Primoz Roglic wins Spanish Vuelta for 3rd straight year

7 Comments

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — Primoz Roglic was barely off his bike before someone shoved a beer in his hand, a welcome way to savor his third consecutive Spanish Vuelta title.

The Slovenian and his Jumbo-Visma teammates then donned shirts to mark the moment.

“Trilogic,” it read, for the trilogy of titles Roglic now has at Spain’s Grand Tour.

Roglic dominated this year’s race as few have. He won four stages, proved unbeatable both in time trialing and the mountains, and built a final gap over runner-up Enric Mas that hadn’t been seen this century.

His winning margin of 4 minutes, 42 seconds over Mas was the largest at the three-week race since 1997.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s crazy,” Roglic said. “Sometimes, you win by a lot, sometimes it’s very little. But as long as you can win, it’s good.”

Roglic entered Sunday’s final stage, a time trial of 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Padron to Santiago de Compostela, with an already comfortable advantage of 2:38 over Mas. But instead of just riding to avoid a title-threatening crash, Roglic did what he had done all race: he went for the win as if each stage was a race in itself.

Roglic powered through the course that finished in the huge square outside Santiago’s medieval cathedral, the destination of thousands of pilgrims who walk the St. James’ Way each year.

And despite almost taking a wrong turn midway through, he capped his victory in the final meters by catching and overtaking Mas, who had started two minutes before him on their solo runs.

Magnus Cort Nielsen was chasing his own fourth stage win at the race when he set the time to beat over the decisive time trial. But Roglic finished the stage in 44:02, some 14 seconds ahead of the Dane.

“It was a super nice day, and nice three weeks, so I’m happy for myself and my guys around,” Roglic said. “It was hard, the last one after all these weeks. Still I enjoyed support on the road. I tried to focus on the stage win.”

The 31-year-old Roglic completed a fantastic rebound from his disappointing Tour de France, where he was supposed to be Tadej Pogacar’s biggest rival but ended up withdrawing from the race after suffering two crashes in the early stages.

Less than three weeks later, Roglic proved that his Tour performance was not a sign of decline when he won gold for Slovenia in the time trial at the Tokyo Olympics.

Then the former ski jumper returned to his favorite race.

Roglic became just the fourth rider to win the Vuelta more than twice. Alberto Contador (2008, 2012, 2014) and Tony Rominger (1992-1994) also won it three times. Roberto Heras won it a record four times (2000, 2003-2005).

Roglic set the tone by winning the opening time trial in Burgos. Confident in his prowess on the hardest climbs, he kept his cool when he lost the red jersey twice to riders who were not considered title rivals.

Roglic’s only slip was his fall on Stage 10 that cost him time and allowed Norwegian Odd Christian Eiking to become the surprising race leader.

But Roglic bided his time, leaving Eiking to stay in the red jersey for a week until he took it back in style atop the iconic Lagos de Covadonga summit on Stage 17.

Mas may have finished the race runner-up, but the biggest threat to Roglic’s title defense was launched by Egan Bernal on that climb in the northern Picos de Europa mountains.

Bernal, a Tour and Giro d’Italia winner, attacked from distance, with 61 kilometers (40 miles) and two huge climbs to go. Roglic, instead of sitting back and trusting his team to lead him back, jumped on Bernal’s wheel. The pair rode alone on the rainy mountain roads until Roglic shook Bernal free to claim his third stage win.

After the stage, Bernal praised Roglic’s “bravery” for risking it all to match his attack.

Roglic’s shout as he crossed the finish line that day celebrated a double victory: he had claimed one of the Vuelta’s most venerable stages in majestic fashion and dealt a blow that would end up ensuring him another title.

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

4 Comments

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

5 Comments

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.”