Démare sprints to win Stage 5 of Giro d’Italia, López stays in pink

105th Giro d'Italia 2022 - Stage 5
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MESSINA, Sicily – French cyclist Arnaud Demare won a bunch sprint at the end of Stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia and Juan Pedro Lopez kept hold of the leader’s pink jersey.

Demare, who rides for Groupama-FDJ, edged Fernando Gaviria at the end of the 174-kilometer (108-mile) route from Catania to Messina after sprint favorites Mark Cavendish and Caleb Ewan had been dropped earlier in the day. Giacomo Nizzolo was third.

Demare also struggled on the climb but his team managed to eventually get him back to the peloton.

It was a sixth stage win in the Giro for the 30-year-old Demare but his first win of the year after a difficult start to 2022.

“My victory today means that in cycling we must never give up,” Demare said. “The sprint has been fluid from my point of view, even though it might have appeared chaotic. I’ve been patient before I launched the sprint.

“I lost a fair bit of time up the hill but my teammates have done a great job to bring me back quickly in the downhill. Then we worked hard to maintain Cavendish and Ewan behind.”

Most of the overall contenders crossed the line together. Lopez maintained his 39-second advantage over Lennard Kamna after moving into the overall lead on Tuesday. Rein Taaramae was third, 58 seconds behind Lopez.

“I don’t believe the moment, it’s the first day of my life with the maglia rosa,” Lopez said. “A lot of riders say to me, `Congratulations, enjoy, enjoy the day, enjoy the moment,’ and for sure I enjoy the moment because it’s one of the best days of my life.”

Meanwhile, one of the outside favorites, two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali, announced he will retire from the sport at the end of the year. An emotional Nibali, who is one of only seven riders in history to have won all three grand tours, made the announcement after arriving in his hometown.

The 37-year-old Nibali is nicknamed “The Shark of Messina.”

Five riders escaped early in the day but they were caught after 100 kilometers (62 miles). The main drama happened on the only climb of the day, a second-category ascent up to Portella Mandrazi.

With Cavendish and Ewan dropped, the peloton upped the pace and they were unable to catch up.

Cavendish’s Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team put in a solid effort but the high speed of the peloton eventually forced them to give up hope of closing the gap.

Cavendish and Ewan crossed the line almost 12 minutes behind the sprint.

The day finished earlier than most to allow the teams to take the ferry to the Italian mainland for Thursday’s sixth stage from Palmi to Scalea, along a mainly flat 192-kilometer (119-mile) route with a fourth-category climb early in the stage.

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.”