Cummings wins Tour stage as inflatable device blocks riders

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LAC DE PAYOLLE, France (AP) British rider Steve Cummings won the Tour de France seventh stage which came to a bizarre end when an inflatable arch marking the final kilometer collapsed on Friday.

Adam Yates, a British rider with the Orica team, was hit by the arch and reached the finish with a bloodied chin.

“He was alone when it happened. He could not brake and did a somersault and fell on his face,” Orica sports director Laurenzo Lapage said. “The doctor is seeing him now. His shoulder is aching.”

Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium, who was in a breakaway with Cummings, held on to the yellow jersey he claimed two days earlier.

Overall favorites Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana finished in the main pack during the first stage in the Pyrenees.

Froome, Quintana, and other riders had to lift the arch – known as the “flamme rouge” for the red flag it holds – off the ground and slip their bikes underneath it.

Organizers said they would take finishing times three kilometers from the finish of the 162.5-kilometer (101-mile) leg from L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle.

“It won’t make a big difference because there was a downhill and flat portion before the finish,” said Thierry Gouvenou, the Tour technical director. “It was a major incident, but we have the means to deal with it.”

Daryl Impey of South Africa finished second and Daniel Navarro of Spain crossed third, each 65 seconds behind Cummings. However, it wasn’t immediately clear what times they would be given.

In the overall, Van Avermaet leads Julian Alaphilippe by 6:36, with Alejandro Valverde third, 6:38 back.

“I did not plan to be in a breakaway,” Van Avermaet said. “I’m not a good climber, I’m a classic rider, and the big favorites did not see me as a threat. Tomorrow, it will be too difficult with all the climbs, but I’m happy I spent an extra day in the yellow jersey.”

Thibaut Pinot, considered one of the top French contenders, was dropped on the Aspin.

All 198 riders started the stage, marking the first time the entire peloton was still racing this late in the Tour in 103 editions.

The Aspin, which was included in the Tour for the 73rd time, was affronted from its longer southern slope, 12 kilometers at an average gradient of 6.5 percent.

Fresh off his third stage win a day earlier, Mark Cavendish was involved in an early breakaway along with world champion Peter Sagan.

After the Cavendish-Sagan group was caught by the peloton, a 29-man pack featuring Van Avermaet and 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali established a more dangerous lead of five minutes.

However, it was Cummings who attacked first and he rode solo over the summit and maintained a comfortable lead on the ensuing high-speed descent and slight rise to the finish in Lac de Payolle.

Cummings shook his head in disbelief as he approached the line then raised both arms, pumped his fist, and kissed his wrist.

Cummings, a teammate of Mark Cavendish on Team Dimension Data, also won a stage in last year’s Tour.

When the main pack reached the line 4 1/2 minutes later, Quintana and Froome were seen patting each other on the back and talking to each other, likely about the incident with the inflatable device.

The Tour remains in the Pyrenees for the next two days.

Stage 8 on Saturday is a much more challenging 184-kilometer (114-mile) leg from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon featuring four serious climbs, beginning with the Col du Tourmalet, which is so difficult it’s labeled “beyond classification.”

AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

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.”