Froome crashes in training ahead of Giro d’Italia start

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JERUSALEM (AP) Chris Froome got off to a rocky start in his quest to win a third consecutive Grand Tour title, crashing during a training run ahead of Friday’s opening stage of the Giro d’Italia and drawing blood around his right knee.

A video showed the four-time Tour de France champion limping gingerly after the accident. His shorts were ripped around the hip and his jersey was ripped near his shoulder blade. He appeared to also have an abrasion on the right side of his body.

Team Sky said Froome was slightly injured but would compete in the opening time trial.

It was hardly an ideal start for Froome, who is facing a potential doping ban after a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level.

Froome is looking to become only the third person ever to win the three Grand Tour titles in a row.

Team Sky coach Nicolas Portal told Eurosport that Froome’s front wheel slid at low speed during the first lap of training but that the accident would not prevent the British rider from competing.

“It’s pretty painful obviously, but then straight away he went right back on his bike and he did two laps again,” Portal said. “It’s going to be a painful TT for him but he is fine.”

Astana team leader Miguel Angel Lopez also crashed in training but the Colombian will compete as well. Belarussian cyclist Kanstantstin Siutsou of the Bahrain-Merida team was not as fortunate. He was knocked out of the race after a nasty spill.

The series of crashes came shortly before the Giro opened in Jerusalem, the first time a Grand Tour cycling race has ever been held outside Europe. The 9.7-kilometer (6-mile) opening time trial passed Israel’s parliament, Supreme Court, the Israel Museum and the Hebrew University in its route through Jerusalem.

The 167-kilometer (104-mile) second stage on Saturday will whizz down the Mediterranean coast from Haifa to Tel Aviv. Stage 3 will follow a lengthy, 229-kilometer (143-mile) route – the second-longest leg of the entire race – 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 ends 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.”