Vendrame claims 1st Grand Tour stage win, Bernal keeps Giro d’Italia lead

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BAGNO DI ROMAGNA, Italy — Italian cyclist Andrea Vendrame held off the rest of the breakaway pack to win the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia for his first victory in a Grand Tour and Egan Bernal kept the leader’s pink jersey.

Vendrame, who rides for AG2R Citroen, edged out Chris Hamilton in a sprint at the end of the 212-kilometer (132-mile) route from Siena to Bagno di Romagna that featured four categorized climbs.

“What an incredible feeling. I can’t even speak or find the right words to describe how I feel now,” the 26-year-old Vendrame said. “After a difficult period where I had an injury, this win at the Giro is something indescribable.”

There was also a sprint for third, with Gianluca Brambilla narrowly beating George Bennett, but only after a late swerve that left Bennett throwing up a hand in frustration. Brambilla was later relegated to fourth.

The duo finished 15 seconds behind Vendrame.

All four had been part of a large breakaway.

Bernal crossed the line in the peloton to maintain his 45-second lead over Aleksandr Vlasov. Nobody else is within a minute of the 2019 Tour de France winner, with third-place Damiano Caruso 1:12 behind.

Vincenzo Nibali attacked over the top of the final climb and finished seven seconds ahead of the peloton. The two-time Giro winner is still more than four minutes behind Bernal.

The 13th stage is an entirely flat 198-kilometer (123-mile) route from Ravenna to Verona that pays tribute to writer and philosopher Dante Alighieri on the 700th anniversary of his death. It will also give the riders a break before hitting the high mountains the following day.

“It was a really hard day for everyone so we are happy because we have finished well, but it was a really tough stage,” Bernal said. “It’s a Grand Tour, and for the GC guys there is no easy stage, you know, we need to go for every day. So for tomorrow we need to be really focused.”

A number of riders abandoned the race during the stage. Marc Soler and Alessandro De Marchi crashed in separate incidents, while Gino Mader, Kobe Goossens, Faisto Masnada and Alex Dowsett all retired due to illness and injury.

Soler tried to continue before eventually conceding. De Marchi was taken away in an ambulance.

“Dema was taken to hospital and was diagnosed with a broken right collarbone and six broken ribs,” said De Marchi’s team Israel Start-Up Nation. “He also broke his first and second thoracic vertebra.

“He did not suffer any head injury, but does have to stay in the hospital for at least one night.”

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.”