Britain’s Olympic cycling coach resigns over comments

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MANCHESTER, England — One of the key figures behind Britain’s successful Olympic cycling team resigned on Wednesday, soon after being suspended by the national governing body for allegedly making discriminatory remarks to riders.

Shane Sutton stepped down from his position as technical director at British Cycling, saying the furor around his suspension has “clearly become a distraction” as the team begins its final preparations for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Female cyclist Jess Varnish said last week in British newspaper The Daily Mail that Sutton made derogatory comments about her body shape and told her to “move on and have a baby” after she failed to qualify for this year’s Olympics.

In the same newspaper on Tuesday, para-cyclist Darren Kenny said he heard Sutton refer to members of the disability team in derogatory terms.

British Cycling said Sutton was the subject of an investigation because of “allegations of discrimination that have been reported in the press.” Sutton rejects the accusations but has resigned.

“I look forward to taking a full part in the review process so I can respond to the allegations in detail,” Sutton said in a statement released by British Cycling.

The body has already announced it will be undertaking an independent review into its performance programs.

Sutton, a 58-year-old Australian, is a respected coach who has been with the Britain squad since 2002. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in her honors list in 2010.

Under Sutton, Britain topped the cycling medal standings at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing after winning 14 medals. Britain won 12 medals in cycling at the London Olympics in 2012.

“Cycling is my passion and I have always worked to get the very best out of professional athletes,” Sutton said. “I am proud of what British Cycling has achieved and I am excited by the potential of the team for Rio. They will always have my full support.”

Speaking before accusations made by Kenny, Sutton denied making the comments about Varnish.

“Actually I’m embracing the opportunity to sit in front of the panel and give my view because I don’t think I’ve been heard properly from Day 1 of this,” Sutton told The Times newspaper. “I’ve had great support from everybody here, but at the end of the day it’s an allegation.”

Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, who is now retired, told The Daily Telegraph that she never felt British Cycling gave her the same respect as her male teammates, and said she knows “exactly how miserable they made me.”

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads

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ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”