Tadej Pogačar’s Tour title defense on track with Tirreno victory

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy — Two stage races. Two overall victories.

Tadej Pogacar is preparing perfectly to defend his Tour de France title.

The Slovenian won the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico race by a comfortable margin ahead of a stellar field Tuesday, adding to his title in the UAE Tour last month.

“What a fantastic start to the season,” Pogacar said. “This is one of the biggest one-week races.”

After placing fourth in the concluding time trial, Pogacar finished 1 minute, 3 seconds ahead of Wout van Aert in the overall standings of the sea-to-sea race.

Mikel Landa finished third overall, 3:57 behind. Egan Bernal, the 2019 Tour winner, finished fourth, more than 4 minutes behind Pogacar.

The 22-year-old Pogacar won one stage in both the UAE Tour and the Tirreno, having taken Saturday’s “queen” leg that finished with a grueling climb to Prati di Tivo.

Pogacar also gained time against all of his overall rivals in Sunday’s fifth stage, which featured a circuit over a series of short climbs or “walls,” when he nearly caught breakaway rider Mathieu van der Poel.

“Stage 5 in the cold, wet weather. That’s the stage I will never forget,” said Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates.

Van Aert, who rides for the Jumbo-Visma team, won the time trial for his second stage win of the race.

Van Aert clocked 11:06 along the entirely flat 10.1-kilometer (6.3-mile) route in San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic coast. European champion Stefan Kung finished second, six seconds behind, and world champion Filippo Ganna was third, 11 seconds behind – ending his winning streak in time trials at eight.

“I’m improving in this discipline every year a little bit,” van Aert said. “It was my first time aiming for GC in a stage race and I only got beaten by the Tour de France winner. I’ll try more of this in the future but for now I have the classics in my mind, starting with Milano-Sanremo.”

Pogacar finished one second behind Ganna in the stage.

Up next on the World Tour calendar is the Milan-San Remo classic, although Pogacar is not entering that race. He’ll next compete in the Tour of the Basque Country in April, followed by the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege single-day races.

“But first,” he said, “I want to rest a little bit.”

The multi-talented van Aert also won the opening stage in a sprint. He’ll be looking to defend his Milan-San Remo title.

“I felt really good this week and I saw last year that I really improved my form afterward,” the Belgian rider said. “Now I’ve got to recover as good as possible.

“But I saw a lot of strong riders this week,” van Aert added, “so I’m definitely not the only favorite.”

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.

Ellen van Dijk defends time trial title at cycling worlds

95th UCI Road World Championships 2022 - Women Individual Time Trial
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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Ellen van Dijk defended her title and claimed a third women’s time trial gold medal at the opening event of the world road cycling championships on Sunday.

Taking advantage of a technical course the Dutch star maintained a perfectly paced cadence to beat Australia’s Grace Brown by 12.79 seconds to defend the time trial gold she won last year. Swiss rival Marlen Reusser took bronze.

Local favorite Brown was one of the early staters and set a blistering time around the 34.2 kilometer (21.3 miles) course at the scenic coastal town center of Wollongong, south of Sydney.

No other in the 45-strong field could get close to Brown’s time of 44 minutes 41.33 seconds until the final pair of van Dijk and Reusser, who claimed silver at last year’s world championships in Belgium, both clocked faster at the first time check.

Reusser then faded to finish more than 41 seconds off Brown’s time, but van Dijk powered on to claim her third gold medal in a time of 44:28.60.

Olympic time trial champion and two-time world champion Annemiek van Vleuten finished seventh, more than 90 seconds behind compatriot van Dijk.

Later Sunday, Vuelta a Espana winner Remco Evenepoel from Belgium, Italian two-time defending world champion Filippo Ganna and two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia headline the men’s event.

Other major races are the mixed relay time trial on Wednesday and the women’s road race next Saturday before the men’s race on the closing day Sunday, with local star and Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley racing the clock to recover from COVID-19 to take his place in the race.