Aleksandr Vlasov wins 6-day Tour de Romandie

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VILLARS-SUR-OLLON, Switzerland — Aleksandr Vlasov won the six-day Tour de Romandie after being fastest in the closing time-trial stage in the Swiss mountains.

It was a first career win on the World Tour for the 26-year-old who can continue to compete in international races during Russia’s war on Ukraine because he rides for a team registered in Germany.

“I gave it all today. I am super happy with this result,” said Vlasov, who was third in the Belgian one-day classic Fleche Wallonne in April.

The International Cycling Union suspended Russian teams two months ago but Vlasov rides for the Bora-Hansgrohe team. However, the Russian flag is not displayed next to his name on official race graphics.

Vlasov spoke out against the war on social media two days after the UCI sanctions.

“I, like a lot of Russians, just want peace,” Vlasov wrote in the March 3 post on his Instagram account. “I’m not a political person, and normal people like me weren’t asked if we want a war.”

Vlasov was 31 seconds faster than Simon Geschke on the 15.8-kilometer (9.8-mile) route up to the Villars-sur-Ollon ski station. Gino Mader was five seconds further back in third place.

Vlasov topped the overall standings by 50 seconds from runner-up Mader. Geschke trailed by 55 seconds in third place.

Overnight leader Rohan Dennis – who started the time trial with an 18-second gap over third-place Vlasov – was 22nd in the stage and finished eighth overall.

The time trial was decisive after the queen stage in the mountains did not separate the leaders and ended in a sprint among a bunched group clocking the same time.

The Romandie race is a recognized warm-up for Tour de France contenders and was won in recent years by Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic.

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.”