Germany, Netherlands cap dominate track cycling worlds

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BERLIN — Emma Hinze of Germany and Harrie Lavreysen of the Netherlands put a fitting bow Sunday on the final day of the track cycling world championships, the last major event for their sport ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Hinze won her third gold medal by holding off the field from the front in the keirin, making it a clean sweep for the host nation in the women’s sprinting events at the Berlin Velodrome. And Lavreysen won his third gold in the sprint to give the Dutch team a table-leading six gold medals and nine total over the course of the five-day event.

“I think this is the best feeling,” Lavreysen said, “to take three golds out of three races. I couldn’t wish for more.”

In the other two events Sunday, Elinor Barker of Britain gained a lap on the field in the women’s points race to easily win her fifth career world championships gold medal. And in the men’s Madison, which returns to the Olympic program this year, Danish riders Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael Morkov gained an early lap and cruised to the victory.

The story of the world championships, though, where the German women sprinters and the strength of the Dutch team.

Hinze had already won gold in the sprint and teamed with Lea Friedrich – also the gold medalist in the 500 meters – and Pauline Grabosch to win the team sprint. So she took the starting line for the keirin already pleased with her week, and in some ways hardly expecting to find her way to the front of the mass-sprinting event.

Instead, that’s exactly where she found herself on the ball lap at the Berlin Velodrome. All she had to do from there was keep to the inside sprinter’s lane and kick for the finish line as the rest of the field attempted to catch her.

Lee Hyejin of Korea took the silver medal, Stephanie Morton salvaged bronze to finish off a rough worlds for Australia. and defending champion Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong finished fourth and missed out on a medal entirely.

“I still can’t believe it. I didn’t expect to win,” Hinze said. “Lea and Pauline and I won every event at this world championships. If someone were to tell me that before, I wouldn’t believe it. It’s just awesome.”

In the men’s sprint, Lavreysen easily swept aside Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang in the semifinals and advanced to face his Dutch teammate Jeffrey Hoogland, who dispatched Mateusz Rudyk of Poland to reach the gold-medal round.

Lavreysen needed only two races in the best-of-three match to finish off his golden world championships.

“It was really tough,” he said of facing his teammate. “We did it a lot of times the last two years, but I think the hardest part is the coaches don’t worry about coaching us. They already won gold. They just say, `You guys fight it out and we’ll see.’ So I had to make my own plan and work it out myself.”

Barker controlled the women’s points race from the moment she gained a lap, then added a sprint win to finish with 50 points and claim gold. American rider Jennifer Valente added silver to the gold she won in the team pursuit and the silver she won in the scratch race to cap a solid showing at worlds, and Anita Yvonne Stenberg of Norway took bronze.

“Really, really happy,” Barker said. “It feels kind of like a blur of pain, to be honest. I’m going to have to watch it back to see what happened. The last 30 laps was so painful, but I’m happy with how it went. A dream come true.”

Hansen, part of the record-setting Danish team pursuit gold medalists, was the heavy favorite with Morkov in the Madison, where riders hand off during the endurance event by physically slingshotting each other around the track. When the duo picked up a lap early to gain 20 points, it made Hansen and Morkov essentially unbeatable for gold.

“We were expecting to start as one of the favorites,” Morkov said, “so we wanted to see a bit how the race unfolded. We wanted to go for some points at the start. But Lasse saw a chance to go for a lap and we were lucky enough to make it.”

Cambpell Stewart and Aaron Gate of New Zealand earned silver and Roger Kluge and Theo Reinhardt of Germany bronze.

“Basically we were 30, 40 points ahead the whole time,” Hansen said, “so pretty early we were sure we were going to win. The last 20 laps it was hard to keep the concentration on the race and not the jersey already.”

Thomas sees Giro d’Italia lead cut slightly by Roglič; Buitrago wins Stage 19

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TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although his lead was cut slightly by Primož Roglič during the toughest stage of the race.

Roglič crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.

There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 114-mile route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18%.

Stage 19 was won by Santiago Buitrago, who finished 51 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and 1 minute, 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Roglič, who just missed out on bonus seconds.

“I’m really happy with this victory. It was the most difficult moment of a difficult Giro for me personally,” said Buitrago, who rides for Bahrain Victorious. “I wanted to try and raise my arms before the end and coming here at Tre Cime di Lavaredo is amazing.

“This is the recompense for all the work that I’ve done. … There’s a lot of motivation for me and the whole team having seen the fruits of our labors.”

The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglič going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage

Third-placed João Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.

Roglič changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometer. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 meters and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.

But Roglič came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.

The winner will likely be decided in the mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of over 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

“Tomorrow we go full again,” Roglič said. “It’s good. We got a bit of legs back, so tomorrow we go full, eh?

“If I wouldn’t be confident then I don’t start. The best one at the end wins.”

The race ends in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

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VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.

Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. … I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.