Jasper Stuyven edges favorites to win Milan-San Remo

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MILAN — Belgian rider Jasper Stuyven beat the favorites to win the Milan-San Remo classic and claim the biggest win of his career.

Stuyven, who rides for the Trek-Segafredo team, made a brave attack with 3 kilometers remaining and held off the sprinters to edge Caleb Ewan and defending champion Wout van Aert.

The 28-year-old Stuyven took six hours, 38 minutes and six seconds to complete the 299-kilometer (186-mile) classic, which is the longest professional one-day race in modern cycling.

“I can’t describe how I feel. It’s unbelievable,” Stuyven said. “We had a plan to go for it, just to try to race for the win. I felt really good all day and the finale was going well. There was a lot of fast guys, so I knew I had to try all or nothing, which I did.

“If it had gone to the line,” he continued, “I maybe would have finished fifth or 10th but I preferred to go all in and take the biggest victory of my career. Maybe eight times out of 10 you get nothing but there are two times, or even one time, you get everything.”

There was an early break of eight riders and their advantage hovered around seven minutes for much of the opening stages.

But that had been halved by the halfway point of the race and the lead group started to break up on the series of short climbs heading to the finale.

The last of the escapees were swept up on the penultimate climb, the Cipressa, with 24.5 kilometers remaining.

There were several attacks on the final climb up the Poggio but nothing stuck. Van Aert led on the fast descent, with Ewan on his wheel, but the race was wide open until Stuyven made his move and managed to get a gap.

Soren Kragh Andersen came across to him but Stuyven kicked again inside the final 100 meters to win his first Monument. It was the 112th edition of the race.

“Like always it was fast descent of the Poggio,” Van Aert said. “Straight at the bottom Jasper went on the attack. It was a really good move and then afterwards it was a bit hard for me to chase because I didn’t want to waste my chances in the sprint.

“Of course a lot of guys were looking at me but I just came up short. In the end, Caleb was a bit faster than me in the sprint from our group. It’s always a difficult final few kilometers but today I gambled wrong.”

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.”