Koretzky, Lecomte give France sweep of mountain bike World Cup opener

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ALBSTADT, Germany — Victor Koretzky and Loana Lecomte gave France a sweep of the first men’s and women’s World Cup mountain bike races of the season, giving them a big boost of confidence heading toward the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Koretzky broke free of a group of four riders on the final lap of the course in Albstadt, finally passing reigning Olympic gold medalist Nino Schurter on the final turns before the cross country race hit the road. Then, the Frenchman used a superior finishing sprint to hold off the Swiss mountain biking star for the win.

“In the warmup I didn’t feel like I was in my best shape,” Koretzky said, “but after the first two laps it got better and better.”

Mathias Flueckiger of Switzerland and Ondrej Cink of the Czech Republic were the other two riders in the four-man break, but Flueckiger had a mechanical problem on the penultimate lap that forced him to remain standing. He wound up taking the bronze medal ahead of Cink, who faded over the final mile of the race.

“This was really hard, and all I could do was fight for third place,” Flueckiger said. “Bad luck happens some times, so I’m very happy to get third place in this situation.”

Thomas Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel, who won the short course race, pushed the tempo on the opening laps before falling off the pace and finishing in the top 10. But it was still a strong ride for the British and Dutch riders, who often compete in cyclocross and road racing but have their eyes on mountain biking at the Tokyo Games.

The women’s race wasn’t nearly as close as the sprint to the finish in the men’s race.

Lecomte surged away from the entire field on the opening loop, quickly opening up an 18-second gap before the first of the two major climbs on each lap. She eventually built her lead to more than a minute before cruising to the finish.

Her countrywoman and the reigning world champ, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, finished second to cap a banner day for the French mountain bike team. Ferrand-Prevot won the short course race on Friday night.

“It was my goal for today,” Lecomte said, “but I didn’t know if I could do it.”

Haley Batten edged American teammate Kate Courtney to round out the podium in Germany.

After dealing with the difficult, climb-heavy course in Albstadt, riders head to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, next weekend for the second race on the World Cup circuit. It’s also the last race before a long break over the summer, which means it’s also the last qualification race for riders trying to earn a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

“To start the season like this is pretty incredible,” Batten said. “I’ve had a couple of hard races here in the past, in junior and U-23, so to just race so strong and so smooth from start to finish is not something I would have expected previously. I’m not sure how much this counts towards Olympic criteria, but Nove Mesto does, so this is a really good sign.”

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

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.