Mohoric posts first Tour stage win, Roglic out of contention

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LE CREUSOT, France – Matej Mohoric posted his first stage win in the Tour de France on Friday following a long breakaway in the race’s longest stage.

The 249-kilometer (155-mile) hilly trek from Vierzon to Le Creusot in the seventh stage was the longest in 21 years.

Mohoric was part of a group that formed more than 200 kilometers before the finish line. He went solo in the stage’s finale, using a tough climb to drop his remaining breakaway companions and reach the finish line in Le Creusot alone.

Mathieu van der Poel looked exhausted when he crossed 1 minute, 40 seconds behind. He kept the race leader’s yellow jersey with a 30-second advantage over Wout van Aert,

“It was 250 kilometers full gas,” Van der Poel said. “It went really fast and we managed to break away with a really strong group, it was really hard. I went to the limit to keep this jersey, which is really special.”

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar could not get into the breakaway and rode at the back with several other top contenders. Pogacar lost more than five minutes and dropped to fifth overall, 3:43 off the pace.

The day’s biggest loser was last year’s runner-up, Primoz Roglic, who crashed earlier in the race. Roglic did not recover and struggled in the climb on Friday. He managed to get to the finish with a deficit exceeding nine minutes and his hopes of winning the three-week race are effectively over.

Roglic will now likely abandon the Jumbo-Visma leadership and work in support of Van Aert.

Mohoric, who rides for the Bahrain Victorious team, has now posted stage wins at all three Grand Tours. He seized the best climber’s polka-dot jersey.

The strong headwind made it difficult for riders on the attack to jump out of the pack in the early stages. After many unsuccessful attempts, a group of 29 competitors including Van der Poel and Van Aert managed to break away.

Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates teammates were caught off guard. When they finally moved to the front of the peloton to organize the chase, it was already too late. They tried to set up a sustained tempo but were left to do all the work as rival teams did not move.

The leading group collaborated well and quickly built a one-minute lead. Van der Poel took long turns at the front of a bunch which included former Grand Tours champions – Vincenzo Nibali and Simon Yates – and 10 former Tour stage winners. They rode at an impressive average speed of more than 51 kph in the first hour of racing and the time gap gradually increased to reach more than 6:30 with 90 kilometers left.

Behind them, the peloton upped the pace with more teams working at the front and the gap started to decrease when Mohoric and Brent Van Moer dropped their breakaway companions.

With 78 kilometers to go, the pair created a consistent gap as previously effective cooperation in the group including Van Aert and Van der Poel made way for a series of disorganized attacks. Mahoric went solo in the tough climb of the Signal d’Uchon, an ascent with an average gradient of 11.5% in its last 1,500 meters.

The Slovenian rider crossed first at the top and prolonged his impressive effort until the finish line.

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.”