Schmid claims 1st pro victory, Bernal extends Giro d’Italia lead

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MONTALCINO, Italy — Swiss cyclist Mauro Schmid won the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia for the first victory of his professional career, and Egan Bernal extended his overall lead on the tricky gravel roads.

There were four unpaved sections that made up half of the final 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) of the Wine Stage of this year’s race and Remco Evenepoel – one of the Giro favorites – struggled.

Evenepoel had been second overall, 14 seconds behind Bernal. But he was dropped on the third gravel section and Bernal took the opportunity to up the pace in the peloton. Evenepoel crossed the line more than two minutes behind Bernal.

Bernal, a former Tour de France champion, now holds a 45-second lead over Aleksandr Vlasov. Nobody else is within a minute of him, with third-place Damiano Caruso 1:12 behind.

“Today we rode well and I increased my lead in the GC but the Giro is still long, all the big climbs are still to be ridden,” Bernal said. “I’m confident but I have to keep my feet firmly on the ground.”

Schmid, who rides for Qhubeka Assos, was part of an early breakaway on the 162-kilometer (101-mile) route from Perugia to Montalcino. He and Alessandro Covi attacked from the break with 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) remaining and the 21-year-old Schmid won a sprint finish, edging the UAE Team Emirates rider by one second.

“Actually I cannot believe it,” Schmid said. “I was only selected for the Giro team about two weeks before the race. My preparation was good but at the beginning of the season, I was not even thinking about riding a Grand Tour.

“In the last two stages I suffered a lot, but today I really wanted to go on the attack because I really like riding on gravel. In the breakaway, I felt I had good legs and I went for it.”

Harm Vanhoucke was third, 26 seconds behind Schmid.

Bernal led the peloton over the line, more than three minutes later, and ahead of all his main rivals.

Thursday’s 12th stage features four categorized climbs on the 212-kilometer (132-mile) route from Siena to Bagno di Romagna.

The Giro finishes on May 30 in Milan with an individual time trial.

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.”