Yates wins Giro d’Italia Stage 2, Van der Poel stays in pink

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — A storming time trial from Simon Yates saw the British rider win the second stage of the Giro d’Italia while Mathieu van der Poel kept hold of the pink jersey.

Yates, one of the title favorites, clocked 11 minutes, 50 seconds on the nine-kilometer (six-mile) individual time trial through Budapest that included a steep uphill finish.

Van der Poel, who won the opening stage, was last down the ramp and the Dutch cyclist came close to claiming a second successive stage win on his Giro debut but finished three seconds behind Yates.

It was only Yates’ second time trial success and his first in a grand tour.

“For sure this is my best time trial victory,” Yates said. “Of course really happy, a little bit unexpected but I’ll take them as they come.

“I was never confident, Van der Poel was close as well, but you always have that belief you would win and I managed to hang on.”

Tom Dumoulin was third, five seconds behind Yates.

Yates, who rides for Team BikeExchange-Jayco, is looking to overcome Giro disappointment. He led the race for 13 days in 2018 before cracking in the mountains and eventually finishing 21st. He redeemed himself somewhat by finishing third last year.

Yates moved into second spot in the standings and has built a slender lead over his main rivals for the maglia rosa. He is 11 seconds behind Van der Poel and five ahead of 2017 Giro winner Dumoulin.

“I would have signed for this before,” Van der Poel said. “I did a really good TT. The difference between winning and second is pretty close. I bought myself an extra day in the pink jersey so I think I can be really happy with it.”

This Giro includes just two time trials that total just over 26 kilometers (16 miles), the lowest amount since 1962.

The third stage is the final one in Hungary and another one for the sprinters, on a 201-kilometer (125-mile) route along Lake Balaton from Kaposvar to Balatonfured.

The race will then have its first rest day as the riders transfer to Italy.

“Tomorrow should be a sprint stage so I hope to take the jersey to Sicily for sure and then we’ll see what happens,” Van der Poel added.

The Giro was due to start in Hungary in 2020 but the pandemic forced organizers to reschedule the race to October and move the start to Sicily.

The Giro finishes on May 29 in Verona.

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.”