Magner, Ganzar win USA Cycling criterium championships

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ty Magner didn’t need to go very far to get some wisdom and encouragement before starting the men’s criterium race as USA Cycling’s national championships.

One teammate, Brad Huff, won two years ago. Another, Eric Young, is a former two-time champ.

So when the pace picked up in the final laps of the 1.1-mile circuit in downtown Knoxville on Friday night, it made sense that Magner looked to his teammates to keep him out of trouble. And after navigating a sketchy final five laps, the Rally Cycling rider had enough to win the event for himself.

Magner held off Young in a sprint to the finish to make it a 1-2 finish for their team, while Samuel Bassetti of Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling finished fast to take third.

“It was just swarming all day. You could come from the back of the field to the front of the field with super wide streets,” said Magner, who finished second to Eric Marcotte in 2015. “You have to plan to win the race, but if you mess up or have a bad day, the guys will have your back.”

In the women’s race, former collegiate runner Leigh Ann Ganzar pulled off a massive upset when she joined Kelly Catlin and Jennifer Luebke in a breakaway on the penultimate lap. Ganzar then held off Catlin in a side-by-side sprint to win the biggest race of her young career.

“It’s really unbelievable,” said Ganzar, who rides for a grassroots team called Wolfpack presented by Hyperthreads. “We all started together as Category 4s and have worked our way up together. To be able to race at this level would not be possible without them, without our sponsors.”

USA Cycling decided to move the criterium championships to the same venue and time as time trial and road race nationals this year, creating a packed weekend of racing. The time trial on Thursday got things going, and the road race beginning and ending in downtown Knoxville concludes the weekend Sunday.

The criteriums under the Friday night lights lived up to their unpredictable billing.

Travis McCabe of the UnitedHealthcare team was back to defend his title in the men’s race, but there were few major moves until late in the race. Rally Cycling with its triumvirate of Magner, Young and Huff were tasked with setting the pace, and they kept the tempo hot most of the night.

At one point, Magner latched onto the back of his former teammates from Holowesko-Citadel, before he ultimately found his way to the front of the pack heading into the final lap.

“Those last five laps were pretty hairy,” he said. “That was probably one of the sketchiest group sprints I’ve done in a long time. The roads are super wide and it was super-fast all the way into that last lap. We had to burn a few matches to stay out of trouble, but I ended up being on the Holowesko train and it was the perfect spot to be.”

Magner has been close to the podium before, though. Ganzar came out of nowhere to claim her win.

With reigning champion Erica Allar sidelined by injuries, the big favorites were Coryn Rivera, Skylar Schneider and Emma White. But all three missed the decisive move on the penultimate lap, forcing them into a sprint for fourth place with White earning that spot.

Up ahead, the 29-year-old Ganzar was celebrating a victory over Catlin by less than a wheel length.

“All the other women here are just so strong, and great racers,” she said. “We decided we would put it all on the line. There was no pressure on us. And so, when the time struck, I made a move and it was kind of a shock we held on. I couldn’t believe when we turned that last corner there was no one between us and the line. So it was just, put your head down and try to hold on.”

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.”