Richie Porte wins Tour Down Under for 2nd time

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Richie Porte of Australia won the Tour Down Under cycle race for the second time Sunday, though for the first time in seven years he failed to win the grueling stage to the top of Willunga Hill.

Porte finished second behind unheralded Englishman Matthew Holmes on a stage he has won for the last six years after a massed breakaway on the 151.5 kilometer (95 mile) finishing stage threw the overall race standings into turmoil.

Two-time defending champion Daryl Impey of South Africa entered the last of six stages with a 2 second lead over Porte on general classification in the first World Tour event of the season.

But Impey’s chances of an unprecedented third-straight win dissolved on the second of two climbs up Willunga Hill while Porte launched his trademark attack on the second climb to put the overall result beyond doubt.

Porte’s chance of extending his winning streak on the Willunga stage was lost when Holmes, riding a World Tour event for the first time, swept passed him over the crown of the hill and beat him to the finish line by three seconds.

The 26-year-old from Wigan was part of a 26-rider break which sowed panic among teams whose riders were in contention for the tour win. The breakaway maintained a lead of more than four minutes over the peloton until the first of the two climbs up Willunga Hill.

With so many riders in the break, including leading riders such as Andre Greipel, the peloton was fully stretched to close the gap. At one point the young American Joey Rosskopf, who started the day 58 seconds behind Impey on general classification and was in the leading group, held a virtual lead of more than 3-1/2 minutes on the road.

Porte’s teammate, the world road champion Mads Petersen, did a superb job of leading the peloton’s chase for the breakaway and it was through his efforts that Porte was able to finally launch his winning attack on the second climb.

The break began to fall apart on the first climb up Willunga Hill and completely broke up on the second as Porte drove to the front of the race. Impey couldn’t go with him and dropped back to finish 30 seconds behind Porte in fifth place.

“It was a little bit panic stations there in the middle (of the stage),” Porte said. “We had to do the ride for the whole day.

“My team today were absolutely fantastic. It’s been an incredible week. People are quick to single out Mads Petersen because he’s the world championship and he’s there helping me but everyone’s been incredible.”

Holmes was able to hang on when the break fell apart to challenge and eventually out-sprint Porte on a stage he has made his own.

“There’s no way I thought I would win that in such a big group,” Holmes said. “I’ve never really raced up a climb. I’ve been stuck in Britain for the last six years.

“This is my second hilltop finish this week. They seem to suit me.”

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.”