Hindley wins Giro d’Italia Stage 9, López stays in pink

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BLOCKHAUS, Italy — Australian cyclist Jai Hindley won Stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia atop the fearsome Blockhaus but Juan Pedro Lopez managed to keep hold of the leader’s pink jersey after the race’s toughest leg.

Hindley, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, edged out Romain Bardet and overall favorite Richard Carapaz in a sprint to the line at the end of an arduous day of climbing.

Mikel Landa and Joao Almeida also finished with the same time.

“I was just trying to survive as best I could, actually,” said Hindley, who was runner-up in the Giro in 2020. “I knew it was flattening out in the last k’s (kilometers) and there was a right hander before the finish with around 200 to go. I wanted to take the corner first and then just gave it everything to the line, and yeah here we are.

“It’s pretty incredible. It wasn’t the easiest year I had last year. I worked so hard to get back to the level to compete at the Giro and I’m at a loss for words honestly. It’s pretty amazing.”

Lopez surprisingly kept hold of the maglia rosa as the Spaniard finished the 191-kilometer (119-mile) route from Isernia 1 minute, 46 seconds behind Hindley on a day in which several favorites lost time on the iconic final climb that had double-digit gradients along a series of hairpin bends leading to the line.

“This is wonderful for me, I don’t believe this moment,” the Trek-Segafredo rider said. “We need to enjoy every moment.”

Lopez is 12 seconds ahead of Almeida now and 14 ahead of Bardet, with Carapaz just a second further back.

As well as the Blockhaus, the route also included the top-category climb to Passo Lanciano and two other categorized ascents on a day with 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) of climbing.

A nine-man breakaway led the stage for most of the day but they were caught and the peloton started the final climb to Blockhaus together.

Simon Yates was one of the favorites dropped early on and the British rider crossed the line 11 minutes behind Hindley with his right knee heavily strapped. He had sustained the injury on the fourth stage climb up Etna.

“Now that I’ve lost the race, it’s causing me a lot of problems. But that was not my only problem today, I really struggled in the heat again,” Yates said. “That’s how it goes. I gave my all and that’s it.

“I was hopeful of still being able to try and do something but I’ve been in a lot of pain since Etna. I’ve been trying to manage it as best as possible. Like I said, it was not my only problem today.”

Carapaz tried to attack several times in the final 5 kilometers but was unable to shake off his rivals for the stage win.

There was a worrying moment earlier in the day when Natnael Tesfatsion, who was leading the stage, crashed on the descent from Passo Lanciano. Tesfatsion misjudged a corner and somersaulted over his handlebars into the bushes.

However, the Eritrean swiftly received treatment from race doctors and was eventually able to continue.

The race has its second rest day before a 196-kilometer (122-mile) stage from Pescara to Jesi that is mainly flat in the first half along the Adriatic coast before three fourth-category climbs later in the day.

Whether Yates can fight back or even decides to continue remains to be seen.

The BikeExchange-Jayco rider was more than 11 minutes behind Lopez in the overall standings.

“I’ll see what happens now, we have the rest day,” Yates said.

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.”