Dumoulin wins opening stage of Giro d’Italia, Froome 21st

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JERUSALEM (AP) With Chris Froome likely feeling the ill effects of a training crash, defending champion Tom Dumoulin won the opening stage of the 101st Giro d’Italia on Friday.

Froome, who bloodied his right knee and ripped his shorts and jersey in the crash shortly before the time trial started, finished 37 seconds behind Dumoulin in 21st place.

Dumoulin said he heard about Froome’s crash before the race and was aware of the tricky route that snaked through Jerusalem.

“The roads were OK. They were a little bit bumpy. … it was very technical and very demanding and very challenging course, but for me it was OK,” said the Dutchman, who rides for Team Sunweb. “You just have to be careful and take some good corners and be cautious when you have to be.”

Froome, a British cyclist who won both the Tour de France and Spanish Vuelta last year, is looking to become only the third person ever to win the three Grand Tour titles in a row.

Dumoulin was the last of the 175 riders to start the stage and finished the 9.7-kilometer (6-mile) time trial in 12 minutes, 2 seconds to claim the pink jersey. Australian rider Rohan Dennis was two seconds behind in second place.

Thousands of spectators lined Jerusalem’s streets to watch the first time a Grand Tour cycling race has ever been held outside Europe. The cyclists passed Israel’s parliament, Supreme Court, the Israel Museum and the Hebrew University on their route through the city.

The historic opening of the race concluded just as the previous one ended, with Dumoulin grabbing the overall lead in an individual time trial. Last year, he entered the final stage in Milan in fourth but surged to victory.

On Friday, he chased down Dennis, who is the team leader of BMC Racing, to win the opening stage. Victor Campenaerts of Lotto Soudal finished third with the same time as Dennis.

“This is all I wished, the win and quite a lot of time on the other GC riders,” Dumoulin said. “I knew I was ready for the Giro but I wasn’t sure I’d win today. The course was hard but absolutely perfect for me.”

Although the 27-year-old Dumoulin is likely to hold onto the lead during the early stages in Israel, he said it would be difficult to maintain his advantage for the entire race.

“We are not planning on defending it every day. The Giro is still very long. It’s nice to have it today but it’s hard to keep it for the whole three weeks,” the Dutchman said. “We are not planning on defending it whatever the cost. It is going to be a pretty hectic, difficult and hard weeks.”

Jerusalem’s opening leg was named in honor of Gino Bartali, a three-time former Giro champion who in 2013 was posthumously bestowed Israel’s highest honor given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II.

The second leg of the race stretches 167 kilometers (104 miles) down the Mediterranean coast from Haifa to Tel Aviv. Stage 3 will follow a 229-kilometer (143-mile) route from Beersheba in the Negev desert down to Israel’s southern tip of Eilat along the Red Sea.

The race will then transfer to Italy, and the island of Sicily, for an early rest day on Monday. The Giro will end in Rome on May 27.

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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.”