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.

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.”