Démare wins Giro d’Italia Stage 6 in photo finish, López keeps lead

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SCALEA, Italy — French cyclist Arnaud Demare beat Caleb Ewan in a photo finish to win a second successive Giro d’Italia stage, while Juan Pedro Lopez kept hold of the leader’s pink jersey after the race’s sixth leg.

In a contest between three of cycling’s very best sprinters, Demare was behind both Ewan and Mark Cavendish as they approached the finish. But Demare used the slip stream behind Ewan to perfection to pull alongside his rival just before the line and then threw himself forward to edge his rival by the smallest of margins. Cavendish was about half a bike length behind in third.

None of them celebrated immediately after crossing the line, unsure who had got the victory. Cavendish was talking to Demare when the results were confirmed and hugged the Groupama-FDJ rider.

“It was very tight. I had the feeling that I had won but it was hot so I waited for the photo finish,” Demare said. “A win is sometimes decided by very little. … I only had 100 meters to overhaul Cavendish. I threw my bike on the line and it made the difference.”

It was a seventh Giro stage win for Demare, more than any other Frenchman.

“Many people underestimate me but it’s my 86th (career) victory today, my seventh at the Giro d’Italia. It counts. It’s wonderful,” he added.

Most of the overall contenders crossed the line safely in the peloton at the end of the flat 192-kilometer (119-mile) route from Palmi to Scalea as the race moved to the Italian mainland following three stages in Hungary and two in Sicily.

Lopez maintained his 39-second advantage over Lennard Kamna. Rein Taaramae was third, 58 seconds behind Lopez.

“I don’t know why it was so slow today but for sure I enjoyed the day,” Lopez said. “For sure tomorrow is a more hard stage but we’re ready with the team to defend the maglia rosa (pink jersey).”

There was little action for most of the stage, with the peloton cruising at a slower pace than even the lowest estimates of the race organizers.

Diego Rosa was the lone breakaway rider for almost four hours although he knew he had almost no chance to get the win. Rosa rides for Eolo-Kometa, which is the second-division Italian team run by Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso.

The slow pace in the peloton and the lack of eagerness for a breakaway could be partly explained by what awaits the riders in Stage 7, a day of almost continuous climbing and descending.

There are hardly any flat sections on the 196-kilometer (122-mile) route from Diamante to Potenza and four categorized climbs.

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.”