Ewan wins 4th stage of Tour Down Under, Porte retains lead

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Caleb Ewan out-sprinted Sam Bennett of Ireland to win the fourth stage of the Tour Down Under cycle race Friday but Richie Porte retained the overall lead.

Ewan, who also won the second stage, had stronger legs than first stage-winner Bennett at the end of a testing 152.8 kilometer (95 mile) state from Norwood to Murray Bridge.

The stage featured a technical finish with a sudden narrowing of the road compressing the peloton and making it essential teams had their sprinters at the front of the bunch. There was then a very tight left-hand bend 300 meters from the finish, before the sprinters could unleash their winning bids.

Bennett went first and broke away from the bunch but Ewan mowed him down to win by almost a bike length. Jasper Philipsen of Belgium was third and German veteran Andre Greipel, winner of a record 18 stages on the Tour Down Under, was fourth.

Porte managed to stay with the leading bunch to defend the tour leader’s jersey, though his overall lead over two-time defending champion Daryl Impey was halved from six to three seconds. South Africa’s Impey picked up time bonuses on the course to cut into Porte’s lead with two stages remaining, including the famous climb to the top of Wilunga Hill.

Ewan has the chance of another stage win Friday on the 149.1 kilometer (92 mile) stage from Glenelg to Victor Harbour. The race will then be decided in Sunday’s queen stage, on the steep final climb at Wilunga.

The first half of Friday’s stage was undulating but the second half was mostly flat, setting up a technical battle for control of the peloton. A five-rider breakaway lasted more than 60 kilometers but the peloton was together for most of the last 20 kilometers, reaching high speeds on many sections.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of wind when we turned onto the flat part in the second half of the course,” Ewan said. “My team was always up the front, I was never in trouble and they did such a good job and they meant I had good legs in the finish.

“It was a very tight corner into the finish but to be honest I like it when there’s a corner and a bit of a technical finish and I just told my last man to put me on the wheel of Sam Bennett and that’s what he did.”

The race is the first event in the 2020 World Tour.

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.”