Roglic on brink of 3rd straight Spanish Vuelta title

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MOS, Spain — Primoz Roglic has only the decisive stage’s time trial left to win his third consecutive Spanish Vuelta title after finishing the rugged 20th stage runner-up to Clement Champoussin on Saturday.

Roglic leads Enric Mas by 2 1/2 minutes before Sunday’s time trial over 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Padron to the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela, destination of the St. James Way pilgrimage trail.

“I’m looking forward to the time trial tomorrow,” Roglic said. “We’ve been waiting for this so finally here we are.”

Roglic is favored to hold onto his commanding lead, despite his bad memories from the 2020 Tour de France, where he lost the yellow jersey on a decisive time trial to fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.

Roglic won the time trial gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and the Vuelta’s first time trial on its opening stage. Mas, however, is a pure climber who does his damage in the mountain.

Champoussin took his first professional win by claiming the 202-kilometer (125-mile) ride from Sanxenxo to Mos in 5 hours, 20-plus minutes. The French rider for AG2R blew past Roglic and three other riders who were caught off guard with less than two kilometers left on the final ascent.

Champoussin was part of an early breakaway group that was caught and then passed by the top riders. But he was able to stay in contact and took advantage when he saw his chance.

“I hung on and a little over a mile from the finish I was lucky they looked at each other,” Champoussin said. “Since I’m not dangerous, I thought to myself that I had to try to pass a little faster. The last kilometer wasn’t too hard and I was able to stay ahead until the end.”

Ineos set a hard pace through the middle of the route over green hills on the northwest coast with views of the Atlantic below. An attack by Adam Yates on the category-one Alto de Mougas shattered what was left of the peloton, leaving Roglic with a Jumbo-Visma teammate.

But Roglic needed no help to resist the attacks by Yates and Mas over the final stretch.

“I’m super happy with the place I finished in today with the way it went. I couldn’t wish for more,” Roglic said. “I was mainly looking at Yates and Enric (Mas) but at the end there were a lot more guys. I kept everything more or less under control.”

Mas’ Movistar teammate, Miguel Angel Lopez, however, cracked during the Yates attack and saw his hold on third place overall crumble. After struggling for a long period while the difference grew, the Colombian got off his bike and withdrew from the race.

Jack Haig moved into third overall at 4:48 behind Roglic. Yates was fourth at 5:48. Egan Bernal was sixth, but more than 11 minutes back.

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.”