Bernal wins 16th stage to extend Giro d’Italia lead; Caruso up to 2nd

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CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Egan Bernal took a major step toward his second Grand Tour title by winning the wet and mountainous 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia.

The 2019 Tour de France champion rode alone over the top of the snowy Giau Pass then carefully navigated the technical and wet descent into Cortina to add to his overall lead.

Snow and rain throughout the Dolomites prompted organizers to drastically shorten what was slated to be the race’s “queen” stage. Instead of a 212-kilometer (132-mile) route over three major mountain passes, the stage followed a 153-kilometer (95-mile) route over only one major pass, the Giau.

That was still enough for Bernal to leave his mark. The Colombian attacked on the Giau, caught the last remaining breakaway rider, Antonio Pedrero, and gained time on all of his challengers.

“I wanted to put on a show. This is the type of cycling I like, tough stages like these,” Bernal said. “It’s a risk but I believed in myself and the team believed in me.”

Bernal, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, crossed in 4 hours, 22 minutes and finished 27 seconds ahead of Romain Bardet, who was quicker on the descent.

Before crossing the finish line, Bernal had time to take his raincoat off and show off his pink jersey as he celebrated.

Bernal also won the ninth stage, when he claimed the lead.

“It’s a victory with the pink jersey and I wanted to show it off,” Bernal said.

Damiano Caruso came third with the same time as Bardet and moved up from third to second overall, 2:24 behind Bernal. Hugh Carthy moved up from fifth to third, 3:40 back.

Simon Yates, who was second overall entering the stage, was dropped on the Giau and fell to fifth.

Two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali was part of an early six-man breakaway that fell apart on the Giau.

Tuesday is the race’s second and final rest day, after which more mountains loom before Sunday’s finish 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.