Davide Martinelli uses bike to deliver medicine in Italy

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ROVATO, Italy — There are no fans lining the road. No teammates providing support. And there is no race to win.

Professional cyclist Davide Martinelli has achieved a moral victory, though, by using his bike to help deliver medicine to elderly residents and others in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The service is of great use in Lodetto, Martinelli’s hometown in the hard-hit Lombardy region of northern Italy. The village has neither a pharmacy nor a supermarket.

Martinelli makes a daily trip to Rovato, the next town over, to pick up supplies.

“I’ve got a bike and two legs in pretty good form, so riding 10 kilometers (6 miles) a day is no big deal,” Martinelli said in an interview this week. “I wanted to help the people who always support me during the season. It’s time to give back to them.”

Martinelli joined up with a Facebook group called “Lodetto Solidale” (Supporting Lodetto) where those in need can place their requests online, by phone or message.

Martinelli receives his orders each night and maps out a route for the following day.

“I go to the pharmacy and when I arrive outside I put on gloves and a mask,” he said. “If I go for three or four people, there’s less risk of contagion.”

With a population of 1,500, everyone in Lodetto knows who Martinelli is. Or rather, they know who Martinelli’s father is.

That’s because Giuseppe Martinelli is one of the most successful team directors in cycling, having guided the likes of Marco Pantani and Vincenzo Nibali to Tour de France victories and a handful of riders to Giro d’Italia wins.

The elder Martinelli said that what his son is doing now is “a step above a victory for one of my athletes, because it’s gratifying to him and to us because he’s part of our family.”

Davide Martinelli is also part of Giuseppe Martinelli’s Astana team – the squad that Lance Armstrong rode for in 2009 when he came out of retirement.

Still, Giuseppe Martinelli said he had nothing to do with his son’s initiative besides offering fatherly advice: “I just said, `Be careful. Be safe. Don’t touch anyone. Use a mask and gloves when you enter the pharmacy.”‘

At 26, Davide Martinelli likely still has his best racing years ahead of him. So far in his career, he has won only two stages in minor races – both in 2016. This initiative has brought him more recognition than anything else he’s done on his bike.

While professional athletes were at first allowed out to train during the nationwide lockdown in Italy, the government ordered them to remain home, too, after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.

“But don’t think for an instant that there’s some sort of training strategy behind all of this,” Giuseppe Martinelli said of his son’s initiative. “Eight out of 10 times he goes out with normal running shoes and his mountain bike. … So we’re talking about 30-40 minutes twice a day and sometimes only once per day.”

That’s hardly even a warmup for pro cyclists, who often ride more than five hours per day.

“I won’t deny that having the chance to be out in the fresh air helps me relax,” Davide Martinelli said. “Sure, there’s a risk of contagion when I enter the pharmacy, but you can’t dwell on that. When you decide to do something you’ve got to do it without over-thinking it.”

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.”