendisch and the UAE team Emirates for the former world champion Rui Costa only interrupted by the boxing sprinter Nacer Bouhanni from french team Arkéa Samsic.

After the race we can proudly name our team BIKE AID as one of the teams that animated the race. Anyone who has watched the live broadcast on Eurosport in the past few days was able to see that BIKE AID was omnipresent. Over many kilometers, our riders have shaped the race in break-aways on 4 out of 5 stages. Nikodemus Holler alone was represented in 3 stages sitting in the break of the day and Suleiman Kangangi was able to keep up on the fourth stage, when Rui Costa tried with an huge effort to take the overall win. On the third stage, Lucas Carstensen achieved a top ten result, which in the meantime brought him to 10th place in the overall ranking.

New signing Erik Bergström Frisk was always up to date, especially when things were a bit mountainous and the top sprinters were in trouble. In the end it wasn't difficult enough for him, the teams kept bringing their sprinters back after the pack was sometimes splitted to only 15 to 20 riders. In the end, it was only enough for 27th place in the GC, but only 1: 29 min down on the winner. In the team ranking BIKE AID was just 4:52 min behind, while the other two continental teams ended up far back in the last places.

But in addition to the sporting aspect, the trip to this country, which was unknown to us, was a great experience as well.In our western countries one quickly forms his opinion about the countries on the Arabian Peninsula. There are enough reports of major sporting events in front of deserted grandstands. But as always, the world looks different if you get yourself a picture at place.

Sure, there are not hundreds of thousands of spectators along the road in the desert, but there are good reasons for this and these are not due to the lack of enthusiasm among the locals. In a country where the 50 degree mark is happily broken in summer, life logically takes place more in cool indoor spaces during the day, which is firmly anchored in the local culture.

When our athletes close their eyes early to relax for the next stage, our staff members could experience a completely different Saudi Arabia. As soon as the sun goes down and the temperature drops, life returns to the streets and you can plunge into the strange bustle, stop at one of the numerous tea houses or stroll through an oriental market. One can find a desert and stone landscape as bleak.

But the pictures of the landscape through which the pack roamed have a fascinating beauty of their own that we have rarely seen. It was a special experience for our team; a successful start into the season in sport, animating a world-class race and taking many new impressions back home.