Bennett wins another stage as Affini takes Vuelta a España lead

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BREDA, Netherlands — Sam Bennett went two years without a stage win at a Grand Tour race. Now he has won two in a row.

The Bora-Hansgrohe rider prevailed in another sprint finish in Stage 3 of the Spanish Vuelta, with Edoardo Affini taking the leader’s red jersey to keep his Jumbo-Visma team in position to help Primoz Roglic defend his title.

Affini is the third consecutive rider from the Dutch team to grab the overall lead during the Vuelta’s start in the Netherlands.

“It all started with winning the time trial and it’s amazing to be able to share these moments in our team’s country,” Affini said. “I guess it was even more special for our Dutch guys, but it also is for me. To be the leader of a general classification here is really an amazing feeling. It’s crazy to be able to be the leader.”

The top six riders in the general classification are from Jumbo-Visma. Sam Oomen was behind Affini, with Roglic just behind.

It was the final stage before the Vuelta returns to Spain after starting in the Netherlands.

Michael Woods, a two-time stage winner at the Vuelta and one of the title challengers this year, had to abandon the race after a crash. Richard Carapaz also crashed but was able to continue.

Bennett hadn’t won a Grand Tour stage since the 2020 Vuelta before ending his winless streak in Utrecht.

“It’s quite nice to make it happen two days in a row,” said Bennett, who now has 10 Grand Tour stage victories, five of them at the Vuelta.

After a 193-kilometer (120-mile) loop around Breda, Bennett was dominant on the final meters to take the victory ahead of Mads Pedersen and Dan McLay. Pedersen had also come in second.

“It was quite hard because I think a lot of people were fighting for our wheel,” Bennett said. “People started to go up on the inside and squeeze me off. It was quite a hard fight. A big thank you for the boys, they worked all day, looked after me the whole stage.”

Roglic, trying to win an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta title, finished comfortably in the peloton to stay near the front. Robert Gesink and Mike Teunissen also wore the red jersey for team Jumbo-Visma.

Riders will get their first rest day before the race resumes in the Basque Country in northern Spain.

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.”