Masnada wins Stage 6 of Giro; Conti takes overall lead

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SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy — Fausto Masnada of Italy claimed his first victory in a Grand Tour by winning the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday while compatriot Valerio Conti seized the overall lead from Primoz Roglic, who was involved in an early crash.

The Italian duo were in a two-man breakaway for nearly 30 kilometers and Conti then allowed Masnada to grab the stage win without contesting the sprint, knowing he would take over the leader’s pink jersey.

“It’s a lot of joy. I’m really happy. I knew I was on form but winning a stage is really difficult and I did it,” said Masnada, who rides for Androni. “I want to dedicate this win to my uncle who died just before I left for the Giro. I managed to see him and I promised him I would get a stage win for him and I did.”

The two had pulled away from an original 12-man breakaway which went early on the 238-kilometer (148-mile) route from Cassino to San Giovanni Rotondo after a crash slowed down the peloton briefly.

Roglic, who had worn the maglia rosa since winning the opening time trial on Saturday, was involved in the crash but the Slovenian cyclist was not seriously injured. However, he did tear his shorts and had scratches and cuts on his right buttock.

Jose Rojas finished third, 38 seconds behind Masnada.

Roglic and the other major favorites crossed the line more than seven minutes behind Conti and are now more than five minutes behind the UAE Team Emirates cyclist in the overall standings.

Conti is 1 minute, 41 seconds ahead of compatriot Giovanni Carboni and 2:09 ahead of Nans Peters of France.

The 26-year-old Conti will be the first Italian to wear the maglia rosa since Vincenzo Nibali in 2016 – the year he went on to claim his second Giro title.

“I was targeting both stage win and maglia rosa but Fausto Masnada is an incredibly strong rider,” Conti said. “I’m very happy with what I got. For an Italian rider, it’s fantastic. This is my first time leading a stage race. I’m thrilled.”

Friday’s seventh stage is a hilly, 185-kilometer route from Vasto to L’Aquila.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.

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.”