Slovenians Pogacar and Roglic dominate grueling Vuelta stage

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LOS MACHUCOS, Spain (AP) Two Slovenian friends took charge of the Spanish Vuelta on Friday, with youngster Tadej Pogacar wining the difficult 13th stage and Primoz Roglic crossing the line just behind him to increase his overall lead.

Pogacar and Roglic moved to the front during the grueling final climb at Los Machucos, getting past breakaway leader Pierre Latour with less than two kilometers (one mile) to go and finishing 27 seconds ahead of their closest chasers.

“It was a great day for Slovenian cycling to have the two of us at the front,” Roglic said. “We gave our whole until the finish. Tadej is of course a big talent with a big future. He is a good friend of mine, a nice guy, and a rival.”

Pogacar passed Roglic with less than one kilometer (half a mile) left and held on for his second stage win in this Vuelta. The 20-year-old rider from UAE Team Emirates also won the ninth stage.

“I can’t believe it’s my second stage win in my first Grand Tour. I’m extremely happy, so happy I can’t even describe it,” Pogacar said. “When I heard on the radio nobody was following me and Roglic, I realized it was a good opportunity. It’s difficult to go against Roglic, he’s really strong. So I’m very happy with what I’ve done today.”

Roglic, a former ski jumper riding with team Jumbo-Visma, opened a gap of 2 minutes, 25 seconds to Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in the general classification. Pogacar moved to third place overall but was more than three minutes behind Roglic.

Valverde was fourth in the 166-kilometer (103-mile) stage, behind Latour and ahead of Movistar teammate Nairo Quintana.

The stage started with the peloton going around the field at Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium in Bilbao. Riders then faced seven mountain passes.

They will get a relative break on Saturday in a 188-kilometer (117-mile) flat stage that will finish in Oviedo.

Pogacar teammate Fabio Aru didn’t race on Friday because of a muscle injury.

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.”