ZUBELDIA, FULLY ENTITLED16/11/2023
Nearly 300 kilometres of desert, 2,000 metres of cumulative elevation gain, canyons, dry rivers and mountains. After three stages of the NEOM Titan Desert Saudi Arabia, the only way to decide who leads the men’s GC is by the rules. And there, the tie-break criterion determines that Haimar Zubeldia will wear the red jersey tomorrow.
Because Enrique Morcillo and Zubeldia have been the two best in the peloton consistently over three days of hard work. The time taken by both riders in the three stages is the same: 11 hours, 36 minutes and 23 seconds.
Where Zubeldia has been better than Morcillo is in the finishing order of the stages: 2nd in the first stage, 2nd in the second stage and 1st in today’s stage. Thus, he improves the finishing positions of Morcillo, who came in third yesterday.
It’s hard to think that the riders had this in mind when they set off this morning. 92 kilometres ahead in one of the most spectacular stages in living memory. A wonderful contrast of landscapes and a number of challenges for all of them.
Already at the first checkpoint, the two leaders reduced the group considerably. Only Lluís Mas was keeping pace with these two Titans. However, once they entered the most technical and pure part of mountain biking, Zubeldia and Morcillo opened up a gap.
That’s how they arrived, working together to the finish line. They knew that, for yet another day, only the sprint could decide who would win the stage. The Basque rider was faster today by just a few metres. But it was those metres that allowed him to take the lead on the last day.
After almost 300 kilometres of desert, 2,000 metres of accumulated elevation gain and the passage through canyons, dry rivers and mountains, it is the metres of the sprint that separate the two leaders.
RÓDENAS, WITHOUT RIVALS
There is less excitement right now in the women’s GC. Ariadna Ródenas sentenced the race yesterday with an unforgettable display. The rider from Elche would have earned the right to take it easy and play with her advantage, but she feels strong.
That’s why the Mondraker rider won her second consecutive stage victory. Her sixth in this race, if we count the four she won in the 2022 edition.
Her direct rival, Tessa Kortekaas, crossed the finish line in tears yesterday after losing more than half an hour to the leader. A consequence of fatigue and the long season that has also led to a digestive upset.
Thus, the Dutchwoman, who dominated the races in Morocco and Almeria, has decided not to continue in the race.
A hard blow for the competition in the women’s category, but which in no way tarnishes the incredible performance of Ródenas in the race.
Today she won the GC with a huge gap over Eva Lamela, currently second in the GC after Kortekaas’ withdrawal, but who is more than three hours behind the virtual winner of the NEOM Titan Desert Saudi Arabia.