Bonifazio wins as Rui Costa holds onto slim lead after day two of inaugural Saudi Tour cycle race

Italy’s Niccolo Bonifazio of Total Direct Energie celebrates on the podium after winning the Saudi Tour second stage. (AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Bonifazio wins as Rui Costa holds onto slim lead after day two of inaugural Saudi Tour cycle race

  • Costa maintains slim lead after Wednesday’s 187km run from Sadus Castle to outskirts of Riyadh

RIYADH: The top three riders remained unchanged on Wednesday after stage two of the inaugural Saudi Tour 2020.

Portuguese cyclist Rui Costa, a member of UAE Team Emirates, held onto his slim overall lead with a combined time of 8 hours 24 minutes and 35 seconds. Australian Heinrich Haussler, who rides for Bahrain-McLaren, remains in second place, just one second behind, followed by Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni, of Team Arkea-Samsic, two seconds off Costa’s pace.

As the competition intensified on day two, Italian rider Niccolo Bonifazio, of French team Total Direct Energie, won the 187 kilometer second stage in a time of 4 hours 32mins and 31 seconds, with Germany’s Phil Bauhaus, of Bahrain-McLaren, second and Bouhanni third. Just two seconds separated the top 34 finishers on the day.

Danish rider Andreas Lorentz Kron, of Riwal Readynez Cycling Team, held onto his lead in the youth section, and also sits in fifth place overall, nine seconds behind Costa.

The second stage began at Sadus Castle and finish at Al-Bujairi historical district of Diriyah Governorate. Thursday’s stage three will set off from King Saud University and the riders will cover 119 km before again finishing at Al-Bujairi.

David Lappartient, president of international sports cycling governing body the International Cycling Union, said on Wednesday that he was pleased to be attending the inaugural Saudi Tour.

“I am happy with the efforts made by those in charge of this race, and the good job they have done in organizing and arranging it,” he said. “I also liked the welcome given by people to the contestants at the start of the race, and their interaction with them.

“I am already looking forward to next year’s event. This year’s race has been a success from the start, from what I have seen and what many of the contestants in Saudi Arabia have told me. They have spoken positively about the race and its organization. This success will encourage many teams to participate in future Saudi Tours.”

He added: “Thank you to the Saudis for their hospitality and generous reception...and thank you for all the efforts made by the sports administration in Saudi Arabia.”

A total of 126 contestants in 18 international teams are competing in the 760 km, five-stage Saudi Tour. The race has been organized by the General Sport Authority, in coordination with the Saudi Cycling Federation, under the patronage of the International Cycling Union, as part of the Kingdom’s Quality of Life Program 2020.

FIFA bribe allegations raise more questions over Qatar World Cup

Updated 07 April 2020

FIFA bribe allegations raise more questions over Qatar World Cup

  • Suspicion and rumors have long surrounded Qatar's bid

LONDON: The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has become the focus of fresh FIFA corruption allegations after the release of a new US Department of Justice indictment which says bribes were paid to football officials to secure their votes for hosting rights.

Suspicion and rumors have long surrounded both the 2010 vote by FIFA’s executive to hand the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. But on Monday, for the first time, prosecutors set direct, formal allegations down in print.

According to the prosecutors, representatives working for Russia and Qatar bribed FIFA executive committee officials to swing votes in the crucial decision of world football’s governing body.

FIFA and the Qatar World Cup organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Qatar and Russia’s World Cup bids have always denied paying bribes.

Although FIFA has reacted to previous media allegations about the Qatar bid process by insisting the tournament will be unaffected, the USallegations will lead to further questions over the hosting of the tournament, which is scheduled for November and December of 2022.

The indictment states that the three South American members of FIFA’s 2010 executive — Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira, the late Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and an unnamed co-conspirator — took bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 tournament.

“Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and co-conspirator #1 were offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup,” reads the indictment.

Teixeira, the former son-in-law of long-time FIFA boss Joao Havelange and ex-head of the Brazilian soccer federation (CBF), was not immediately reachable for comment.

The DOJ also alleges that then FIFA vice president Jack Warner was paid $5 million through various shell companies to vote for Russia to host the 2018 World Cup.

Warner has been accused of a number of crimes in the long-running USprobe and is fighting extradition from his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. Warner, who was not immediately reachable for comment, has always denied any wrongdoing.

Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the local organizing committee for Russia’s 2018 World Cup, told the Interfax news agency: “This is only the opinion of lawyers. We have repeatedly said that our bid was transparent.

“At the time we answered all questions, including from the investigation branch of FIFA and from the media, we handed over all needed documents. We have nothing to add to this and we will not respond to attempts to cast a shadow on our bid.”

Asked if the Kremlin was aware of the US indictment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We read the media reports. We don’t understand what they refer to.

“Russia received the right to host the World Cup completely legally. It is in no way linked to any bribes. We reject this. And Russia hosted the best soccer World Cup in history, which we are proud of.”

The Qatar World Cup organizers have been fending off allegations of corruption ever since the tiny Gulf state was awarded the 2022 tournament.

In 2014, FIFA, then under the control of former President Sepp Blatter, cleared Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing in their bids to host the World Cup after an investigation.

Blatter was banned from football by FIFA along with scores of other officials following internal ethics investigations, promoted by the arrests of seven FIFA officials on UScorruption charges in Zurich in May 2015.