Roglic keeps Vuelta lead on last mountain test, López wins

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ALTU D’EL GAMONITEIRU, Spain — Primoz Roglic moved closer to clinching his third consecutive Spanish Vuelta title after increasing his lead on the final test in the high mountains, while Miguel Angel Lopez won the demanding 18th stage.

Lopez held off a late attack by Roglic to claim the 162-kilometer (100-mile) route that crested three mountain passes before a finish atop the beyond-category Altu d’El Gamoniteiru.

It is the first time the Spanish Grand Tour has included the grueling ascent with an average gradient of nearly 10% over 14.6 kilometers (9 miles). Lopez broke away from the group of the hardiest riders, including Roglic, with around 5 kilometers (3 miles) to go and overtook David de la Cruz in the fog that obscured the vision of the valleys below.

Michael Storer was eyeing a third win at this Vuelta when he started the final ascent with a two-minute advantage. But he soon saw his advantage crumble as the top riders picked up the pace on the grueling upward haul.

Lopez gave Movistar its first win at this year’s race, finishing in 4 hours, 41 minutes, 21 seconds. Roglic dropped Lopez’s teammate Enric Mas and Egan Bernal of Ineos over the final meters to finish second, 14 seconds behind Lopez.

Roglic, the Jumbo-Visma leader, added a few seconds to his lead in the general classification. Mas is his nearest chaser at 2:20 minutes behind with three stages to go.

“It’s nice (to be out of the mountains). We are all feeling the efforts from the last two days and the weeks before,” Roglic said. “I still think there are some super hard stages to come. Hopefully we can do our best and finish it off.”

Stage 19 on Friday will take riders over 191 kilometers (118 miles) from Tapia to Monforte de Lemos. After another hilly ride on Saturday, the race concludes with an individual time trial in Santiago de Compostela on Sunday.

Roglic won the race’s time trial on its opening stage, so Mas and Lopez will have likely to try to finally break Roglic in the hills if they hope to win.

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.”