Jarlinson Pantano wins brutal 15th stage of Tour de France

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CULOZ, France — Colombian rider Jarlinson Pantano won the brutal 15th stage of the Tour de France through the Jura mountains after a long breakaway on Sunday.

Pantano outsprinted Polish rider Rafal Majka to the finish line in Culoz.

On a day featuring hardly any flat stretches, there were plenty of attacks but only a few skirmishes between the main contenders. Race leader Chris Froome finished slightly more than three minutes behind in a group including the other main contenders and kept the yellow jersey.

Majka, who started an early breakaway soon after the start in Bourg-en-Bresse, moved away on his own in the final of six categorized climbs on the day’s agenda.

A third-place finisher at the Spanish Vuelta last year, he accelerated in the punishing 8.4-kilometer climb of the Lacets du Grand Colombier to drop Pantano. But Majka made a mistake on the descent and allowed his rival to rejoin him.

The two breakaway riders did not collaborate well on the flat roads to the finish, with Majka refusing to take relays. They were almost caught by Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz, who finished third, six seconds back.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Pantano, who rides for the IAM team. “I had good feelings today, I knew that if I was able to join him in the downhill I had good chances. And in the end the best rider won.”

Froome kept his 1:47 lead over Dutch rider Bauke Mollema intact, with Adam Yates in third place overall, 2:45 back. Colombian climber Nairo Quintana lags 2:59 behind.

After Majka and Ilnur Zakarin attacked on the first climb, a group of 30 riders gathered at the front. With no overall contender in the leading pack, Froome and his Team Sky teammates seemed happy with the breakaway and did not chase.

On a constantly undulating course, Dutch rider Dylan van Baarle made the most of the lack of cooperation in the breakaway to try his luck soon after the feed zone but was quickly joined by Tom Dumoulin, who countered him in the Cote d’Hotonnes.

The move sparked a reaction from former Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali, who jumped out of the chasing group alongside Pantano and Alexis Vuillermoz.

The quartet was caught at the foot of the grueling ascent of the Grand Colombier, with the peloton of main favorites 8:30 back. Featuring some very steep ramps at an average gradient of 6.8 percent, the 12.8-kilometer climb was too much to take for Nibali, who immediately got dropped.

Majka and Zakarin once again accelerated and reached the summit with a 30-second lead over Julian Alaphilippe, who caught his rivals in the technical downhill to Anglefort but saw his hopes of victory destroyed by a crash. The Frenchman escaped unscathed and was back in the race with a spare bike.

Back in the pack of favorites, Astana riders moved to the front to set a faster tempo. The sudden change in pace left Froome unfazed while Yates was seen struggling at the back. American Tejay van Garderen could not follow and dropped to eighth overall, 4:47 behind Froome.

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.”