Slovenia’s Mohorič, not Pogačar, wins Milan-San Remo

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SAN REMO, Italy — Everyone was expecting it to be an uphill attack from two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar to decide the Milan-San Remo race.

Turned out it was a risky, high-speed downhill attack from Matej Mohorič, another Slovenian rider, that proved to be the winning move in the spring classic.

Following four unsuccessful attacks from Pogačar on the way up the Poggio, the short but steep climb shortly before the finish of the lengthy 293-kilometer (182-mile) route, Mohorič accelerated almost as soon as the twisty descent started.

Leaning dangerously into the sharp turns on the serpentine route, Mohorič quickly created a small gap ahead of a small group that included Pogačar, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel – three of the most accomplished current riders in the sport.

Mohorič, who rides for the Bahrain Victorious team, was cutting so many corners that both of his wheels skidded at one point. Somehow, though, he remained upright, and established a lead of five seconds by the end of the descent, with 2.2 kilometers (1.4 miles) to go.

There was another moment that could have led to panic when Mohorič’s chain came loose on the flat, finishing straight but he managed to overcome that, too, and had time to celebrate before crossing the line on Via Roma.

French rider Anthony Turgis and Van der Poel finished second and third, respectively, both two seconds behind.

Michael Matthews came fourth and Pogačar ended up fifth, also two seconds behind.

The 27-year-old Mohorič also claimed two stages in last year’s Tour de France and has won one stage in both the Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta.

“I was thinking about this race for the entire winter,” Mohorič said. “I knew that if I could train properly over the winter, and try to be in a good enough condition to not be dropped on the Poggio, and be with the best guys over the top that I would have a chance of doing my best descent and risking a little bit but being able to hang on for the win.”

Mohorič used a specially designed moveable seat more often seen in mountain biking so he could gain more control of his bike on the descent.

“The team set up a bike for me and we had this plan for a long, long time now,” he said.

The Milan-San Remo is the first of the five “monument” races in the cycling season. The others are the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Lombardia.

Thomas sees Giro d’Italia lead cut slightly by Roglič; Buitrago wins Stage 19

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TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although his lead was cut slightly by Primož Roglič during the toughest stage of the race.

Roglič crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.

There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 114-mile route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18%.

Stage 19 was won by Santiago Buitrago, who finished 51 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and 1 minute, 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Roglič, who just missed out on bonus seconds.

“I’m really happy with this victory. It was the most difficult moment of a difficult Giro for me personally,” said Buitrago, who rides for Bahrain Victorious. “I wanted to try and raise my arms before the end and coming here at Tre Cime di Lavaredo is amazing.

“This is the recompense for all the work that I’ve done. … There’s a lot of motivation for me and the whole team having seen the fruits of our labors.”

The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglič going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage

Third-placed João Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.

Roglič changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometer. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 meters and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.

But Roglič came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.

The winner will likely be decided in the mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of over 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

“Tomorrow we go full again,” Roglič said. “It’s good. We got a bit of legs back, so tomorrow we go full, eh?

“If I wouldn’t be confident then I don’t start. The best one at the end wins.”

The race ends in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

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VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.

Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. … I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.