Greipel wins 5th stage; Dumoulin retains Giro lead

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BENEVENTO, Italy (AP) German rider Andre Greipel won a mass sprint by a large margin to take the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, and Tom Dumoulin held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey.

Greipel surged ahead on the final straight and had time to raise his arms before crossing the line.

It was Greipel’s 18th stage win in a Grand Tour – four at the Giro, 10 at the Tour de France and four in the Spanish Vuelta – and the 130th victory overall in his career.

“Chapeau to my teammates today. It was hard for them to chase down the break but they continued to work for me even if the other teams didn’t help us,” Greipel said. “In the sprint I tried not to be blocked in. There was still 300 meters to go but I felt good and decided to go for it.”

Riding for the Lotto Soudal team, Greipel clocked nearly six hours over the hilly 233-kilometer (145-mile) route from Praia to Benevento – the second-longest stage of this year’s race.

Arnaud Demare crossed second and Sonny Colbrelli was third.

Marcel Kittel, the German who won the opening two sprinting stages in the Netherlands, lost contact with the main pack in the final kilometers.

“I just wasn’t strong enough today,” Kittel said.

Dumoulin, of Team Giant-Alpecin, is 16 seconds ahead of Bob Jungels, with Diego Ulissi third overall, 20 seconds behind.

Alejandro Valverde, one of the favorites for the overall title, gained four seconds on rivals Vincenzo Nibali and Mikel Landa, who got caught behind a fall on the final curve.

An early breakaway of four riders – Daniel Oss, Alexander Foliforov, Amets Txurukka and Pavel Brutt – gained a lead of several minutes before being caught by the chasing pack with less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) to go.

Thursday’s Stage 6 is a 157-kilometer (98-mile) leg from Ponte to the Roccaraso, featuring the race’s first uphill finish.

“It’s going to be a tough finish and we’ll really find out how everyone’s form is,” Dumoulin said.

The 99th Giro ends May 29 in Turin.

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.”