Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Soudal) outlasted Andrea Bagioli (QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl) on the brutal finishing climb of stage 4 to to take his first WorldTour Stage win and become the new overall leader of the Saudi Tour with one stage to go.
On the gruelling ascent to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid which reached as much as a 22% gradient, Van Gils followed Bagioli’s attack to latch onto the Italian’s wheel and eventually crack him under pressure to ride away for stage glory.
Luka Mezgec (BikeExchange-Jayco) beat out Tim Declerq (QuickStep Alpha Vinyl) in the sprint for second place a full 40 seconds back from Van Gils, who now holds a 36-second advantage atop the general classification over Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) with Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) a further 12 seconds back in third overall.
Rampant crosswinds formed huge early splits in the peloton as a group of 18 riders including Van Gils and a well-supported Bagioli took the front with the Bahrain-led chase group trying and failing all day to bring them back.
By the time they had caught up on the climb, it was already too late for a tired Buitrago to capitalise, the eventual winner already far up the steep roads on his way to victory.
With the lead group thinning as the gradient reached double digits, Bagioli attacked with 10 kilometres to go, seemingly cracking everyone before Van Gils found enough in the legs to follow.
The two began a tense duel as the road snaked onwards and upwards and the Belgian gradually inched ahead of the Italian, who appeared to finally be tiring with a lot of racing left.
It all became too much for Bagioli as he succumbed to Van Gils’ pressure before cresting the climb, as the dark horse for Lotto Soudal powered through the final flat 5 kilometres to take a memorable stage win for his career.
The Queen stage of the Saudi Tour 2022 saw a tough climb and a windy flat section as 🇧🇪 Maxim Van Gils claimed his first pro win and the Green jersey 💚#SaudiTour | @maximvangils – @Lotto_Soudal pic.twitter.com/ea1vTF7IvM
— Saudi Tour طواف السعودية (@thesauditour) February 4, 2022