Pogačar takes Tirreno lead after winning tough 4th stage

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PRATI DI TIVO, Italy — Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar won the tough fourth stage of the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico to take the overall lead from Wout van Aert.

Pogačar, a Slovenian rider for UAE Team Emirates, held off a lively challenge from Simon Yates on the steep uphill finish to beat the British rider by six seconds.

Sergio Higuita edged Mikel Landa in a sprint for third, 29 seconds behind Pogačar at the end of the 148-kilometer (92-mile) leg from Terni to Prati Di Tivo that was considered the race’s toughest test.

Pogačar moved into the overall lead, 35 seconds above Van Aert and Higuita. Van Aert had led the standings since winning the opener.

“Today was a very hard stage,” Pogačar said. “My team did a great job bringing down the gap from the breakaway and then I did my best on the climb … Now I am in the lead, but tomorrow we have another really hard stage, and with the final ITT anything can still happen.”

Van Aert put in a spirited defense and withstood a number of attacks on the final 14-kilometer climb but Pogačar made his move with 5.5 kilometers remaining. The Belgian rider finished 45 seconds behind Pogačar.

“It’s a big gap,” Van Aert said. “The next stages should be on me and I’m definitely not giving up yet. I think it makes particular sense to look up and seize the opportunities that arise. I’m going to keep trying anyway.

“Pogačar, together with my teammate Primož Roglič, is the best allrounder of the moment. It is only logical that he takes over my jersey.”

Sunday’s fifth stage is a 205-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Castellalto to Castelfidardo that is mainly flat in the first half of the route but undulating in the second.

The race ends with an individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

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.”