Soudal Quick-Step leaves Saudi Arabia with two stage wins and two jerseys.
William Junior Lecerf needed only one race and basically one ascent to show what he is capable of, in the process confirming he is one of the most exciting climbing talents to turn pro in recent years. Just 21 years of age, the diminutive Belgian showed endless guts, class and an incredible ease on what was arguably the hardest climb tackled by the peloton since the start of the season, a 2.9km “wall” averaging 12.3% but featuring some insane maximum gradients of 17%.
Everyone knew before the start of the fifth stage that the Harrat Uwayrid ascent would be decisive in the fight for the general classification, with the gaps between the contenders minimal, but nobody expected Lecerf to play such a prominent role in the finale. With the leading group whittled down to a handful of riders, William launched a dazzling attack that further decimated the field about 1500 meters from the top, plugging away on the slopes on the stinging slopes.
Three riders joined him on the plateau with eight kilometers to go, and the quartet decided to work together given that they had a consistent buffer over the chasers. The four lost some of that chunk going under the flamme rouge, but it was still enough to remain at the front and fight for the victory. The Belgian produced a great sprint from that group, to finish just a wheel’s length behind Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) and clinch a remarkable second place in the overall classification of this fourth edition.
“It’s an incredible day for me. The team did a fantastic job, putting me in an excellent position at the bottom of the climb, and I want to thank them for that. I felt very good so I attacked on one of the steepest sections. When the others came across I knew we had a good chance of going all the way. It’s a pity I was a bit boxed in in the sprint, where I had the legs, but still, to finish second in my first pro race is something amazing for me. I am happy to be on the GC podium here”, said William – the best young rider of the race – who was joined on the podium by Soudal Quick-Step teammate Tim Merlier, winner of the points jersey thanks to his pair of back-to-back stage victories.
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