Roglic seals 2nd consecutive Spanish Vuelta victory

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MADRID — It was a vastly different finish for Primoz Roglic at the Spanish Vuelta compared to two months ago at the Tour de France.

This time, Roglic was celebrating a Grand Tour victory instead of dwelling on a late collapse that cost him the victory.

Roglic clinched his second consecutive Vuelta victory with an uneventful final ride into Madrid in Sunday’s largely ceremonial stage, solidifying his status as a top rider.

“We were just enjoying,” he said. “It’s beautiful to finish the season like this. It was a special year.”

The 31-year-old Slovenian from team Jumbo-Visma virtually sealed the victory in Stage 17 on Saturday after escaping another collapse in the last competitive stage, when his overall lead over Richard Carapaz was cut from 45 to 24 seconds.

It was the second Grand Tour win for Roglic, who had been in contention at the Tour de France until the last competitive day. He won four stages at the Vuelta this year, including the first. Last year he had one stage victory.

Roglic has become the first rider to win the Vuelta’s overall standings and the points classification two years in a row.

“It’s really beautiful to win the red jersey and the green jersey to finish this year,” he said.

Carapaz, the 2019 Giro d’Italia winner, became the first Ecuadorean rider to finish on the podium at the Vuelta.

Hugh Carthy finished third at the three-week race across Spain, with Dan Martin fourth and Enric Mas fifth.

Pascal Ackermann defeated Sam Bennett in a photo finish at the deciding sprint of the final stage, which lacked the huge crowds of previous editions in the Spanish capital because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wasn’t sure, I was asking Sam who won,” Ackermann said. “I was really unsure and we had to wait after the finish and we got the message in the radio.”

Veteran Alejandro Valverde finished 10th for his 20th top 10 in a Grand Tour event at age 40. Two-time champion Chris Froome was out of contention from the start after struggling in the early stages. It was his final race before moving from team Ineos to Israel Start-Up Nation next season.

“Obviously it’s been an emotional day,” said the 35-year-old British rider, who ended 98th in the overall standings. “My last with the team after 11 years.”

The Vuelta finished without major disruptions despite a surge of coronavirus cases in Spain. Tight health restrictions were in place for the race that was originally scheduled for late August and early September but was postponed because of the pandemic.

This Vuelta had only 18 stages instead of the usual 21. The sixth stage had to be altered to avoid going into French territory, and organizers had already canceled plans to hold the first three stages in the Netherlands and to have two stages enter neighboring Portugal.

A facial-recognition phone app replaced the traditional signature of riders at the start of each stage to reduce contact with pens and surfaces, and fans were asked not to gather at finish lines. Riders, team members and race staff were constantly tested for COVID-19.

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.”