Elisa Balsamo upsets Dutch at cycling worlds

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LEUVEN, Belgium — Elisa Balsamo upset favorite Marianne Vos in a sprint finish to frustrate the mighty Dutch squad and claim the world championship title in the women’s road race.

After failing to win the Olympic title in Tokyo, the Dutch had sent out their strongest possible team on the 157-kilometer (97.5-mile) hilly course.

But despite their impressive collective strength, disappointment was once again the overriding feeling for Vos and her Orange teammates after the race.

Balsamo, a 23-year-old Italian, enjoyed an excellent leadout and launched the sprint early with hot favorite Vos in her wheel. Vos, a triple world champion, pushed hard to catch Balsamo but could not match her in the last 50 meters.

“I’m totally speechless, it’s unbelievable,” said Balsamo, who burst into tears after crossing the line. “It was a dream for me after this long season, and my team was so good. After the last corner, I only switched off my brain and said `You have to go full gas.”‘

Balsamo ended a four-year Dutch dominance in the event to give Italy its third gold medal at this year’s world championships after Filippo Ganna won the men’s time trial and Filippo Baroncini claimed the title in the U23 men’s road race.

Vos finished runner-up ahead of Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland.

Packed with stars and former world champions, the Dutch squad controlled the race almost throughout and had seven riders in the finale. They took regular turns at the front to keep Vos safe in the leading pack, rode hard in the final climbs and tested their rivals with attacks but could not open gaps before the sprint.

Balsamo wasn’t alone, though,

“It’s really nice when your tactic really happens and you believe in what you are here for,” said Italian rider Elisa Longo Borghini. “I knew that I had to close all the gaps, I felt really well today and I also had to be the last one launching Elisa for the sprint. From the beginning of the day I felt like Elisa could win so when you believe in something and you really work for it, most of the time it happens.”

The race started in the port city of Antwerp and featured a series of 20 climbs on two different circuits in the cycling-mad Flanders region of Belgium.

Spanish rider Margarita Victoria Garcia tried a solo effort in the last 25 kilometers and opened a gap of about 30 seconds but could not resist the peloton’s chase and was caught with 10 kilometers left.

Defending champion Anna van der Breggen was part of the Dutch selection and worked in support of Vos in the final race of her career, crossing the line 89th.

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.