Fortunato wins atop Zoncolan, Bernal extends Giro d’Italia lead

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MONTE ZONCOLAN, Italy — Italian rider Lorenzo Fortunato soloed to victory atop the fearsome Monte Zoncolan as Egan Bernal extended his overall lead to more than a minute after the 14th stage of the Giro d’Italia.

Fortunato, who rides for Eolo-Kometa, attacked with around 2 kilometers remaining of the 205-kilometer (127-mile) route from Cittadella to claim a debut professional win in his first Grand Tour, at the top of one of the Giro’s most prestigious climbs.

“I haven’t fully realized yet what I just did,” the 25-year-old Fortunato said. “I knew I was in good shape and this morning I really wanted to go in the breakaway.

“I knew that the last 3 kilometers were the hardest, for this reason I waited for the final part of the Zoncolan to attack and then I gave it everything until the finish line”.

It was Fortunato’s first victory in more than eight years, having last won as a junior.

Jan Tratnik was second, 26 seconds behind Fortunato. The duo had escaped from the remains of the breakaway shortly after the start of the ascent of the Zoncolan, which was covered in snow.

Alessandro Covi was third, 59 seconds behind Fortunato.

Bernal responded to a late attack from Simon Yates and then attacked the British rider in the fog at the summit to finish fourth and extend his overall lead to 1 minute, 33 seconds ahead of Yates, who moved into second.

Bernal, the 2019 Tour de France winner, is 1:51 ahead of third-place Damiano Caruso.

“I tried to remain calm when we tackled the Zoncolan because I knew I was in a good position in the GC and did not need to attack first,” said Bernal, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers. “I followed Simon Yates when he attacked and then I did an acceleration in the finale.

“I think I did a good race. Now I have a good lead but I need to remain calm and focused, anything can happen in the Giro.”

This year’s Giro saw the riders climb the Zoncolan from the easier side. It was still nevertheless one of the most arduous ascents of the race. The last 3 kilometers had gradients often exceeding 20% and topping out at 27% along the hairpins in the final kilometer.

Eolo-Kometa is owned by retired cyclists Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador, who both won the Giro twice.

Contador had vowed he would ride from Madrid to Milan if the team won a stage at this Giro, in its first Grand Tour. And, in a video posted on Instagram of him watching the finale, the clearly emotional Spaniard said he would keep his promise.

Sunday’s 15th stage crosses into Slovenia and covers the fourth-category climb to Gornje Cerovo three times on the 147-kilometer (91-mile) route from Grado to Gorizia.

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

Primoz Roglic triumphs at Tirreno-Adriatico for winning return from injury

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy — Primož Roglič made a winning return to cycling as he triumphed at the week-long Tirreno-Adriatico for a fourth Slovenian victory in five editions at “The Race of the Two Seas.”

It was Roglič’s first race of the season after the Jumbo-Visma rider underwent shoulder surgery last year.

“It’s just nice to come back to racing this way. I really enjoyed the whole week,” Roglič said. “My teammates were super strong.

“One week ago I was just expecting to suffer. It’s even better to win when it’s unexpected. It feels good ahead of the Giro d’Italia too.”

After winning the previous three stages to build up a significant advantage, Roglič protected his lead and finished safely in the peloton during Stage 7 to end the week-long race 18 seconds ahead of João Almeida of Portugal and 23 seconds ahead of British cyclist Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Roglič won the Tirreno in 2019. Fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogačar won the two previous editions but the two-time defending champion was competing at the Paris-Nice race which he won.

Belgian cyclist Jasper Philipsen won a bunch sprint to take the stage win. The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider edged out Dylan Groenewegen and Alberto Dainese.

It was Philipsen’s second sprint victory at this year’s Tirreno, setting him up as one of the favorites for next weekend’s Milan-San Remo race.

“I was dying in the end, my legs felt really painful, but I’m happy that I could keep it to the finish,” Philipsen said.

“The sprint stage is always different from a classic like San Remo but of course we have some confidence. We have a strong team I think. So now it’s good to take some time off, recover a little bit and try to be on top level.”

There was an early breakaway in the 154-kilometer (96-mile) route that started and finished in San Benedetto del Tronto but the eight riders were caught with just over 3 kilometers (2 miles) remaining.

Pogacar tops Gaudu, Vingegaard to win Paris-Nice


NICE, France — An impressive Tadej Pogacar clinched the final stage with a solo escape to win the week-long Paris-Nice.

David Gaudu finished second overall, 53 seconds behind Pogacar, while Jonas Vingegaard was third at 1 minute, 39 seconds back.

Pogacar attacked during the climb of Col d’Eze with 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) to go, finishing the eighth stage 33 seconds ahead of a small group made up of Vingegaard, Gaudu, Simon Yates and Matteo Jorgenson.

The Slovenian rider completed the 118-kilometer trek around Nice in 2 hours, 51 minutes, 2 seconds, crossing the finish line with both arms raised before taking a bow in front of the crowd and clapping his hands.

Pogacar now has a slight mental edge over Vingegaard, also outclassing him last October to win the Tour of Lombardy.

The duel between Pogacar and Vingegaard has become one of the biggest rivalries in cycling. Vingegaard finished second behind Pogacar in the 2021 Tour de France. But the Danish rider managed to beat Pogacar in the 2022 Tour de France for his first major title.

Vingegaard still has time to hit peak form. The Tour de France starts July 1.

Pogacar is the current leader in the UCI men’s road racing world rankings.

Pogacar and Vingegaard both started the season well. Last month in Spain, Pogacar won the Tour of Andalucia while Vingegaard won the O Gran Camino. Pogacar took the yellow jersey by winning the fourth stage. He dumped Vingegaard in the climb of La Loge des Gardes. Only Gaudu could stay on Pogacar’s wheel.

The two-time Tour de France winner extended his overall lead by taking Stage 7, beating Gaudu and Vingegaard in a small sprint atop Col de la Couillole.

French rider Gaudu finished fourth overall in the 2022 Tour de France but failed to finish in the past two editions of Paris-Nice.

The next race on the UCI World Tour is the Milan-San Remo classic on March 18.