Crafty teamwork helps Trentin win longest Giro stage

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PINEROLO, Italy — Matteo Trentin used a late counterattack and some crafty teamwork to win the longest stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday, while Steven Kruijswijk held on to a comfortable overall lead with only two challenging legs to go.

Cannondale’s Moreno Moser and Trentin’s Etixx Quick-Step teammate Gianluca Brambilla were in the lead approaching the finish line when Trentin bridged the gap from a chasing group. Brambilla was told by radio that Trentin was coming while Moser wasn’t aware, allowing Trentin to burst past and claim his third victory in a Grand Tour.

“It was a win built with teamwork,” said Trentin, who also won two stages in the Tour de France, in 2013 and 2014, plus the Paris-Tours single-day classic last year. “I was sure that sooner or later a stage for me would come.”

Moser finished second and Brambilla crossed third, both with the same time as Trentin — nearly 5 1/2 hours. All three Italians were part of an early breakaway.

The main pack with Kruijswijk and the other leaders finished more than 13 minutes behind in the 18th stage, a 244-kilometer (152-mile) leg from Muggio to Pinerolo.

The route started out flat but concluded with some steep hills and a dangerous descent before flattening out again shortly before the finish.

With his open jersey revealing his bare chest, Trentin had time to celebrate as he coasted over the line.

“I tried to play it cool and keep Moser a little bit tired to keep him in the front,” Brambilla said. “I saw a blue jersey coming around so I stopped helping Moser, I just stayed in the wheel and we managed to get the victory. I’m really happy for Matteo.”

It was the fourth victory for the Etixx team after Marcel Kittel won the opening two sprints and Brambilla took Stage 8. Kittel and Brambilla also wore the overall leader’s pink jersey briefly.

Kruijswijk leads Esteban Chaves by 3 minutes, with Alejandro Valverde 3:23 behind in third.

There are two challenging mountain stages Friday and Saturday before the 99th edition of the race ends in Turin on Sunday.

Stage 19 Friday features the Colle dell’Agnello pass, the highest point of the race at an altitude of 2,744 meters (9,000 feet). Organizers cleared meters (yards) of snow off the pass earlier this week.

“I’m getting closer every day to winning the Giro,” Kruijswijk said. “Tomorrow it looks like a good stage for me. I like long climbs. Maybe I can do something. After finishing second three times, I’d like a stage win as well but firstly I’ll defend the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey).”

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.”